7 phrases only people with high self-awareness use, according to psychology

We’re all self-aware – it’s what makes us human.

Most of us know what it’s like to feel guilty after having made a mistake, fight against our fears, or get so swallowed up by love that we forget to see people for who they truly are.

However, not everyone is self-aware to the point where they can properly reflect on their behavior, admit to their errors of judgment, and learn from life’s lessons.

Those are skills pertaining to emotional intelligence, aka, the ability to introspect, self-regulate, and show up as an authentic individual with integrity and core moral values.

Are you part of the club?

Let’s find out. Here are the 7 phrases only people with high self-awareness use.

1) “I made a mistake and I apologize”

Sounds easy enough, right?

Unfortunately, many people fail not only to acknowledge they’ve made a mistake but also to offer an apology that doesn’t twist the narrative (“I’m sorry that’s how you feel”) or fall flat due to overexplanation (“I did it because X and Y and Z, I hope you can forgive me”).

Only those with high self-awareness are able to realize that they’ve done something wrong, truly reflect on their behavior, own up to their mistakes, and change for the better.

And while this process can be incredibly difficult – for instance, feelings of guilt and shame can make us feel like we want to run away from our problems or ignore them altogether, so it takes guts to face ourselves – it’s also extremely rewarding.

We can’t learn if we don’t occasionally swerve in the wrong direction. If we’re able to see that, accept our failings, love ourselves regardless, and evolve…

That’s emotional maturity right there.

One important thing to remember, according to therapist John Amodeo PhD, MFT, is that “making mistakes is part of the human condition. Making a mistake does not mean that you are a mistake.”

Let me repeat that so that it truly ingrains itself into your subconsciousness: making a mistake does not mean that you are a mistake.

2) “I’m not sure but I will find out”

Moving on to another sign of high self-awareness: the ability to admit a lack of knowledge.

I’ve met so many people who, when struggling to grasp what I say, nod along and try to bluff their way into making me think they know exactly what I’m talking about.

The issue is that this kind of behavior can often land you in a bit of a tricky position – if you suddenly do need to showcase your knowledge, you’ll give yourself away, which is why it’s always better to ask questions and admit you’re out of your depth.

As the famous quote by Confucius goes, “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

When you openly display a lack of knowledge, it can actually make you seem more competent.


Because it shows you’re confident enough to be honest, humble enough to admit you’re not an expert, and curious enough to learn more about the topic at hand from someone else.

David Burkus, associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University, agrees:

“When you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to, just say ‘I don’t know’ and then commit to finding the answer…. Beyond giving you the opportunity to find the right answer, ‘I don’t know’ communicates your own intellectual curiosity and your intellectual humility.”

3) “I want my friends to keep me accountable”

My close friends and I have a deal – we are gently and non-judgmentally honest with each other even if it’s uncomfortable or hard.

The reason is simple: we want to be held accountable for our actions.

If I screw up, I don’t want my friends to beat around the bush or make excuses for me. I don’t want them to lie or minimize the seriousness of my actions.

What I do want is complete honesty so that I can view the situation in a new light, reflect on my behavior, and make a change.

Is it uncomfortable to have these kinds of conversations when necessary?

Heck yes. The person calling someone out feels bad and the person being called out feels even worse.

But does it help us remain self-aware and grow as people?

Again, heck yes. And that’s absolutely worth it.

When your friends keep you accountable, not only is it easier to evolve throughout life and learn from your mistakes but it can also strengthen other kinds of relationships you might have.

For example, psychologists say that our friends can prevent us from losing ourselves in a romantic relationship.

4) “Thank you for being honest”

It’s one thing to ask someone for honest feedback. It’s another to accept that feedback with grace and love, no matter how uncomfortable the truth is.

I’ve recently had to confront one of my close friends about a specific situation that occurred. As someone who used to be a huge people-pleaser, I was incredibly stressed.

What if she blew up? What if she didn’t think my feedback was reasonable? What if it was not my place to say anything?

After I told her, though, she thanked me for being honest with her and acknowledged that she had some retrospection to do.

And once again, I was reminded this was why we were friends – because we knew we could not only be honest with one another but also grateful and accepting of these kinds of uncomfortable truths.

This, after all, is at the core of self-awareness: viewing criticism as productive feedback that can help us come just a tiny bit closer to the highest version of ourselves.

5) “This action made me feel…”

Imagine your partner made a joke about one of your insecurities. While they may have not intended it to hurt you, you feel wounded nonetheless, and you’d like to bring it up so that it doesn’t happen again.

What many people do is either attack the person in question (“You’re so mean! How could you say this!”), act passive-aggressive (“It’s not like you’re perfect, either”), or dismiss the whole problem altogether just to avoid conflict.

People with high self-awareness choose a different strategy. As per psychologists’ advice, they speak in “I” rather than “you” terms – in other words, they address their feelings rather than attacking the other person’s personality.

This makes it so that the other person doesn’t feel the need to defend themselves and is more motivated to hear them out, try to understand them and come to some sort of resolution.

Look at these two examples:

  • “You never want to spend time with me anymore, it’s like you don’t even care”
  • “I’ve been recently feeling a sense of disconnection between us because we don’t spend as much time together. It makes me sad and deflated and I’d really like for us to find some kind of solution”

Which one is more likely to start a fight and which one opens the door to a respectful dialogue?


6) “I need some space to process how I feel”

Self-awareness goes hand in hand with self-regulation.

If you can name your feelings and approach them as a compassionate observer, you are also more likely to process them effectively and not flip out every time something goes wrong.

And giving yourself enough space to untangle the confusing web of emotions inside you is a vital part of that.

When highly self-aware people are having a disagreement with someone or need to think over a certain issue, they aren’t afraid to take some space – they know that it can be incredibly beneficial to both their mental well-being and the relationship itself.

It’s okay that you don’t have the answer straight away. It’s okay that it takes you some time to calm down. It’s okay that you may need a few hours to process how you truly feel and recognize what you need in order to resolve the situation at hand.

It’s what helps us solve conflicts in a productive rather than destructive manner.

7) “I’m proud of myself”

Finally, being able to say you’re proud of yourself is a big feat.

This is because many people are still worried it may be perceived as selfish or self-absorbed.

In reality, the opposite is the case. 

A genuine sense of pride comes from a place of self-love, which is one of the most selfless things you could ever do because it gives you the energy and space to share your love with others in the best way you know how.

Therefore, people with high self-awareness aren’t afraid to say they’re proud of themselves if they achieve an important milestone or make it through a rough patch.

They give credit where credit is due.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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