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How To

How to Improve Self-Awareness

Andrew Langat
November 12, 2021
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"Know thyself" - Socrates.

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

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

Many of us think we would answer in the affirmative.

In the workplace, the term "self-awareness" has increasingly found prominence as companies aim to create a company culture that boosts employee performance and includes feedback processes that include reflective practices.

But 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 in senior management, who may 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 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 your 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 impacts 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 you understand how others view you, especially when you are at the center of attention. This form of awareness 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 to become a better person.

Self-awareness helps us connect with an objective perspective to help us 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 reactions. 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 afraid of articulating your position, and assertive when a situation demands it.

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 which trigger you. For example, you will learn that it is okay not to be okay, how to avoid problems, or to prepare for unsettling situations.

It boosts our leadership skills. Self-aware leaders are better leaders. This is because they understand where their strengths and vulnerability lie. This way, they can enhance their skills and seek help where they face challenges.

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, including where we cannot compromise. For example, we 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 You Lack Self-Awareness?

Building self-awareness often starts with self-knowledge. From here, you can develop strategies for personal development, including 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 solely 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 behavior 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 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 more 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 to cultivate an honest view of things. Some limiting beliefs include: "I will never amount to anything," "I was not 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 Can You 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, some ways to develop self-awareness as part of personal growth and development include the following:

Start Journaling

Journaling has been identified as one of the most powerful ways of realizing self-awareness. And the good news is, 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, and sustaining this helpful practice can prove difficult.

You don't need to record every aspect of your life; instead, narrow focus on areas of your life that you want to record or explore. For example,

  • What are your feelings when speaking with work colleagues? 
  • How do you react when you are making a presentation?
  • What are your daily positive and negative feelings?
  • 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? What are the triggers?

Journaling practice need not follow any rules since you are writing for one audience: yourself. There is no best time to journal, provided 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 better understand where your strengths and opportunities for growth may exist.

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

Request Honest Feedback

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

Requesting feedback from people you trust, a sort of "honest mirror," assists in unlocking this part of our life and 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 actions.

Work with an Executive coach

There is always more to learn and you can do so more effectively with the guidance of a certified executive coach. They will assist in unlocking your core strengths through a structured approach, and they will also help you understand your limits. Coaching brings clarity, accountability, focus, and continuous support.

Practice Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is a powerful way of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Many people struggle with his important skill, despite its surprising advantages. 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 for the better?"

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

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Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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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.

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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.