One must understand themselves if they want to grow and improve. The most important tool that you will need for this job is self-awareness.
You cannot make healthy changes or grow in any meaningful way if you are not aware of your thoughts, emotions, and how you interact with the world.
A thorough and honest examination of the self should reveal positive qualities and strengths that you can develop further along with negative habits and traits that you can work to eliminate.
Not everyone is a self-aware person. Some people have a little, some people have a lot. The good news is that self-awareness is something that anyone can improve with dedicated effort.
Improving self-awareness is much like any other skill. You will need to put forth regular effort into developing the skill and practice to get better at it.
The activities in this article will help you develop your self-awareness. There are a lot of ways to go about improving your self-awareness, some more complicated than others.
But none of these self-awareness activities will work for you if you do not give yourself enough time and patience to let them work for you.
Keep that in mind if you get frustrated or start neglecting the work.
1. Keep a journal.
Journaling is a powerful tool for self-improvement and self-awareness.
The human mind can be a flaky, unreliable thing. You might experience powerful emotions that you’re not sure of, misinterpret events that happen to you, or just forget things.
A journal can help you counter all of these and far more, including documenting a written record of your journey so you can see how far you’ve come and gone.
There are many strategies out there for journaling. Some people are precise and keep limited bullet journals. Others fill full pages in notebooks by dumping out everything they can think of.
Journaling as a self-awareness activity should be focused on areas of your life where self-awareness matters.
You’ll want to record emotional situations, intense emotions that you experienced throughout the day, analyze why you felt what you did, your response, and what you could have done better with the situation.
What choices did you make during the day? Why did you make them? What can you do better next time?
After a while, you’ll be able to look through your journal and see your patterns of behavior. Once you can see those patterns, you can then create new responses to the emotions and situations you experience.
This article of ours will help you get started: Journaling 101: How To Journal, What To Write, Why It’s Important
2. Practice meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation and mindfulness are two trendy buzzwords in self-improvement. They’re used so often that it’s easy to mistake them for shallow, easy activities. They are not.
Meditation is helpful because you take a specific time to direct your energy toward calming your mind and feeling what you need to feel. The ability to feel your emotions is an understated aspect of self-awareness and emotional health.
Negative emotions don’t just dissipate in a puff of smoke. Swallowing your negative emotions is like pouring gasoline on dry timber. Sooner or later, a spark of emotion will set off that tinder, ignite the gasoline, and those emotions will rage and burn.
You can clear that dry timber out and put the gasoline away with tools like meditation and mindfulness.
To be mindful is to be present at the moment, not agonizing over the future nor lamenting the past. And as anyone with some rough memories or experiences will tell you, not dwelling on the future or the past can be an incredibly difficult feat.
Trying to pull your mind from those circumstances that are out of your control and back to the present moment requires regular practice and effort.
The main benefit of mindfulness is understanding what you’re feeling in the moment, being aware of it, and making decisions about those experiences from a considered state of mind.
The idea is to avoid acting on impulse or because of fleeting emotions. That gives you greater control over yourself and builds self-awareness. You start understanding why you’re responding the way you are.
Meditation and mindfulness are self-awareness activities that you can practice and hone on a daily basis. Life gives us ample opportunity to practice mindfulness and everyone should be able to carve out 5 minutes each day for a little meditation.
3. Identify and clarify your values.
Authenticity is the act of living by your beliefs and values. That’s hard to do if you don’t know what your beliefs and values are.
Many people have some idea of what they stand for, if only because it touches them emotionally. But the ability to articulate your values clearly makes it much easier to understand why you believe and feel the things you do.
That’s why clarifying your beliefs and values is such a valuable self-awareness activity.
Take some time to really consider your values (this is, by the way, an excellent activity for your journal!)
Ask yourself the following questions:
“What do I believe?”
“Why do I believe it?”
“What are the counterarguments for my belief?”
That last question is an important one. It’s alright to believe whatever you want, but you need to examine where that information came from and why you believe it. The counterarguments against a belief force you to question your beliefs.
A self-aware person is someone who is not clinging to their beliefs just because they believe them. They embrace their beliefs because they’ve made a considered examination of all of the possibilities and chose what they felt was the truth.
Understanding all sides of a belief allows you to challenge your preexisting views of your emotions and choices, which is a healthy way to exercise and grow self-awareness.
4. Experience and learn new things.
The world is a vast place filled with so many experiences and things to learn. Another highly effective self-awareness activity is to seek these things out.
The benefit that new experiences and knowledge provide is that they force you to reexamine your thoughts and actions. They force you to think in new and different ways.
Another helpful exercise to challenge your way of thinking is to apply limitations on familiar things. How? Well, you’re reading an article right now, so let’s use writing as an example.
Novice or inexperienced writers often balk at the idea of a maximum word count. “What? 500 words? I can’t say everything that I need to say in 500 words! I need 1000 or more! I need to not be constrained to do my work!”
A limitation like that serves several purposes. In paper mediums, the editor may only have enough physical space for 500 words. The piece is under 500 words because it can’t be published if not. In electronic mediums, that’s less of a problem, though an article that is too long risks losing the reader’s interest.
A word limit forces the writer to think in a way that they typically wouldn’t. They need to take everything they want to say and distill it down to the most critical information that still accomplishes the goal of the piece they are writing. There’s no room for fluff and errant words when you only have 500 words to say everything you need to say about a subject.
New experiences and skills broaden your horizons. Limitations challenge you to better interpret what you found in those new horizons.
5. Avoid judging your emotions and experiences.
It’s only natural to slip into a state of judgment about our emotions, experiences, and choices.
After all, we want to slot those things neatly into good and bad categories to make an effortless sense of our world.
But that isn’t always the right thing to do. In fact, it may be keeping you stuck in a rut of incorrect self-assessment and judgment.
Okay, a thing happens, and you decide that it’s okay because it makes you feel good. But what if it’s not? What if that good thing you’re experiencing right now is wrong for you?
What if that amazing person you meet who makes you feel like you’re head over heels in love is throwing out so many red flags that you’re just ignoring them?
What if that deal that seems too good to be true, that’s making you feel great because you’re about to save some money on something you want, actually is too good to be true?
The biases which we interpret the world through can heavily influence our objectivity. A valuable self-awareness activity is to try to look at the whole picture.
It’s okay to enjoy and find pleasure in the positive so long as it’s reasonable. It’s also okay to see and accept the negative, mainly if it’s part of some greater goal that you’re pursuing.
The way you do that is by setting aside your personal bias and emotions so you can look at the circumstances of your life objectively.
The more you do that with external things, the easier it is to do that with your own emotions and choices.
6. Ask for feedback from a trusted source.
Self-examination can be brutal. Sometimes we just can’t get a clear picture of who we are because of our own biases and emotions.
There can be blind spots in behavior and attitude that we think serve us, but they are actually harming us.
Identifying these blind spots can be much more comfortable with the help of a trusted third party. Ideally, it will be an honest person who knows you well, whose opinion you respect.
A certified mental health counselor can be an excellent alternative if you don’t happen to have someone like that in your life right now.
Ask the person what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. Ask them where they feel like you could improve yourself.
Fair warning, you may not like the answers that you hear. Maybe their feedback touches on emotional things, or maybe they aren’t the most diplomatic with their words.
Whatever the reason, don’t let your anger take off if they tell you something that you don’t want to hear. Take a few deep breaths, thank them for their feedback, and let them know that you need some time to think about what they said.
That will allow you to not say the wrong thing in return, calm yourself down, and consider their words. Then you can take that new knowledge and use it to continue to build your self-awareness.
You may also like:
- Discover How Your “Self-Concept” Influences Everything You Do
- What Is Self-Reflection And Why Is It So Important?
- 4 Signs You’re Lying To Yourself (+ 6 Ways To Stop It)