“Every time when I get yelled at in practice/ I feel that I suck/I feel disappointed, I tend to overeat/overtrain/binge watch Netflix…” Recognize yourself or some part of it? If you answer yes, congratulations, you have recognized a pattern and what drives us to the fridge and ice creams pints for example. This means that you have some level of self-awareness. If you’d think that “hmm super weird that every time I have a bad game, I binge eat or watch etc… Must be just a weird coincidence” – maybe there is something behind these coincidences to take a look at.. 🙂
So today will be about self-awareness, what is it and why you should care about it. Recognize if you are standing in your own way and how to get your sweet ass out of the way. After reading this post I think you will agree that yes self-awareness is important, know how self-awareness can help you and how to improve your self-awareness. So at the end of this post, the limitless version of you might be ready to be born😉
1 What is Self-Awareness?
The definition of self-awareness is (according to Merriam Webster) simply “awareness of one’s own individuality and personality.” It has also been defined a little more deeply by Eurich Tasha (2018) whose research states that self-awareness has two levels: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.
Internal self-awareness represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. External self-awareness, means understanding how other people view us, within those same matters.
In addition, the Theory of Self-Awareness states that self-awareness is that we recognize that we are not our thoughts. (Duval & Wicklund, 1972). Well that is pretty inspiring, huh? Sometimes our thoughts are “I suck”, “I am a fat loser” and “I am the bestest in everything!” or you name it, you know, you also have thoughts…😁 But the case is that your thoughts are valuable but a different thing compared to what you are. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves but it can be the other way round as well – we think that we are so superior in something but in reality, we might not be…
Anyways, if we are not the same as our thoughts and we can learn to take some distance to our thoughts, understanding that they are there but not letting them dictate our mood, day or whole being, we can learn to find the truer self of ourselves.
True self of ourselves? Heeey Koljonen, that doesn’t mean anything. Ok I know, it is a little odd saying but bear with me and I will explain.
2 What are the benefits of self-awareness
So the true self… I want to explain first the benefits of self-awareness and why it is important for us and then we get to examine if that wording is just too weird of it starts to make some sense. 🙂
Let’s continue with thoughts. So our subconscious mind has a tons of ideas and beliefs that it considers as truths if we are not examining them and asking if they truly are true for us. Those subconscious ideas and beliefs often come from the societal settings we have been exposed to. They come from experiences from our childhood and/or past.
One example. Think 6-year-old Sally who has been playing on the yard with a ball for an hour and now runs back in with muddy shoes and bouncing the ball with dirty hands, so excited to tell mom the trick that she just learned with the ball! She is gonna be so proud of me! Mommy mommy mommy look what I just did!
Mommy unfortunately was already a little stressed coming back from work and now Sally is dirty and spreading the mud all over the house… No more mess she thinks and responds “go back outside Sally, you are bringing all the mud inside!”.
Sally turns around, her face turns quickly from being so super-excited and proud of herself to disappointed and sad. She walks back outside and feels embarrassed and guilty of being so excited about the trick. She puts the ball aside.
Next time when she learns something new and exciting, she doesn’t want to show it to anyone because she has a small fear of feeling embarrassed and disappointed again in the back of her head. She might start hiding her talents instead and becomes a super humble looking athlete.
Naturally not one story or memory is enough to create and explain what we do and how we behave but I hope you get the idea how those stories can affect us and our behavioral patterns from an early age. Often some things that have happened in the past are stored somewhere in our subconscious mind and we might be acting like they are the only ways to act if we are not aware of our behavioral patterns and dive little deeper in our thoughts.
In Sally’s case, we as adults can see, that there is nothing to be sad, disappointed or embarrassed about the trick but it was just a normal reaction from the mom to prevent the mess in the house. But when it happens to us as kids, we don’t have the same kind of understanding of the story and the situation as a whole. We remember how it felt. And we might start carrying those memories with feelings with us and keep them all they way to the adulthood.
When we are adults, taking a little deeper dive within our subconscious mind and question if the thought patterns we have there are helpful for us could be very beneficial to our growth and happiness.
Sally as an adult might for example always be belittling herself because she learned from a young age that she should not feel ecstatic about her own stellar performances. So she will keep herself on a leash in a way. Which might then hinder her reaching her true potential. There is also a free workbook you can download below which help you to build your self-confidence if you take the action suggested in there. 👇🏼
Think your subconscious mind as a sponge. It was soaking everything from the society, family, work, hobbies and friends’ settings and environments when you were young and as you grew and it still keeps happening.. Now you could squeeze the sponge to see what is coming out, see if those beliefs are still useful and maybe start shaking off the ones that are limiting yourself from being the most authentic version of yourself; i.e. Sally, who loves new tricks, learning them, and can get excited about them.
Because you know what, when we start doing that, we will know more of who we are and what we believe, which then empowers us to go after a life that feels more fitting to us. The true self of us. And that is how self-awareness is connected to self-esteem when we know more about ourselves and can be more consistent with what we are, what we feel and what we say and do. The true self of us also expressed.
I think everyone is this planet would like to feel loved and appreciated by themselves but it is pretty hard, right? It is hard. It is even harder if we don’t learn who we are and accept that. So, pretty big statement coming up: self-awareness is the path to self-acceptance as well. With self-acceptance we can also learn to love ourselves.
Think of this scenario: you want to stop eating junk food or candy or going to the gym more whatever it is but you really want that. You even hire some sort of professional to give all the tricks and tips how to do that stuff and gets you started with the process.
But then you slip back into the previous habits after a while, possibly when it gets tough to maintain the newer, better habits. You find yourself eating the foods you were not supposed to and watching Netflix instead of working out. And then you start feeling shitty about yourself. You lose the appreciation towards yourself when you cannot stick to even these simplest habits and tricks that you paid for and wanted so much…
Like why? Why is this happening? Again and again?
Well, it is almost impossible to break bad habits unless you know why you developed them in the first place. What is the emotional cue that drove you to start eating junk food more than you should? Is it just keeping you busy so you can deflect the underlying feeling?
We owe it to ourselves to become more self-aware of the thoughts and beliefs we have in order to love and accept ourselves. If we don’t, we also keep distracting ourselves constantly with something that numbs us.
So for example, I tend to always pick my phone up and start scrolling Instagram etc. when I feel lonely in a group. I don’t want to be in a group looking lonely and not be part of the group so I would rather distract myself and just stare at the screen as if there is something important going on.
But if I am sometimes just feeling inspired and want to find something empowering from my Instagram feed and enter the world of Instagram with that mindset, the reason behind those two actions are totally different and yet, the action is the same.
One last important thing to note is that don’t judge. The previous example of my loneliness-numbing Instagram scrolling, I could think when I discovered this that “Oh well I am a loser so of course I am on my phone rather than looking like an idiot” or whatever but that does not help. At all. Vice versa. Instead, I can just take an objective look at where this behavior stems from and WHAT to do to feel more included.
Asking “Why?” all the time might not actually help me solve the challenge but asking “What can I do to feel less lonely?” gives me an answer how to move on and start taking steps towards the solution.
Self-awareness is connected with self-acceptance, better self-esteem and self-confidence, and ultimately self-love. (There is research behind these if you wish to dive in more: click here, here, and here as well). So. It is a pretty awesome concept, right? So how can we cultivate self-awareness?
3 How to get better self-awareness
There were quite many different tips and ways to get better self-awareness and I compiled here the ones that had scientific proof and were most often mentioned.
1.Ask people around you how are you as a person. Don’t ask from anybody, these people should really know you. They can be your teammates, workmates, friends or family but they must know you to be able to answer “what makes you you?”.
Listen to their answers, don’t defend or interrupt. Just listen and see how those words feel to you. Do they feel true to you? If you feel that “no way that bitch ain’t me!” – then you probably act a little different from what you truly are or feel that you are.
If you feel that these descriptions fit you quite nicely, you are acting more in congruence to your self. This practice can also work wonderfully empowering experience if you let it, for example it can be empowering to hear how other people see you and value you if you tend to belittle or diminish yourself ❤️
2.Take an assessment that helps you understand your personality, behavioral patterns and values. It was seriously one of the recommendations. Because these tests will often bring up something that can reinforce your own truths or you might realize that you act differently from what you believe is true to yourself. If you want to try assessments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see what would be the most fitting to you, one of the most popular ones is Extended DISC Personal Analysis which is 49€ and I am a certified Extended DISC Professional so hit me up if this is something you want to try! 🙂
3. Meditate, friend. Don’t think meditation as something too woowoo. Try it out. It is amazing (and appropriately horrifying sometimes haha) to be able to hear our own thoughts when we sit down, slow down and stop distracting and numbing our feelings and thoughts.
So take time to feel, see what comes up, investigate them with curiosity and without judgement. When you do this, the space you can get to, might solve a lot of the things that you feel like you have been stuck with or what has held you back. Try for example Headspace or Calm apps that teach meditation and mindfulness.😌
4. Journal. Even if you are not a writer, try writing emails to your friends, doodle your feelings on the paper, write morning pages on a cute notebook. Don’t care about your handwriting, commas, sentence structures, grammar. Just keep the pen moving.
One journal prompt that I used to use and felt very useful was “What are the situations that make me feel this way? What is causing this feeling? What could I do?” If I for example discovered that there is a common nominator to that unpleasant feeling and I just kept doing that stuff, I had to call out my own bullshit. Ok, now I know better. Now I have a reason to make a change.
Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
We can get better at anything if we know what is holding us back in and that requires some level of self-awareness. So let’s start growing..
Thank you for reading ❤️
References and further reading:
Dana, E. R., Lalwani, N., & Duval, S. (1997). Objective self-awareness and focus of attention following awareness of self-standard discrepancies: Changing self or changing standards of correctness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 16, 359-380.
Duval, S., & Wicklund, R. A. (1972). A theory of objective self-awareness.
Eurich, T. (2018). What self-awareness really is (and how to cultivate it). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it