Knowing who you are and how you work is important.
But for many of us, self-awareness is not something we possess or pay much attention to.
Here’s how to change that.
1) Self-awareness gives you clarity
The first of the big reasons why self-awareness is good for you is that it brings you clarity.
As the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi famously said: “Know thyself.”
The advice from this fortune-telling legend was clear: if you know yourself you will be wise and capable in life.
Many of us go through life feeling confused about almost everything.
You may be unsure:
- What you want
- Who you want
- Why you want these things or don’t want them
- What career you want to pursue and why
- What’s a red line for you morally and what isn’t
- What your goals are in life more generally…
Becoming more self-aware clears up a lot of that confusion and gives you more insight into where you want to head and why.
2) Self-awareness sets your moral compass
What values are driving you in life?
Becoming self-aware helps you see what’s most important to you.
The best program I’ve found for this is Life Journal led by renowned coach Jeanette Brown.
In particular, I’ve found the free core values exercise helpful in becoming more self-aware and creating and calibrating a moral compass.
As Jeanette says, “understanding your deeper values in life is incredibly important.”
When you know what values are most important to you in life, you can make better decisions and set your “moral compass” in the direction that helps you achieve your goals while also staying true to who you are and what you stand for.
3) Self-awareness grounds your decisions
Making decisions in life is difficult, even at the best of times.
One of the benefits of becoming more self-aware is that you are able to make more grounded decisions.
For example, say you are offered a job but you are not sure about whether it’s a good fit:
The job is working in a two-person law firm in a large city you’ve never lived in before.
The money is good and you know this will propel your career forward, but you aren’t sure whether it will be a positive experience socially.
You also are mildly concerned about several news reports which implicate one of the clients you will likely be working for in the new firm.
Being self-aware that you have an intense need for community and group work and that ethical transparency is also important for you, you will realize that this job isn’t a good fit.
Before becoming more self-aware, you would have jumped at the monetary rewards and ignored the other aspects, but now you’re more hesitant.
Instead, you stick with your current job and continue looking for something that’s a closer fit with the kind of profile of job that would fit your core values.
This is one of the top reasons why self-awareness is good for you: it leads to much more beneficial decision-making.
4) Self-awareness shows you your strengths and talents
One of the most compelling reasons why self-awareness is good for you is that it shows you strengths and talents you may not have known you had.
Realizing that you’re better than you realized in various areas can be a huge confidence boost and it can also be really helpful in your career and personal life.
Seeing the ways in which you’re actually very capable and could apply your skills across the board makes you more enthusiastic and optimistic in life.
Examples of this might include:
- An impressive skill with technology
- Above average memory or perception ability
- Thoughtfulness and generosity
- Leadership skills and appreciation for others
- A strong independent streak or strong willpower
- Creative or artistic abilities that have long lain dormant…
Realizing how much better you are than you even knew is a big boost.
You got this!
5) Self-awareness shows you your blind spots
On the flip side, self-awareness also shows you your blind spots and where you’re falling short.
Many times we miss what’s right in front of our eyes or overestimate our skills at something that we might actually not be very good at.
Examples of this include:
- The way you treat someone close to you disrespectfully
- Forgetfulness or being disorganized
- Having a difficulty with social situations
- Feeling victimized or unfairly treated by others without any real grounds for feeling that (generally the resurfacing or “replaying” of past trauma)…
- Freeloading or expecting others to pay our way, including parents…
- And much more…
As Emmaline Soken-Huberty writes:
“Knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths.
It’s rarely enjoyable to spend much time thinking about where you aren’t succeeding, but if you want to improve, you need to know what to improve.”
6) Self-awareness brings you more confidence
Another big benefit of being more self-aware is that you’re more confident.
The reason is simple: when you know what drives you, you can be much more confident about where you’re driving and why.
You become a natural leader and aren’t afraid to take charge in difficult situations.
You become much more sure about what you want and why, as well as how you can lead and influence others in a positive way.
You become more confident because knowing your strengths and weaknesses puts you in a wiser, more capable position in almost all situations in life.
7) Self-awareness leads to happier relationships
Self awareness leads to happier and more successful relationships.
The primary reason is that self-awareness makes you more selective about who you invest your time in and why.
You are much more aware of what makes you thrive, and you know what you’re looking for in a partner.
Of course, you’re open to being surprised and any of us can fall in love unexpectedly…
Yet at the same time, you know a lot more about the kind of partner you’re looking for and you’re less easily distracted by painful affairs or chasing the wrong person.
You know your core values and the kind of values you can relate to in someone else romantically.
Secondly, if and when you do commit you put your heart into it.
You’re honest upfront about what you want and you use your self-awareness to better communicate with your partner and work through relationship roadblocks that arise.
Bottom line: self-awareness helps you have a better love life!
8) Self-awareness boosts your critical thinking skills
Critical thinking is hard, and it’s an increasingly lost art in our world.
It basically means the ability and willingness to challenge core assumptions and beliefs and to look at various sides of issues and topics without becoming personally or emotionally identified.
While you may have strong beliefs or positions, you’re able to dig into and at least understand the views of others or what shaped your views without descending into an emotional reaction.
You can go beyond “sides” and look at shared values, at common trends, at roots of conflict and so on…
When you become self-aware, your critical thinking abilities greatly increase.
The reason is simple: you get to know yourself better and what shaped you and continues to shape you.
As a result you are able to question more, think more critically and encourage others to do the same.
9) Self-awareness builds up more empathy
Being more self-aware makes you more aware of what others go through as well.
We all contain paradoxes and we’ve all been through many struggles in life, including struggles with ourselves.
Becoming more aware of the tensions inside ourselves and how imperfect we are increases empathy for others.
With increased empathy comes the ability to work more fluidly with others and appreciate them more.
This leads to better professional success and becoming a more well liked and more well appreciated individual.
10) Self-awareness increases your discipline
Last and most of all in terms of the reasons why self-awareness is good for you is that it bulks up your self-discipline.
When you know your weak spots and your strengths you know what to watch out for and what not to watch out for.
This helps you hone those areas where you may fall short and to try your best to improve.
When you fail to improve you’re even more aware of it, since your self-awareness level is high to start with.
How to improve your level of self-awareness
Self awareness is a quality you can increase and grow.
I recommend the following methods as the best ways I’ve found for building up self-awareness and enjoying the benefits it brings.
1) Ask yourself some questions
One of my favorite ways to start building more self-awareness is to ask some critical thinking questions.
These kinds of questions can make you more aware of who you are and what drives you in life.
- How might I be different if I’d been born in a different country or culture?
- What am I sure I am right about? What might I be wrong about?
- What makes me sure or confident of being right? What makes me worry I might be wrong?
- What does it mean to be “right” or “wrong” for me?
- What gives me the most pleasure and energy in life?
- What brings me down most in life and causes me the most suffering?
- What would I be doing right now if I could be living my (PG-rated) dream and why would that be so meaningful or rewarding to me to be living that?
For the last question, for example, your dream might be relaxing in your infinity pool in Bali with your gorgeous and charming wife while sipping wine as late afternoon’s lull descends over the lush surrounding jungle.
But identify the values that lie behind that: relaxation, communication, love of nature.
2) Ask a close friend for their honest opinion
Another great way to boost self-awareness is to ask a close friend for their honest opinion.
Don’t ask somebody you don’t know well, since they may just flatter you or downplay their real opinion.
Ask somebody you trust and who you can stand to hear the truth from.
- What do you like most about me?
- What do you hate most about me?
- What do you think I do in a harmful or ineffective way but may not be aware of?
- What do you think I do in an especially talented or effective way but may not realize?
- Is there something about myself that other people see in me that I don’t notice in myself that you think is important for me to realize or reflect on?
Ask any other questions which your friend has time for and which you feel could increase your self-awareness in terms of how you’re perceived and how you translate into the external world.
You don’t have to believe everything your pal says, after all this is about self-awareness, but it is potentially valuable information to take into account.
3) Talk to somebody you usually wouldn’t
Last and far from least in the ways to increase your self-awareness is to talk to somebody you usually wouldn’t.
This could be a guy on the subway (not always a safe bet) or a lady who works behind the counter at the Subway restaurant.
Either way, be open to engaging in conversations that challenge you.
Open your mind to other points of view and life experiences.
Find out more about what motivates others and you will be able to bounce that back off yourself and see how you react to it and relate to it.
This, in turn, will increase your ability to reflect on yourself and understand what made you how you are and what you envision for the future.
Waking up to who you really are…
Waking up to who you really are isn’t always pretty.
You may see some scars and bruises or age marks. You may notice that you look just plain exhausted and life’s been a bit harder on you than you realized.
Or maybe you’ve been a bit harder on yourself, too…
But as you become more self-aware, you become more conscious and capable of choosing what to change and why.
This is your life, and the more you recognize that it’s you behind the ship’s steering wheel, the more you can go in the direction that’s meaningful for you instead of just circling around in the open sea.