A simple definition of self-awareness is having a proper understanding of oneself. Self-awareness requires people to look inward and reflect on motivations, thoughts, feelings, and patterns, disconnecting themselves from the influence of the external world to reconnect internally.
What is self-awareness?
There are two main types of self-awareness – internal and external. Inner self-awareness is developing knowledge and understanding of the inner self. Outer self-awareness describes an understanding of how one presents themselves to the outside world and interacts with people.
To develop a certain level of self-awareness, one must reflect on their internal thoughts, feelings, motivations, and values. Self-discovery and reflection promote a greater understanding of one’s emotions and emotional reactions. Understanding our emotional states allows for a greater understanding of our actions and behaviors.
Increased self-awareness resists outside influences, supports decision-making, and improves emotional regulation, whereas the primary tool for self-awareness development, meditation, gives space for focused introspection and self-reflection.
During meditation, self-awareness develops by acknowledging internal thoughts and feelings that arise throughout the practice. Mindfulness meditation allows time and space to focus without external influence since it aims to recognize thoughts and emotional patterns without judgment. Mindfulness allows to self reflect and re-evaluate personal behavior and thought patterns.
Benefits of self-awareness
Self-awareness is beneficial for overall well-being and mental health. It is also an essential aspect of self-development, connected to skill learning and goal achievement. A greater sense of self-awareness allows people to understand their values and identify internal motivations.
This is the concept of intrinsic motivation, which is the motivation for internal instead of external rewards. Intrinsic motivation is vital for feeling engaged, committed, and fulfilled. Self-awareness helps identify the inherent motivating factors and resist outside biases and influences, leading to greater fulfillment.
Increased self-awareness helps develop emotional intelligence, which is vital for boosting motivation and creativity, developing empathy, stronger interpersonal relationships, and smooth communication. Studies show that high emotional intelligence is critical in leadership positions.
Understanding and being aware of emotional states help with managing reactions. The fight or flight stress response will reduce one’s ability to make decisions, while self-awareness and emotional intelligence help overcome the response and make logical decisions when experiencing those emotions.
Another benefit of self-awareness is that it helps build self-esteem and confidence since healthy introspection and self-reflection should not focus on self-judgment or being critical. Introspection may occasionally be mistaken for rumination, which involves being stuck in negative thought patterns. When developing healthy self-awareness, reflection must be productive and non-judgemental.
Lastly, self-awareness positively impacts creativity, decision-making, and productivity. One study showed that highly self-aware people tend to be more proactive in a work environment.
Characteristics of self-awareness
Signs of being highly self-aware include having solid and healthy relationships with others. Highly self-aware people can identify their personal goals and values, which allows them to make decisions and have greater control over their lives.
It’s easy to spot a profoundly self-aware individual by watching their behavior and listening to their train of thoughts. Self-aware people are not scared of taking responsibility for their actions and other people. They tend to be honest, showcase absolute transparency in their words, and are naturally very empathic. One of the main signs that a person is self-aware is the ratio between listening and talking. Those with an increased sense of self-awareness are great and deep listeners.
It’s very important to understand that there is no such thing as objective self-awareness. Although self-awareness allows for a deeper understanding of self, one is performing self evaluation from a personal perspective.
How to improve self-awareness skills
There are many ways for developing self-awareness. One way one can enhance self-awareness is to spend time understanding themselves and outlining core values and personal aspirations. This can be done through journaling or creating lists of goals. Journaling for self-reflection helps to identify emotions and typical emotional reactions further. It is helpful to get perspective from the outside, such as asking friends and family about how you react to certain situations.
On another note, seeking feedback in the workplace can increase awareness of one’s strengths and challenges on the career path. Trying new activities and experiences and being aware of yourself in those settings is helpful in further increase in level of self-awareness. Developed self awareness also allows to receive honest feedback and different perspectives without strong desire to personalize.
How meditation increases internal self-awareness
Self-awareness theory is a central principle of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation helps cultivate self-awareness by allowing time to shift awareness from the outer world into the inner world. Mindfulness meditation will strengthen the focus on the feelings and unconscious thoughts and accept them for what they are. Mindfulness practice requires one to be in the present moment and objectively look inward at thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It is essential not to pass judgment on internal thoughts to be a time for healthy introspection and increased self-knowledge.
Studies have shown that meditation may change brain areas that help to increase self-awareness. A survey by Havard medical school found that meditation increased grey matter in the hippocampus area, which related to self-awareness and introspection. Mindfulness meditation focuses on an objective and non-judgemental acknowledgment of internal feelings and thoughts; therefore, it can help decrease ruminating and worrying thoughts.
In general, self-awareness is divided into two broad categories:
Understanding of inner self, including thoughts, own emotions, and feelings
Understanding the external perception and relationships with others
Are there any negative aspects of self-awareness?
The most common negative aspect of having high internal self-awareness is overthinking and focusing on negative inner thoughts. It is crucial when building aware self perception that one also builds self-acceptance. It’s very easy to get trapped in self conscious thinking in attempts to understand yourself. By accepting negative thoughts, trying to objectively evaluate and practicing self-empathy, it can be prevented.
The most common negative aspect of high external self-awareness is social anxieties and self-consciousness. This can be due to being highly aware of social pressures and worrying about how others perceive one.
Although some people may think that self-awareness is related to narcissism, that is not the case. People with high levels of narcissism tend to have lower self-awareness as they fail to be aware of their flaws and challenges.
Are self-awareness and conscious awareness the same thing?
There is a difference between self-awareness and conscious awareness, although both serve as objective evaluators of self and allow to bring different perspectives into one’slife.
Conscious awareness describes being aware of your surroundings, environment, and body. In contrast, self-awareness manifests itself by understanding your internal thoughts, emotions, and reactions and how they impact relationships with the external.
Saying that, both of these terms signify states of mind that reach for more clarity and healthier internal standards.