Knowledge of oneself is the first step toward living a truly authentic life. How can you be your true self if you don’t know your true self?
Thankfully there are many ways to cultivate one’s self-awareness. But first, let’s talk about what it actually means to be self-aware.
Self-awareness is way more than knowing that you prefer thin crust pizza over Sicilian (pardon my pizza craving).
It’s about knowing your motivations in life, your behaviors and more importantly WHY you behave the way you do, what you’re passionate about, what you dislike, what makes you feel safe in your relationships, how you connect with others, how you identify and deal with your feelings, and so much more.
In other words: it’s deep stuff. And because it’s so deep, it takes time and conscious effort to master. Thankfully, I’m here to make it easy for you!
Here are five ways to increase your self-awareness:
If you’ve never meditated before, it can seem daunting (and kinda boring, right?). So many people assume that you need to completely empty your brain of thoughts in order to meditate correctly (spoiler alert: that’s not even possible!). The objective is not to not think about anything, but rather, acknowledge and examine your thoughts when they creep in. It’s helpful to start simple. In a quiet space or one with relaxing music, take some slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without judgment (this is crucial), acknowledge the thoughts as they come. Five or ten minutes is enough to get started. If you’re diggin’ it, try to increase the amount of time you meditate weekly.
If you’d prefer to have some guidance, there are tons of free apps to help you with your practice.
How meditation helps increase self-awareness: By quieting the noise of the world and the noise in your head, you’re allowing yourself to focus on you and your thoughts without distractions. And by doing so, you are more open and aware to the messages your brain has for you. You may be surprised about what comes to the forefront of your mind when you sit quietly with your thoughts. It may bring things to your attention that you didn’t even realize were important to you or were on your mind at all. It can also help you gain clarity on something that’s been on your mind in the present or in the past.
In a quiet space without distractions, write what you are feeling, thinking, and experiencing in the moment. Don’t overthink it; just let it flow freely. It can be a story, your thoughts, or just random words that come to you (known as free association). After one session of however long you feel like writing for (I recommend at least five or ten minutes to start), ask yourself the following questions: What was it like to write that? What feelings came up? How does it feel to see it in front of me? What does this information (what you wrote) tell me about myself?
How journaling helps increase self-awareness: Journaling is another great way to gain clarity on your thoughts, feelings, and overall life situation. Like meditation, it’s a way to quiet the noise so you can see what’s truly on your mind in the moment. If you journal consistently, you may see patterns in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors over time.
3. Seek feedback
Friends and family whom know you well and whom you trust can be great resources to discover information about yourself. Ask whomever you’re comfortable approaching about something specific or just for any relevant general feedback. Explain that you’re interested in learning how others perceive you and that you would appreciate an honest answer.
Work feedback can also be informative. Take note of any feedback from your managers, bosses, etc., whether it’s spoken directly or indirectly or written in a quarterly review (or anything of the like).
How feedback helps increase self-awareness: Feedback is a way to gain insight into how others perceive you and your actions. You may find that you see yourself completely differently than how others see you. If the way you and your actions are being received isn’t aligned with how you’d like to be received, it may encourage you to reflect and make some changes.
4. Take assessments
Formal assessments such as the MBTI or CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) can give you insight into your personality, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Some assessments can be lengthy and pricey; however, they offer a lot of valuable information.
How assessments help increase self-awareness: Assessments can tell you about how you perceive the world, how you connect with others, how you make decisions, how emotionally resilient you are, etc. What information you are interested in finding out will determine what kind of assessment you should take.
5. Try something new
Any time you try something new, you’re retrieving data about yourself. For instance, say you’ve been dying to try hot yoga so you hit up a class at the new studio that opened in your city. You really wanted to like it but the heat made you miserable, the ambience was too serene, and you didn’t like that you couldn’t interact with people. This data indicates that 1) you’re probably not going to try hot yoga again any time soon and 2) you may prefer something like a dance class or a group sport instead.
How trying new things helps increase self-awareness: Trying new things helps you discover what you like and don’t like, and from that information, you can make appropriate decisions that support your well-being and happiness.
If you’re looking to make positive changes in your life or just want to get to know yourself better, be sure to incorporate some of these tips into your routine. You’ll be a self-awareness expert before you know it.