In essence, self-awareness requires awareness of various aspects of yourself including behaviors, feelings, and traits.
At its core, it is a psychological state where one’s self becomes the main focus of attention.
One of the main components of self-concept to emerge is self-awareness.
Unfortunately, while self-awareness is something that is pivotal to who you are, it is something that is not often examined accordingly.
Rather, self-awareness can become woven into the fabric of your being and will emerge at various points depending on your personality and situation.
People are not born completely self-aware.
That is the reason why we have exercises to find out who you are or self reflection activities or self discovery worksheets that can help you get to the bottom of who you really are.
If you are looking for ways how to get to know yourself better, there are self awareness worksheets, self reflection exercises, and even self awareness games that can help you peel the layers of yourself.
There are also questions to get to know yourself and self discovery tests that are designed to help you how to better understand yourself.
You also have the option to try self discovery techniques like journaling to get to know yourself better.
Amazingly, while people are not born completely self-aware, some research indicates that infants have a rudimentary sense of self-awareness.
Not everyone may be aware of this but infants possess the awareness that they are a separate being from others.
This awareness is evidenced by some of their behaviors like the rooting reflex where they search for a nipple when something brushes against their face.
Researchers also discovered that even newborns can differentiate between a self and non-self touch.
Some studies demonstrated that a complex sense of self-awareness will begin to develop at around one year old.
It also becomes much more developed by the time they are a year and six months old.
Researchers Brooks-Gunn and Lewis also conducted studies to determine how self-awareness develops.
In one of their experiments, they applied a red dot to an infant’s nose and then held the child up to a mirror.
Children who recognize themselves in the mirror will reach out for their noses rather than the reflection they see in the mirror.
This indicates that they have at least some level of self-awareness.
Brooks-Gunn and Lewis also discovered that no children under one year old would reach for their noses rather than the reflection in the mirror.
The research indicates the infant’s visual self-awareness.
However, there are other forms of self-awareness they possess even early on in their lives.
For instance, researchers suggested that expressing emotions requires self-awareness as well as the ability to think about themselves in relation to others.
Development of Self-Awareness
Researchers also propose that an area of the brain known as anterior cingulate cortex (situated in the frontal lobe region) has an important role in the development of self-awareness.
Studies also used brain imaging to show that the said region is activated in adults who are self-aware.
The experiment conducted by Brooks-Gunn and Lewis also suggested that self-awareness often emerges in children by the time they turn 18 months old.
This is the age that coincides with the fast growth of spindle cells in the anterior cingulate cortex.
Different Levels of Self-Awareness
So how do children become aware that they are separate beings?
Researchers also suggest that children go through a series of levels of self-awareness between birth and when they turn 4 or 5 years old.
Different Types of Self-Awareness
Public self-awareness occurs when individuals become more aware of how they appear to others.
Public self-awareness emerges in situations where individuals are the center of attention (i.e., when talking to a group of friends or giving a presentation to a large number of people).
This kind of self-awareness can compel people to adhere to social norms.
When people are aware they are being evaluated or watched, they behave in ways that are considered socially desirable and acceptable.
Public self-awareness can also result in evaluation anxiety where people can become anxious, worried, or distressed about how others perceive them.
This type of self-awareness occurs when people become aware of certain aspects of themselves in a private way.
For instance, seeing your face in the mirror is one form of private self-awareness.
Another example of private self-awareness is when you feel a lurch in your stomach after you realize that you forgot to study for an important test or hearing your heart flutter when you see someone you are attracted to.
At times, people can become too self-aware and can evolve into self-consciousness.
If you have ever felt like people are judging you, watching your every move, and waiting to see what you will do next, that is what self-consciousness is all about.
This heightened self-awareness state can also leave you feeling nervous and awkward in certain situations.
In many cases, feelings of self-consciousness are temporary and will only emerge when you are in the spotlight.
However, for some people, severe self-consciousness can be a chronic condition known as social anxiety disorder.
People who are privately self-conscious are also more prone to suffering negative health consequences such as anxiety and increased stress.
Those who are publicly self-conscious often focus on how others view them and are usually concerned that they are being judged based on their actions or looks.
As a result, they have the tendency to stick to group norms and will often avoid situations where they can feel embarrassed or look bad.
Self-Awareness Exercises You Can Try
One of the best ways to become more self aware is by completing self-awareness exercises.
Below are some of the exercises that are designed to help you get to know yourself better:
Use Feedback Analysis
When you need to make a very important decision, write down how you reached that decision and what you expect to happen.
Nine months later, compare the actual results to the results you expect or anticipated.
This method will allow you to do the following:
- Discover what worked (and what didn’t)
- Evaluate your decision making process
- Notice flaws in your cause-and-effect analysis (and how you reached your conclusion)
- Apply the feedback you have learned so you can make better decisions in the future
Entrepreneur and billionaire Warren Buffett also uses feedback analysis consistently.
According to Harvard Business Review, when Mr. Buffett needs to make an investment decision, he verbalizes the reasons for his investment.
His journal entries also function as a historical record that can help him easily assess the effectiveness and accuracy of his business and investment decisions.
If you want to use the feedback analysis, start by becoming more aware of how you are making your decisions and what you can learn from the process.
It is also recommended that you codify your motivations and rationale each time you make a decision and reflect on the outcome nine months later.
Take Psychometric Tests
Psychometric tests are designed to measure your numerical or verbal aptitude, skills, or your personality type.
While the results of these tests should not be taken as gospel, they are considered a great way to increase self-awareness and learn more about yourself.
Below are some of the free psychometric tests you can look into:
- The Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test – This test can help you identify if you have what it takes to start a business.
- The Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment – This science-based assessment can provide an accurate pattern or depiction of your core drives, offering insights into your behaviors and needs as a result.
- The 16 Personalities Test – Similar to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, your answers can help you figure out where you fall on four spectrums: sensing/intuitive, extroverted/introverted, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving.
Determine Your Strengths and Weaknesses
One of the most important things you should know about yourself are your strengths and weaknesses.
Start by writing down the answer to the following important questions: What are your strengths?
If you have difficulty answering the question, you can start by taking a strength test.
You can check out the VIA Character Strengths Survey or the StrengthsFinder test.
If you want to figure out your weaknesses, you can start by identifying the areas that need shoring up:
- What tasks do you often avoid?
- Think about your failures. What weaknesses are the failures pointing to?
- Is there something others keep telling you that you need to improve on?
Ask Those You Trust for Feedback
You can never be sure of how others perceive you until you ask them or they tell you.
If you want to become more self-aware, check with some people you trust.
Ask for both negative and positive feedback.
You can also ask for advice or recommendations on how you can improve.
Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk
Consider your thoughts as a river that you are swimming in.
Every now and then, you should climb out of the river and sit on the river bank and observe the river.
Then listen to it.
Write down whatever it is that you hear the river saying.
If you do this exercise two or three times a day for a few days, you will be able to successfully create a record of your self-talk.
Read through the things you have written down so you become more aware of what you are saying to yourself all day long.
From there, you can identify the self-talk you need to get rid of and self-talk you should continue doing.
Consider Keeping a Morning Pages
Keeping a “morning pages” is one of the best ways you can become more self-aware.
Ideally, this is something that should be a part of your morning routine.
This exercise is introduced by Julia Cameron in the book “The Artist Way.”
This technique involves doing consciousness writing first thing when you wake up.
Spend at least ten to fifteen minutes writing down whatever is on your mind.
This exercise also offers enticing psychological benefits.
For starters, this practice will not only help you get to know yourself better, it can also give your immune system some much-needed boost.
Label Your Emotions
One integral part of developing self-awareness is understanding your emotions.
- How are you feeling right now?
- How many emotions have you experienced the last 24 hours?
- What is the predominant emotion that you always feel?
Many people have a limited vocabulary when expressing the emotions you are feeling.
This can limit their ability to become fully aware (and to fully understand) what they are feeling.
Once you are able to master the art of labelling your emotions, you will not only be able to lead an emotionally richer life, you will also be able to appropriately respond to the experiences you will encounter.
Create a Life Mission and Vision
Are you merely existing and surviving?
Or are you living deliberately and working on creating the life you truly want?
If you lack self-awareness, you often find yourself in the first group, those that are merely existing and surviving.
If you have some level of self-awareness, you belong to the latter.
If you want to live a life of purpose and meaning, start by creating a life mission and vision statement.
Your mission and vision statement should answer the following questions:
- What do you want your legacy to be?
- What will your life look like in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years?
- What is your North Star?
- What do you want to achieve over the long term?
Your mission statement should answer the following questions:
- What should I do?
- How do I do it?
- Who do I do it for?
Create a Personal Manifesto
A personal manifesto is defined as “a declaration of your core values and beliefs, what you stand for, and how you intend to live your life.”
Become aware of not just your identity but also your beliefs and core values and describe how you intend to live in a way that will honor the values and beliefs you have.
That is your personal manifesto.
Question Your Automatic Thoughts
Often, your automatic thoughts are irrational and negative.
If you lack self-awareness, you can accept those thoughts as true and this can distort your perception of what reality is.
If you are a self-aware person, you can identify the cognitive distortions that you have a tendency to fall prey to.
This can help you dispute those irrational thoughts and replace them with better thoughts and insights that will reflect your reality more accurately.
Create a Bucket List
You probably didn’t expect your self-awareness to be linked to your self-awareness.
However, creating a bucket list can help you easily determine what you want to do, experience, have, and be in this life.
Once you have mastered self-awareness, you will also know who you truly are, what you truly want, and why you act the way you do. This awareness can help you deliberately create the dream life you have always wanted.