What Is Self-Awareness? (2022)

Once upon a time, I regarded “self-awareness” as something that was of little value to me. It seemed too touchy-feely. When people told me I had to “find myself,” I thought, “How can I find myself when I’ve never been lost?”

The self-assuredness of my early 20s was quickly shattered when I got laid off at the age of 26. Suddenly, I started feeling lost. I was starting to realize I had been directing all of my energies toward proving that I was an adult (whatever that meant!).

In reality, I had no clue who I was. Yikes!

Obviously, I missed school the day they taught us about self-awareness. Oh wait, that’s right, they never taught any of us about it!

I believe the practice of self-awareness is one of the greatest skills in life because it enables you to learn about yourself in a way no one else can ever teach you.

It teaches you how to manage yourself and how to productively engage with other people.

Most importantly, it enables you to design work that works for you, so you can design your lifestyle on your terms.

Before we dive into defining “self-awareness,” let’s break it down and focus on the meaning of “awareness” first.

What Does “Awareness” Mean?

I like to think of “awareness” as what you notice in life. It’s about paying attention.

It’s the details you pick up from your perception of the world. It’s your consciousness actively gathering and processing information from your environment. It’s how you experience life.

There’s lots of stuff to notice each day, each hour, and even each minute. Look up from this blog post for a moment and slowly scan the area around you. What did you notice? Which details can you describe?

(Video) What is Self-Awareness + 5 reasons it's important

I have a very good friend who notices very different things about the world than I do. I often tell her she could have been a CIA agent because she can recall an astonishing amount of detail from any given scene of life.

I’m more oblivious. Well, not really oblivious, just more hyper-focused on one particular part of the same scene my friend and I are experiencing.

I tend to be very aware of people. I easily remember people’s names. I feel their vibe. I notice how people interact with each other in a group. I catalog their stories in my brain. I can pick up conversations exactly where we left off even if months have passed.

My friend, on the other hand, will notice the physical details and movements of all people, even strangers. I tend to be more aware of people I know or spark my curiosity.

Neither form of awareness is right or wrong. They’re just different. It’s our natural tendency.

What Does “Self-Awareness” Mean?

If “awareness” is about noticing stuff in the world, “self-awareness” is about focusing your awareness on yourself.

It’s your ability to notice your feelings, your physical sensations, your reactions, your habits, your behaviors, and your thoughts.

You are aware of all those different aspects of yourself as if you were another person observing you.

Another way to think of it is paying attention to your intuition, also known as your 6th sense or your gut feeling.

Or as someone I once interviewed told me, self-awareness is about being honest with yourself.

We all have a self-image of how we want others to perceive us. You might view yourself as punctual, but in reality you are often late to appointments.

(Video) Increase your self-awareness with one simple fix | Tasha Eurich | TEDxMileHigh

Self-awareness is about focusing on the reality of your behavior and not on the story you tell yourself about yourself.

Stop Ignoring Your Feelings, Explore Them

Many of the people I interview or coach about feeling “stuck” in their lives, often describe a “feeling they could no longer ignore.”

On the surface of their lives, everything seemed fine. In fact, they were able to ignore and even repress this feeling because they didn’t have the self-awareness to explore it. Has this ever happened to you?

Some felt a physical sensation in the pit of their stomach or a tingling in their chest. Others felt more and more distracted. People also told me they felt unsatisfied or unhappy, but had no idea why because they could see no immediate reason for it in their lives.

Those that started to investigate the source of these unexplained feelings and sensations were those that began a deeper practice of self-awareness.

They started observing even more subtle sensations and the nuanced circumstances of their behaviors. They gave their feelings a voice and hushed the monkey chatter of their conscious thoughts.

Those that chose not to investigate these feelings increasingly felt more anxious. More stressed out.

Exploring the unknown can be scary. We believe we have to have everything “figured out” by the time we are 30. Becoming self-aware about unresolved feelings threatens everything we thought we were supposed to be working toward.

I strongly encourage you to stop ignoring those feelings because they’ll never truly go away. Instead, start exploring them through a practice of self-awareness.

At the very least you will learn more about yourself and how you can live in closer alignment with who you really are.

Listen to why practicing self-awareness is so important.


How to Practice Self-Awareness

In the context of lifestyle design, self-awareness is the first step toward designing your lifestyle around the work you’ve always wanted to do.

It is the mechanism for acquiring self-knowledge, the path to learning which habits you need to alter to start working on your terms.

Step #1

The first step for practicing self-awareness is gaining a greater awareness of your emotions.

We have been taught to shut our feelings out of our decision-making process and to rely solely on our rational thoughts.

I believe this puts our decision-making process out of balance. When we rely solely on our rational thoughts, we often make decisions to try to live up to someone else’s ideals.

Our feelings are the internal advocate for our own ideals. To make effective decisions, we need both rational thought and our feelings. We need to pay attention to our gut as much as our brain.

I didn’t become actively self-aware of my feelings until my early 30s. I suffered from chronic anxiety throughout much of my career, and I owe that to my deficient awareness of my feelings.

Bring greater awareness to your feelings by including them in your decisions. Listen to your gut and explore why your feelings might object to the decision of one of your rational thoughts.

Ask yourself, “Where is that feeling coming from?” Make a habit of recognizing your feelings.

Step #2

The second step to practicing self-awareness is making a habit of tracking your feelings

(Video) What is Self-Awareness | Explained in 2 min

Very simply, start writing down your most positive feelings and your most negative feelings. Keep a journal or note on your phone. Try it for at least 30 days.

Begin to notice patterns and trends. This simple practice will help you better define your purpose, your values, your motivations, and anything holding you back from the work you’ve always wanted to do.

Here’s everything you can learn about yourself to design your ideal lifestyle.

I like to think of monitoring your feelings as communicating with your subconscious mind. It’s your true inner voice. It often knows what you want in life before you are able to put it into words.

Step #3

The third step for practicing self-awareness is expanding your practice to areas of your life beyond your feelings.

There are countless areas of your life you can monitor, but you should focus on areas you believe will have the greatest impact on designing your ideal lifestyle.

Once you’ve had some experience with tracking your feelings, I recommend tracking your energy next. This will help you identify your “peak performance period” each day. These are the period(s) of the day when you are most energized, focused, and able to create your highest quality work. Tracking your energy will also provide insights into what motivates you and what drains you.

Try these 4 self-awarenessexercises. Listen now.

Self-Assessment Challenges to Get You Started

I know starting a self-awareness practice for the first time can be difficult, so that’s why I created a 12-week self-assessment challenge to help begin your self-awareness practice.

Each week you’ll be emailed a new self-assessment challenge that prompts you to explore a specific aspect of your life like how you spend your money or identifying your values.

(Video) 10 Signs You Lack Self Awareness

Developing a self-awareness practice is the foundation of lifestyle design. It is the primary method for learning about yourself and your needs.

It will also do wonders for reducing your anxiety and preventing you from getting “stuck” in the future.


What does self-awareness mean? ›

"Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don't align with your internal standards.

What is self-awareness and examples? ›

Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don't align with your internal standards. If you're highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.

What are the 3 types of self-awareness? ›

Why self-awareness is important explain? ›

When we are more self-aware we are better at understanding ourselves. We are then able to identify changes we want to make and recognise our strengths so we can build on them. Self-awareness is often a first step to goal setting. This includes admitting when you don't have the answer and owning up to mistakes.

Why is self-awareness so important? ›

Self-awareness allows us to see things from the perspective of others, practice self-control, work creatively and productively, and experience pride in ourselves and our work as well as general self-esteem (Silvia & O'Brien, 2004). It leads to better decision making (Ridley, Schutz, Glanz, & Weinstein, 1992).

How do you achieve self-awareness? ›

Tips for becoming more self-aware
  1. Keep an open mind. ...
  2. Be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses. ...
  3. Stay focused. ...
  4. Set boundaries. ...
  5. Know your emotional triggers. ...
  6. Embrace your intuition. ...
  7. Practice self-discipline. ...
  8. Consider how your actions affect others.

What are the two 2 types of self-awareness? ›

There are two types of self-awareness: private and public. Private self-awareness is when people are aware of something about themselves that others might not be — like being anxious about reading out loud. Public self-awareness is when people are aware of how others see them.

What causes lack of self-awareness? ›

Fear of being vulnerable

People who are not self-aware are afraid to be vulnerable. They are worried that they will be judged or rejected by others, which causes them to remain unaware of their feelings, thoughts, motives, and behaviors.

What are the three steps to build self-awareness? ›

3 Steps to Becoming More Self-Aware
  1. Questioning. Socrates discovered over two millennia ago that questions are a righteous place to begin a quest for knowledge. ...
  2. Becoming mindful. ...
  3. Taking action.

What is the highest benefits of self-awareness? ›

Being more self-aware means that you'll grow your emotional intelligence and be better able to relate to others in various types of situations. This is because your self-awareness extends beyond yourself and makes you more aware of what others may be going through.

What's another word for self-aware? ›

What is another word for self-aware?
2 more rows

How does self-awareness lead to success? ›

Research has found that people who are taught self-awareness have a better ability to reflect on their leadership skills and foster a stronger sense of teamwork. Self-awareness helps people review their skill sets to better contribute and build a company culture that values teamwork.

How can I improve my self-awareness and confidence? ›

Congratulate and be proud of yourself. Control your emotions: use it in your favor and not against you. Identify, understand and then control your emotions. Practice self-assessment: be conscious about your improvement areas, but also learn to recognize your own strengths.

What are the four pillars of self-awareness? ›

The four domains of Emotional Intelligence — self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management — each can help a leader face any crisis with lower levels of stress, less emotional reactivity and fewer unintended consequences.

What are the characteristics of self-awareness? ›

Characteristics of Self-Aware People
  • Wisdom. They actively work to understand themselves and apply that knowledge in everyday life. ...
  • Honesty. These people are able to accurately explain both their strengths and their weaknesses. ...
  • Humility. They are not self-focused. ...
  • Confidence. They want to hear it from you straight.
18 Sept 2018

What are 4 benefits of being self-aware? ›

Benefits of developing self-awareness:
  • Being better able to manage and regulate your emotions.
  • Better communication.
  • Better decision-making skills.
  • Improved relationships.
  • Higher levels of happiness.
  • More confidence.
  • Better job satisfaction.
  • Better leadership skills.
27 Jan 2022

What prevents us from being self-aware? ›

Our body reacts on impulse and emotions (even if they're incorrect) rather than reason. This further hinders our self-awareness of our decision-making and reactions.

What are some of the signs that show a person lacks self-awareness? ›

Someone with a lack of self-awareness is usually not willing to listen to what others have to say about their behavior at home, at work, or in relationships. They tend to view feedback as criticism, especially if they are insecure, have low self-esteem, or think they're beyond reproach.

How can you tell if someone has no self-awareness? ›

More specifically, we've found several consistent behaviors of un-self-aware individuals: They won't listen to, or accept, critical feedback. They cannot empathize with, or take the perspective of, others. They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.

What happens when you lose your self-awareness? ›

When people lack self-awareness about their tendency to want control things even when it's impossible, it frequently leads to the habit of rumination and all the emotional side effects that go with it—excessive shame, guilt, sadness, self-criticalness, and regret. Reflect on past mistakes and losses.

How do we use self-awareness in everyday life? ›

Self-Awareness Examples
  1. Embrace a growth mindset. It's natural to be set in our ways. ...
  2. Set boundaries. ...
  3. Recognize destructive habits. ...
  4. Understand your blind spots. ...
  5. Get better at anticipating things so you can come up with an action plan. ...
  6. Pay attention. ...
  7. Ask the right questions. ...
  8. Help others become more self-aware.
14 Jun 2022

What is the highest form of awareness? ›

lucid dreaming; out-of-body experience; near-death experience; mystical experience (sometimes regarded as the highest of all higher states of consciousness)

How do I know my self-awareness? ›

3 ways to become self-aware
  1. Assess your self-talk. The first step in self-awareness is to listen to yourself. ...
  2. Use your senses. Your senses (sight and sound, in particular) can provide you with huge insights into your own and other people's feelings, and situations in general. ...
  3. Tune into your feelings.

What happens when lack self-awareness? ›

A person without self-awareness will struggle to put themselves in the shoes of other people. “Because they're unaware of their emotions, they're often not able to see how their behaviors might be contributing to a situation at hand,” says Dr.

What does a lack of self-awareness look like? ›

Someone with a lack of self-awareness is usually not willing to listen to what others have to say about their behavior at home, at work, or in relationships. They tend to view feedback as criticism, especially if they are insecure, have low self-esteem, or think they're beyond reproach.


1. What is Self Awareness and Why is it Important at Work
(Jacob Morgan)
2. Roy Baumeister - What is Self Awareness?
(Closer To Truth)
3. The Power of Self-Awareness | William L. Sparks | TEDxAsheville
(TEDx Talks)
4. Bertram Malle - What is Self Awareness?
(Closer To Truth)
5. Self Awareness - Know Yourself
(Curriculum Wadhwani)
6. What is Self Awareness?
(LearningWorks for Kids)

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