My definition of self-awareness kind of boils down to owning your own bullshit. And by "bullshit" I am referring to our emotional and mental PATTERNS. While many people may assume they are self-aware, in fact, 95% of people believe themselves to be self-aware. The reality is – self-awareness is rare. Only 10 to 15% of humans actually ARE self-aware. Dang. This is unfortunate, because being aware of who we are and OWNING it has a huge impact on the quality of your life, your career and your especially the quality of your relationships. In fact pretty much all problems in relationships are a result of our own mental and emotional patterns. When we are unconscious of them or unwilling to take a look at those patterns, we cause a lot of pain for ourselves and others.
I don’t know if you’ve ever stopped to consider your level of self-awareness. What is self-awareness exactly? Psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence”, defines it as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions”. So the ability to monitor our inner world, our thoughts and emotions as they come up and understand how they impact our behavior.
Tony Robbins says that one tool can help you achieve self-awareness... love. He outlines self awareness like this... 1.)Your able to identify what you are really feeling. 2.) You acknowledge and appreciate your feelings knowing they support you. 3.) You get curious about the message the emotion is offering you. When you get curious about the message, it is always about YOU. We must OWN the message because it's never ever about the other person or the condition - it's about you and the meaning you have put on it. "What would I have to believe in order to feel the way I’m feeling?” What is the mental or emotional pattern I'm running here?
We all have emotional patterns that we run on. It’s completely possible to live your whooooole life and never question why you think or believe what you think and believe. When we don’t get curious and look internally – we are not self-aware. This may be a totally fine route for some, but if you have an interest in being empowered, happy, loving, physically healthy, even a good leader – you may want to open to the idea of becoming more self-aware. Yeah, it’s that important.
Here are a few signs that you are NOT self-aware from consultant Steve Tobeck…
Changing a mental or emotional pattern takes practice. LOTS of practice! If you claim to be aware of your own bad habits/bad attitudes/hurtful behavior…a.k.a. “your own bullshit” and you continue to repeat these items over and over again with minimal attempt to tame them – you are NOT self-aware. While that appears to be apathy…in reality it is simply FEAR. It can be scary to get curious about your own patterns, scary to think you are responsible for your experience in life. We all have an emotional center of gravity that we return to. We all have emotional patterns and if you know better, but don't do better, that is a pattern in your brain that is running you, and your brain is not designed to make you happy - it's designed to keep you safe.
I love this factoid about awareness…”there is also a non-judgmental quality that is an essential component to self-awareness. As we notice what’s happening inside us, we acknowledge and accept it as the inevitable part of being human, rather than giving ourselves a hard time about it.” So self-awareness is tied tightly to self-acceptance and compassion. Getting to know yourself leads to starting to accept yourself and once we are on this path – we are on the way to being compassionate not only to ourselves – but also to others.
Conversely if I blame, react, attempt to control, make excuses, or deny my part in what I’m feeling and experiencing, it is nearly impossible to feel not only acceptance of myself, but also of others. Being WILLING to look at your own part in what is happening in your life, work, relationships and being curious – with a desire to learn and understand rather than judge and condemn is the foundation of a great relationship, both internally and externally.
Self-aware people tend to act consciously rather than react unconsciously in their patterns, and they tend to have a positive outlook on life. They are also more likely to be more compassionate to themselves and others." What are a few of the other signs those who are self-aware exhibit?
When we are more self-aware it doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes, it means we learn from them. We look at them as ways to understand and learn about ourselves rather than going on a guilt trip. When we mess up, we own our part in things without kicking our own backsides for days (or years), taking it personally or blaming and making excuses.
Some ways to cultivate self-awareness…
A great example of how we are often asleep at the wheel of our own self-awareness is when we try to justify or state our case when we feel hurt in some way. This is a beautiful cue that we are not understanding our OWN side of the street. Simply put... if you are feeling emotionally charged by someone else - you're not owning your own stuff. There's something that needs your attention within yourself but you are ignoring it by focusing on the behavior of the other person.
I can see this SOOOO clearly in others who suffer, but I when it's me - I want to point out how "wrong" the other person is, how THEY need to be different in some way. When you've really worked through something that's emotionally hard, there's no satisfaction in talking about it or dropping little snarky bombs about the person.
Being willing to question your own thoughts, beliefs, auto-pilot reactions is what it takes to become self-aware. Re-check that list above of symptoms of NOT being in self-awareness. When you catch yourself in any of those items (and most of us will) in the next few days, see if you can hit the pause button. Check-in with yourself and ask what is really going on for you. Why are you tempted to blame, defend, make an excuse, or any of the items listed. Dig a little DEEPER than just projecting your crap onto the other person… OWN IT. As Brene’ Brown says “Rumble with it”. See what you find and give yourself your power back!
When you find yourself feeling funky and you are making it about the other person (not owning your stuff), here are three questions from Terry Cole that might help...
Get curious about YOUR feelings, YOUR attempts to make it about the other person and see what you find – without judging it. Just observe the information you find… that’s self-awareness and that’s the ticket to freedom and all the stuff you are looking for. It's inside of YOU. Get curious. Be aware of your OWN bullshit.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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