Self-awareness is the ultimate prerequisite for self-improvement and living a better life.
The thing is that we can’t really know how self-aware we are, objectively speaking.
We just have to do our best.
In this article, I share a list of what I think are great markers of good self-awareness.
It’s derived from a wide range of expert opinions from different fields and my own personal experience on my self-awareness journey.
Read on to find our the 14 signs that you’re becoming a more mindful and self-aware person.
1) You understand your emotions
Being emotionally self-aware means understanding what you’re feeling and the reason behind it. More importantly, it also means being able to control how you act on it.
This means that you’re also aware of your major emotional patterns. You may have identified things like:
- Your love language;
- Attachment style;
- And trauma triggers.
Self-aware people don’t see emotions as a sign of weakness but rather as something normal and human—if not something beautiful and profound.
By doing so, they are able to completely understand their emotions. They can sit with them and analyze why they feel that way and how it might affect their actions.
As a result, their external awareness also increases, allowing them to develop better relationships with others.
2) You can analyze your thought processes
In the same vein, self-aware people can also analyze their thoughts. Self-awareness includes both the emotional and logical side of your mind.
You know, for example, how you learn the best as a student. It also includes knowing your biases or how you memorize information.
By being aware of these, you attempt to set aside your biases (while fully acknowledging that there’s no way you can do so completely) and arrive at the most objective conclusions possible.
3) You can control their thoughts and emotions
Because of the two points above, they are not at the mercy of their mental or emotional whims. Their thoughts and emotions don’t control them. Mindful and self-aware people get the hang of how they feel and what they think.
They understand that they are more than their thoughts and emotions. This is why they are not too bothered if they have an intrusive thought or feel a particularly strong emotion.
They are able to sit with them, process them, and move forward smoothly.
4) You think you’re not self-aware enough
Here’s that paradox I was talking about. People who think they know everything about themselves (or worse, about the world or other people) ironically tend to be the least self-aware.
Remember when you were 18 and thought that you understood how the world worked? It’s like they never grew out of that phase.
Humbly realizing that you always have room to grow will make you consistently chase self-improvement and self-awareness.
And that’s exactly how you become and stay self-aware.
5) You don’t think you’re special
Another thing 18-year-olds think is that they’re special. As you can probably guess, truly self-aware people definitely don’t believe this.
They don’t think they deserve special treatment or feel entitled to other people. They put in the effort to get the things they want and feel thankful when other people help them.
On the other hand, they also don’t think that they live the most miserable of lives.
They understand that they face their fair share of trauma or unfairness in their life, but they’re also able to see how they’re lucky or privileged.
This means their self-awareness includes understanding their place in the grander scheme of things.
6) You’re not afraid of looking “dumb”
We live in a world where we’re all so obsessed with looking intelligent and competent. We need it to…
- …pass job interviews;
- …woo people we date;
- …impress our friends;
…and a whole host of other things. We feel the need to put up a front just to seem like we know what we’re doing at all times.
But you know what’s better than competence?
Authenticity. Sincerity. And, as mentioned above, the desire to always learn and grow.
So, if you ask that supposedly dumb question?
Maybe you feel a little embarrassed, but now you’ll know more, making you feel more confident than before.
7) You know your weaknesses
Self-aware folks are not afraid of looking dumb because they accept they’re not perfect.
They’re not afraid of putting themselves outside their comfort zone or making hard decisions.
They’re not afraid of failing or taking risks either.
After all, they know that this is precisely how you’re able to develop your weaknesses.
They’re mature enough not to beat themselves up for not being perfect.
And they fully accept and love themselves despite their flaws. And in fact, it’s because of this radical self-acceptance and self-love that they want to grow and improve.
8) You welcome criticism
Because mindful people know they’re imperfect, taking criticism is not a problem for them.
It’s still definitely hard (because, again, they’re human and embrace that they’re human), but they do their best not to get defensive about it.
Rather, they keep it in mind as they try to grow and become a better person. After all, what’s a better way of becoming self-aware than listening to how other people perceive you?
How do you know if criticism is constructive?
- It’s worded respectfully and kindly;
- It focuses on how you can improve rather than what you lack;
- It encourages you to do better instead of quitting.
9) You willingly apologize
Similarly, self-aware people are also humble enough to take accountability for their actions.
They are mindful of their effect on others and adept at recognizing when they are in the wrong, too.
They readily admit when they make a mistake and wholeheartedly apologize for it.
And while you might say that saying sorry is basic decency, some studies suggest that it’s actually incredibly hard to do—especially if you screwed up in a big way.
After all, sincerely apologizing is crucial to both maintaining relationships and soliciting feedback. Both of these are important in maintaining a good level of self-awareness.
10) You live in the present
An often overlooked part of self-awareness is the ability to stay grounded in the present.
Think about it: If you’re constantly over-worrying about the future or thinking about things from the past, how can you be aware of the current situation around you?
After all, we can’t change the past, nor can we be truly sure of what the future brings no matter how hard we try to predict it. In fact, the best way to prepare for the future is to make the most out of the present!
Self-aware people are aware of this reality and are able to live life to the fullest because of it.
11) You know what you want in the future
Being present doesn’t mean that the most mindful of us do not care about the future. While they live in the present, they’re still forward-thinkers. They still have a vision of the future they want to achieve.
They are sure and aware of the following:
- Personal values they have;
- Goals they want to achieve;
- Limitations they have to work with;
- The opportunities present.
Then, they craft a specific vision of the future that is aligned with these factors.
After all, while thinking too much about the future is unproductive—if not counterproductive—not thinking about it all leaves you directionless.
12) You know your values but still respect other people’s opinions
A mature and self-aware person will acknowledge and respect other people’s opinions. But this doesn’t mean that they will always be willing to compromise.
After all, while they seek to listen to other people’s perspectives to expand their knowledge of the world, they still think critically about them as well.
This is because they are sure of their own values and beliefs. While they know the importance of being open-minded, they also believe in the phrase, “Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out.”
Being able to empathize with other people’s viewpoints while still staying strong to your values is a hallmark of maturity.
13) You value how they see yourself more than others’ opinions
Now, it’s important to note that there is a difference between being aware of what other people think and valuing it more than how you see yourself.
As said above, it’s important to be open-minded to what other people think.
But being overly worried about what other people think (to the point of constantly molding yourself to the demands of others) is not self-awareness!
In fact, if you’re hyper-aware of other people, you’re probably not aware enough of yourself.
Remember that you only have a limited amount of focus and mental energy. If you choose to devote most of it to fulfilling other people’s desires of you, you’ll lose track of your own identity.
14) You accept the reality that you may not achieve all your dreams
But they still go for them anyway!
It’s just how self-aware people accept that they’ll never achieve perfect self-awareness but still strive for it anyway (and that’s how they become self-aware).
Maturing includes realizing that you will likely never achieve all your dreams. Or its full extent.
As they say: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
So sure, maybe you won’t be as big of an author as JK Rowling or George R.R. Martin. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your book published and make its own fair share of waves.
To sum up
Cultivating self-awareness is a neverending process. It’s not a one-time thing where you can suddenly gain self-awareness, and you’ll stay self-aware for life.
It’s a process that is crucial to living a fulfilled, meaningful life.
So now, after reading this article, take the time to reflect on what you’ve read and kickstart (or continue!) your journey to becoming a more mindful, self-aware person.