What is Self-Awareness
Self-Awareness is one of the most important if not the most important component of Emotional Intelligence. It is the ability to understand yourself and see your own thoughts and behaviours from a different perspective. Self-awareness is the present and it is the past, allowing us to accurately reflect on past and feel in the present. If there was a blueprint or plan that explained every facet of who you are and how you function, self awareness would give you the ability to interpret and understand this blueprint with the greatest level of accuracy. The greater the level of self-awareness the more accurate the interpretation will be.
The Definition of Self awareness - conscious knowledge of one's own character and feelings.
Approximately 95% of human behavior is unconscious behavior, which means we simply express it automatically and without conscious awareness. The behaviour occurs, then passes, without recognition nor awareness. These kind of behaviours form together to create patterns, cycles and themes in our life. This goes some way in explaining why we often end up experiencing the same challenges, problems, issues and struggles throughout life; that is, until we become aware. Self-awareness is the ability to not only feel an emotion and be able to label it, but to also understand the source of that emotion, the purpose of its existence and the influence it may have on you.
Awareness exists on a higher plane, beyond that of intellect and emotion. While emotion feels and intellect understands, awareness transcends and illuminates.
Self-awareness occurs in the present moment, but not necessarily in the moment associated with the awareness. This is primarily due to the fact that self-awareness is also retrospective and can be achieved post event. We generally experience and develop self-awareness in two ways- feeling and reflection. Feeling and reflection lead to introspection and introspection is the vehicle, which allows the individual to understand the interrelatedness of all arising thoughts and emotions emerging from introspection. Both pathways require introspection. Although reflection affords a far greater time period to connect the dots, feeling is the only possibility for present state self-awareness. Once self-awareness has been sufficiently developed, the individual will be able to view him or herself as a whole and have a more complete understanding of who they are as a person.
Feeling- Self-awareness can occur based on conscious acknowledgement of an emotion. For instance, during a heated argument, self-awareness may occur when an individual’s inner dialogue tells them ‘you are angry in this present moment’. It may also come as an inner voice that says ‘I am feeling angry’. The voice will sound as if it is you, talking to yourself, but a different self, as if separate but connected. Once the feeling has been noticed in the present moment, an inner dialogue may occur where the individual has a moment of clarity, in which they understand the present moment completely. In a certain sense it is a moment in time that feels and seems to be frozen as if running in slow motion. In this moment the individual experiencing self and present awareness is able to understand and see him or herself clearly, but also understand the implications and scenarios that may play out based on a multitude of behavioural and communicative options. This all occurs within seconds, but it is as if the self aware individual was able to freeze time in order to understand the situation clearly and from many different perspectives. A feeling and the ability to notice and acknowledge this feeling separate from its expression, is one pathway and point of access to self-awareness.
Reflection- The second pathway is reflection. Unlike the feeling pathway, reflection occurs after the event. It may occur just seconds after an event or even decades, as it relies ones ability to look back at a particular situation or pattern in order to understand it more clearly. Self-awareness can be improved based on your ability to see and understand yourself clearly in retrospect. Consider the previous example of an argument. A person looks back the argument and replays it in their mind. They then begin to ask themselves questions and experience self talk such as- why did I get angry, I react like this too often, what did the person say to make me so angry and why did that particular subject make me angry. Beyond this initial reflection phase the person may delve deeper and be able to connect their recent behavior to a pattern and history of this behaviour. They may be able to recognize the fact that is has only increased in frequency and intensity, and beyond that they may even be able to trace it back to a moment in time or past trauma. Reflection may also connect their identity to the emotional experience. They may realize that they reacted angrily based on a lack of confidence and then be able to trace the past source, development and reason for their low confidence. It may feel like time travelling to all associated, significant and relevant events and experiences to be able to piece them all together. Once the puzzle has become clearer then the person may integrate their new awareness into their system of self-awareness and by doing so shift the trajectory and outcome if a similar event should occur in the future.
Introspection- Introspection is the most important skill to have in developing your self-awareness Introspection is essentially self-analysis. It is the ability to see, understand and connect who we are to our perceived self and the outside world. The power of introspection is relative to the level of overall awareness, experience and knowledge an individual has. Introspection requires a deep understanding of who you are as as a person, but also knowledge of human thought, emotion and behaviour based on conventional understanding, but also unconventional in the case that you desire an even deeper understanding of self. The truth of who you truly are and what makes you that particular person may be sought through introspection. Introspection is the practice of observing and examining your emotional and mental state in order to better understand who you are, what made you who you are and how you function as an individual.
Superficial Recognition- Self-awareness is insight of ones self. It is the separation of the conscious mind from the unconscious mind. Although superficial recognition may exist in a moment where an individual is able to identify their emotional state, it is different from true self-awareness, as the conscious has not truly separated. If the conscious mind had truly separated in the moment that the emotion occurred it would not identify with it. In other words, true self-awareness releases the grip of the emotional state and separates the individual from the entire emotional experience, other than being able to acknowledge and identify the emotion itself. In the case of an argument, one person may say to the other, ‘you seem really angry’ and they may reply, ‘I am angry!’. Although they appear to recognize their anger suggesting a degree of self-awareness, this degree is insignificant to the extent of being completely redundant. This is superficial recognition.
In Practice- Self-awareness and self-control are two primary components of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the seeing and self-control is the regulation. The trajectory of an emotional reaction or response can be shifted, challenged and changed when an individual develops a sufficient level of self-awareness. Once we become aware of the emotion, then we have the ability to control or alter its pathway. This is a highly beneficial skill to have in relation to the social environment as it affords insight and understanding beyond that of the ordinary person. It makes an individual highly adaptive to all social situations; a valuable skill indeed. Self-awareness also supports individual transformation and change. It is extremely difficult to change something about ourselves if we cannot recognize it. It is important to be able to recognize the different aspects of our character and identity, determine whether they are helpful or possibly a hindrance, and then act upon that awareness as is necessary.
Initial introduction- Although there is some depth to this article it is really only an introduction to self-awareness. To develop a greater understanding of self awareness it requires deep thought, but also an understanding of how to practice self awareness and relate it to the everyday environment. This will be covered in a later article.