Throughout human history, there has always been a sense that one of the main factors that set humans apart from other animals is the ability to be self-aware. Even though this factor is part of what defines humanity, the average person goes through most or all of their life without truly and fully being self-aware. Any person who reaches this realization will likely begin this worthwhile pursuit. Highlighted below are some steps to becoming more self-aware.1,2
Ask Others Who Know You to Tell You Their Thoughts
One of the greatest inhibitors to self-awareness is that most individuals carry beliefs about who they are that simply aren’t true. Although people usually fail to recognize this in themselves, it’s fairly easy to observe in others. For instance, sometimes someone you know starts talking about themselves, and you know that what they’re saying is often the complete opposite from who they really are. It’s likely that you do this same thing yourself.
To begin taking steps toward self-awareness, you must open yourself to the truth. This begins by asking others to reveal their perceptions about you. Many individuals will be reluctant to do that simply because they have ideas about themselves and it might be difficult to think about how others might perceive you—especially if it’s different from how you view yourself.
However, reaching a place in your mind where you are open to discovering yourself through the perceptions of others is the beginning of achieving self-awareness.
If you simply go up to a friend, family member, or colleague and ask them to give you their opinion of you, they may not be sure what to say. To help them, it’s better if you ask specific questions. Some examples of this would be to ask them if when you speak with them and others, do you look them squarely in the eye or do you deflect your eyes away from the person that you’re speaking to.
Around the world, there are different ways of greeting, but in the West, a firm handshake is one common way that people will greet one another. In some circles, a firm handshake will confer confidence and trustworthiness. A limp handshake often demonstrates a lack of confidence and, in some cases, will be seen as untrustworthiness. Ask those who know you well if your handshake is firm or not.
If you find that you are not looking others in the eye or giving a firm handshake when meeting them, then this may show that you lack confidence in some way. If you find that others fail to trust you even though you believe yourself to be trustworthy, then this could be a good indication of why that’s happening.
Once you become aware of this fact, it opens up the opportunity to do something about it. It is for this reason that taking the steps towards self-awareness is so important. Individuals often have ideas about themselves that are completely unfounded. They are more about hope and wishful thinking than about the reality of who you have become. The good thing is that as you become more self-aware, you can begin taking steps towards becoming the person you want to be rather than the person that you currently are.
Continue asking your friends, family, and colleagues other questions such as whether or not you smile or frown more often. If you naturally smile a lot it could mean that you are content with your current situation. If, on the other hand, you are walking around with a frown on your face most of the time, then this could be an indication that there are things in your life that are making you unhappy. Coming to this realization can open up your mind, and you can begin to discover the things that are making you unhappy and began to change them.
Reveal Your Hopes and Ambitions to Your Closest Friends and Family Members
A key component to becoming self-aware is to more deeply understand who you really are. Because of the nature of modern society, the majority of individuals are fed ideas about who they should want to become and what they should have in their lives. This often results in a state where individuals are pursuing someone else’s ambitions.
When you begin to ask those who know you well what they think of your ambitions and dreams and whether or not they fit their perception of you, it can often reveal discrepancies. If you are trying to save up enough money to buy some expensive designer clothes and tell a family member or friend about this goal and they find it unusual because you seem to happiest and most comfortable in your old pair of overalls, then this may reveal something about you that you are unaware of.
You may be pursuing designer clothes when your real natural state enjoys casual, comfortable clothing more than expensive designer wear. If you become self-aware of this fact and let go of that false idea that was almost certainly implanted in you through corporate advertising and other social factors, then you can let go of that false ambition and begin pursuing something that is more appropriate for who you really are.
Videotape Yourself Being Interviewed By One of Your Friends
Often, individuals are so caught up in ideas that you thought were your own but were actually instilled in you through media and other societal factors, that it is difficult to distinguish false hopes and ambitions from the ones that come from deep within you. Because these false ambitions seem real, it’s hard to move past them even when friends express their concerns.
One way to make yourself more open and able to see reality and understand who you really are is to watch yourself on video after being interviewed by someone who knows you well. When you watch the expressions on your own face and hear the answers you give, you can begin to see the discrepancies.
A reason that some people may be reluctant to try this idea is the fact that they feel they are setting themselves up for criticism. If your friend or you are doing it for that reason, then you really shouldn’t. But when you’re doing it for self-awareness, it takes on a different perspective.
Anyone who has ever tried meditation knows that one of the difficulties is removing thoughts from your mind. The interesting thing about meditation and self-awareness is the fact that if you begin paying attention to the thoughts that interrupt your meditation, it can reveal who you are and what plagues your mind.
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During the course of a normal day, you’re so busy with daily tasks that you probably don’t pay attention to the constant bombardment of hopes, worries, and ambitions that pop into your mind.
When you begin to meditate, it can help you accomplish a couple of things. First, you can begin paying attention to the thoughts that come into your mind when we’re trying to empty it. Secondly, you can use meditation as an opportunity to focus on some priority that you have.
It is important to remember that meditation does not necessarily have to be sitting on the floor with your legs crossed. Sometimes, an act of meditation can simply be the act of doing something mundane but purposefully. This could be taking a walk, working in the garden, or even something as mundane as washing dishes. When you do those tasks with deliberate thought and attention, they become more than just the activity. When you begin to put that type of focus into simple tasks, your mind opens and aspects of yourself are revealed.
Self-awareness is a lifelong journey rather than a set destination. You should always be striving to be more self-aware. The very fact that you are contemplating being more self-aware is the first step. After that, it’s simply a matter of constantly pursuing the truth about yourself and the willingness to accept it when you discover it.
Along the way, you’ll likely find that self-awareness is a matter of understanding your mental and emotional state, physical health and well-being, social state, and financial state. All of these factors will play a significant role in forming who you are and who you want to become.
Understanding those facts and pursuing them in a healthy and appropriate way will allow you to be more self-aware and to pursue goals that are appropriate for who you really are.
Photo credits: RomanSamborskyi/shutterstock.com, MonkeyBusinessImages/shutterstock.com, GeorgeRudy/shutterstock.com, Song_about_summer/shutterstock.com, eakkaluktemwanich/shutterstock.com