Isn’t it funny that we spend most of our life trying to understand ourselves? Well, we weren’t born with the manual, and we are more complex than an IKEA wardrobe.
Self-awareness is knowing yourself inside and out (get familiar with the voices in your head!). It means being in tune with your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values. When you understand how your emotions and feelings influence your actions and interactions with others, you can remain in control and engage in manual override (instead of unconscious reaction)!
Three practices to increase self-awareness
There are different ways to improve your self-awareness; what really helps me is to spend time reflecting and journaling. I aim to journal every morning (not going to lie, sometimes I don’t) and have weekly reflection time about my life and business. Here are a few prompts you can use to start:
– Reflect on a recent conflict you had with someone. What emotions did you experience during the conflict, and what triggered those emotions? How could you have responded differently to the situation to achieve a more positive outcome? If the conflict is not resolved yet, what would be a desired outcome, and how do you need to behave to achieve that?
– Think about a challenging situation that caused you to experience intense emotions. What did you learn from that experience? How can you apply those learning to a current challenge?
– Identify a person who consistently triggers negative emotions in you. What about that person’s behavior or personality bothers you, and how could you reframe your thoughts or reactions to create a more positive dynamic in the relationship?
Another practice that has had a profound impact on me is meditation. It is a powerful tool to increase self-awareness by promoting present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of thoughts and feelings.
When I first heard of meditation, I decided to join a very strict Vipassana Retreat in a beautiful temple in Java (Indonesia). I like challenges, but the daily 12-hour meditation, vow of silence, no eye contact, and fasting were too much for a newbie (at least for me, it was!)! I lost my mind and left after four days. Still, it was a fantastic experience.
To be honest, I have a love-and-hate relationship with meditation. Sometimes I am called to meditate multiple times a day; sometimes, I do it for the check mark on my to-do list. I was frustrated when I first started meditating as I expected to reach a state of no-thoughts and pure quietness, but unfortunately, my mind was never really cooperative.
With more research about the practice, I realized that the goal is not the absence of thoughts but the letting go of the passing thoughts, and things started shifting! There are tons of apps and videos to guide you. It may feel uncomfortable initially, but the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Best tip: start small (just a few minutes) and build it up.
When you know yourself, you can put in place systems to manage yourself, like self-care practices, setting boundaries with others, and reframing negative thoughts to be more positive and constructive. Instead of being reactive, you are proactive, and eventually, you get better at life.
After identifying and understanding your emotions, you can engage in nourishing and restorative activities. For example, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness, doing more things that bring you joy, being kind to yourself, and showing compassion. If you feel stressed, what can you do to relax? If you feel lonely, what can you do to connect with others?