During your existence you’ve probably had the chance to meet a few people who are incredibly ignorant about themselves. They are clueless about their actions, thoughts and feelings.
Only from several interactions with them you can tell that they have no idea what self observation is. The surprising part is that they usually tend to consider themselves highly self-aware.
In reality, the majority of us lack self-awareness, or at least need to consider improving it. We are simply better at seeing the lack in others than in ourselves.
What is self-awareness?
It is the ability to observe your own emotions, thoughts and actions. Self–awareness theory, developed by Duval and Wicklund in 1972, is based on the idea that you are an entity observing your own thoughts and actions. From this point of view, being self-aware means taking yourself as the object of your thoughts instead of identifying yourself with them.
Why is self-awareness important?
By becoming self-aware, we start noticing and assessing our own strengths and weaknesses. We learn to pay attention to what is inside our heads, therefore, we become able to mediate our thoughts and actions.
Self-actualization and self-growth are only accessible to those who are willing to build their self-awareness. Those thought and behavior patterns we continuously follow can only be restructured with the power of self-awareness. To start manifesting our full potential, we must, first of all, become aware of it.
The greatest leaders of all time knew that awareness is a tool that can be used to manage one’s behavior and emotions. In contemporary times, when hiring employees ,the majority of all financially strong companies place emphasis on self-awareness. It is unsurprising considering that self-aware employees are better at conflict management and have a higher team performance.
Workplace is not the only environment where self-awareness affects our functioning. Research shows that individuals with higher levels of insight tend to be more satisfied with their day to day lives than those with lower levels.
Why the majority of us lack self-awareness?
1. Nobody taught us how to become more self aware
Everyone of us acknowledges the fact that self-awareness is important, but no one was really taught how to achieve it. As we grow up, we become aware of our bodies, our words, our environment, but we refuse to really work on our awareness.
Schools teach us mathematics, biology and lots of theoretical stuff, but none of those help us to manage our own growth. You have to be interested enough in your own self-actualization to make yourself want to become self-aware.
2. It is easier to let our minds run on autopilot
Self-awareness, as well as conscious thoughts and deliberate decisions, requires effort and focus, but evolution made us wired to be lazy. We tend to go with comfortable, familiar patterns instead of using some forethought and proactivity.
We would rather go for another ice cream box when we are feeling sad, than search for the cause of our sadness. Paying attention to the way we feel and behave is not an easy task, this is why many of us prefer the autopilot mode.
3. We don’t ask for feedback
People expect to get better at things without even asking about what they need to improve. Asking for feedback from our coworkers, friends or family is a great way to gain some insight. They can always tell us something about ourselves that we tend to neglect.
4. We self-reflect instead of gaining insight
A team of researchers conducted a large-scale study on self-awareness and found something interesting about introspection. We are doing it incorrectly.
We confuse exploring our thoughts with getting trapped in them. Often enough instead of observing our strengths and weaknesses, we get stuck in a cycle of rumination and sabotage our own well-being.
Then what is the right way to introspect? Ask yourself “what” instead of “why”. When we find ourselves feeling in a certain way, we tend to ask ourselves why. We believe that getting to the cause of a problem will give us insight, but it only makes us fixate on the problem.
To start moving forward and gain real insight about our inner self we need to change the questions we ask ourselves. Try to ask yourself “What should I improve about myself?” instead of ” Why do I keep acting like this?”.
5. We identify with our thoughts and feelings
Especially, we tend to identify ourselves with our automatic thoughts. Our subconscious minds produce thoughts that are familiar to us and that follow the same old, safe patterns. Because these thoughts strongly influence our habits and decisions, we end up believing that they represent us.
In reality, we are more than our subconscious minds, we are the conscious part of our mind too. Our conscious thoughts and decisions are those that reflect our real potential and power. Being able to consciously detach ourselves from what we are thinking in a certain moment is the most important step to self-awareness.