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How To

How to Improve Self-Awareness

Andrew Langat
November 12, 2021
A group of executives talking about self awareness while taking notes.
"Know thyself" - Socrates.

When you look in a mirror, whom do you see?

Do you see a person who will do better with greater self-awareness?

Many of us would answer in the affirmative, but evidence suggests otherwise.

In the workplace, the term self-awareness has increasingly found prominence as companies aim to incorporate it as part of company culture to boost employee performance and create a feedback process that ensures that mindfulness practices are enhanced.

A study done by self-awareness researcher and organizational psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich revealed that only 10-15% of people are fully self-aware!

This gap in self-awareness is more pronounced in people who are in senior management, as they often overestimate their skills and competencies.

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What Exactly is Self-Awareness?

How we define self-awareness can vary depending on the school of thought.

Dr. Alain Morin, a researcher at Mount Royal University's Department of Psychology, defines self-awareness as the capacity to become the object of one's attention. In this state, one actively identifies, processes, and stores information about the self.

Self-aware people tend to live fulfilling lives as they know how to control their emotions and stay focused. With this knowledge, you can lean on your abilities and work to reinforce areas of weakness.  

Enrolling in executive coaching, mentoring, or leadership coaching will assist you in better understanding your internal locus control, which is vital in workplace leadership, and increase self-awareness.

Dr. Tasha Eurich is a leading organizational psychologist and a keen supporter of the concept of self-awareness. She espouses the advantages of self-awareness in the following way: “When we can see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and creative, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. All of which are important to effective leadership.”

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Types of Self Awareness

Self Awareness is divided into two categories:

  • Private Self-Awareness: this is how well we understand our inner self and how it fits our environment and its impact on others. 
  • Example: Your heart racing when you are about to make a presentation.
  • Public Self-Awareness: Also known as external self-awareness, this awareness helps one to understand how others view us, especially when someone is at the center of attention. This form of attention often makes people conform to "acceptable" social norms.

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Why Does Self-Awareness Matter?

When we better understand ourselves, we are primed for optimum performance as a leader, team member or simply become a better person.

Self-awareness brings out objective perspectives, and we improve in the following ways:

We can set achievable goals: we understand our strengths and weaknesses and are better at setting realistic expectations. E.g., you might be good at strategy formulation but poor at execution. This will assist you in identifying people to execute your ideas.

We better anticipate our reaction: understanding your trigger points makes you avoid situations that can lead to misunderstanding.

We Identify skills to learn: If your introspection reveals that you lack a vital skill such as public speaking and your job entails this, you’ll be able to address this gap before you need it.       

We make Better Decisions: We often make the best choices when we know where our limits lie. This enables us to avoid making emotional decisions that often lead to regrets.

It Boosts Self-confidence: Understanding who you are makes it easy to be self-confident. As a result, you will be decisive, not fear articulating your position, and be assertive when a situation demands.

It boosts Mental Health: Self-awareness is a crucial aspect of mental health. As you shine a light on yourself, you understand which thoughts and situations are comfortable and trigger you. For example, you will learn that it is okay not to be okay, avoid problems, or prepare for unsettling situations.

It boosts our leadership skills: Self-aware leaders are better leaders. This is because they understand where their strength and vulnerability lie. This way, they can enhance their skills and seek help where they have a challenge.

We become better leaders. When we boost self-awareness, we become better leaders as we can manage varied emotions and develop an environment where team members can focus on goals. This way, we can effect change in the workplace.

We better set boundaries. Self-awareness makes us better at setting boundaries as we understand our own strengths and personal values that we cannot compromise. For example, will not "always be available" for tasks. This assists in better time management and more free time to allocate to your interests.

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What are the signs that you Lack Self Awareness?

Building self-awareness often starts with self-knowledge of what to look for. From here, you can develop strategies for personal development and how best to cultivate self-awareness. According to mental health experts, here is what you need to watch out for:

You believe your success is based on your own ability. This self-serving bias is a sure sign that you lack self-awareness. If such thought patterns are common or you find yourself bragging to your team members, you must build self-awareness.

You love victim playing. When you find yourself constantly playing victim, even when constructive feedback is offered or there is glaring evidence of indiscretion, you need self-awareness, as this can potentially hinder your career progression.

You are the know-it-all type. If you find yourself in the workplace having an opinion on everything or constantly arguing your views as the correct position, you lack self-awareness.

You are the controlling type. If you know are have been told by workplace team members that you are the controlling type, then becoming more self-aware will help you have a deeper understanding of why this toxic trait can prevent you from achieving goals.

You have an unstable emotional state. Developing self-awareness can help you become better attuned to your emotional reactions. This way, you will better control your thoughts and act in a manner acceptable to most people.

You have limiting beliefs. When you think that your thought process is absolute, it hinders your ability for an honest view of things. Some limiting beliefs include: " I will never amount to anything," "I was never born a leader," etc.

Change in the workplace scares you. If a change in your workplace rattles you, you need to work on your self-awareness. It is typical human behavior to resist change. However, self-aware people know how to be strategic and anticipate potential changes.

Two managers high-fiving while smiling at each other.

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How to Improve Self-Awareness in the Workplace?

Self-awareness training at work results in a better working environment as it impacts leadership, culture, inclusion, and diversity.

On a personal level, to develop self-awareness as part of self-development, you need to do the following:

Start Journaling

Journaling has been identified as one of the most powerful ways of realizing self-awareness. For starters, there is no right or wrong way of journaling.

Recording your thoughts, emotions, and routine makes it easy to identify patterns in your life with greater clarity. Getting started can be challenging for those not used to journaling, or sustaining this helpful practice can prove difficult.

To get started, you need not record every aspect of your life but narrow down on areas of your life that you want to record. For example,

  • What are your feelings when speaking with work colleagues? 
  • How do you react when you are making a presentation?
  • What are your positive and negative feelings daily?
  • At what times of the day do you have peak performance?
  • How did I handle the meeting today?
  • How do you spend your quality time?
  • Which negative emotion do you struggle with? And what are the triggers?

Journaling practice need not follow any rules since you are writing for one audience. There is no best time to journal, provided that it does not become obsessive and interferes with your regular daily routine.

Journaling can transition into writing articles that better crystallize your thought process.

Take Psychometric tests

Psychometric tests such as the Predictive index and Myers-Briggs enable you to become more self-aware as you understand your personality, skills, and knowledge level.

It’s not advisable to take these tests as an empirical truth; however, the results offer a window to understand further where your strengths and opportunities may exist.

An executive coach can help further interpret the result to assist with your self-discovery journey vital for a fulfilling life.

Request for Honest Feedback

We all have blind spots that we are oblivious to and are evident to others.

Requesting Feedback from people you trust, a sort of "honest mirror," assists in unlocking this part of our life that enables us to understand ourselves better.

Make a point to ask for direct feedback and cover your personality's negative and positive aspects. One surprising benefit of this outside perspective is that you can get feedback immediately.

Perform Regular Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a crucial ingredient of self-awareness. By regularly (preferably daily) reflecting on who you are as a person, you get to review whether you are getting to understand yourself better, making strides, living with more intentionality, etc. Self-reflection should cover your feelings, emotions, thoughts, and your actions.

Work with an Executive coach

There is always more to learn with the guidance of a certified executive coach. This will assist in unlocking your core strengths through a structured approach and understanding your limits. They bring clarity, accountability, focus, and continuous support.

Practice Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is a powerful way of pushing yourself from your comfort zone. Many people struggle with his important skill despite its surprising strengths. To master this, you might need trusted friends or a coach to monitor your progress and offer objective feedback.

Ask What, Not Why

Tasha Eurich recommends asking "What?" not "Why?" as it increases self-awareness.

For example, instead of saying: "Why did I do something so mean to my co-worker?" Say, "What can I do to change our relationship better?"

Asking Why often leads to negative emotions and doesn't offer insights into solutions. On the other hand, the use of What gives room for open-mindedness, which is vital for solutions.

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How Highrise can Help

At Highrise, we know that improving self-awareness is integral to professional development. Moreover, self-aware people show strong character and can practice Compassion and Empathy.

If you are struggling with self-awareness or want to become more self-aware, we have the right tools to make this possible.

Get in touch today.

Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.