Are you self-aware?
Research shows 95% of people believe themselves to be self-aware despite the fact that only around 10% of people actually are. That's quite a gap between perception and reality. That means 85% of people are lying to themselves about being self-aware, whether they realize it or not.
So, maybe the biggest challenge we face as we attempt introspection to gain self-awareness is ourselves. We are our own biggest hurdle. The only way to move forward in self-awareness is by understanding your behaviors, reactions, and how you can better relate to other people, make good choices, and improve through personal growth. You have to deliberately expand self-awareness to do this.
First of all, what is self-awareness? It's a clear-cut perception of your personality, thoughts, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and beliefs. It's having a deep understanding of your thought processes and triggers. When you are self-aware, you are awake to the impact you have on your own life and the lives of the people around you.
And what is introspection? It's the reflection that comes from self-awareness. It's based on the internal insight that we shape based on the examinations of your thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile, retrospection requires advanced metacognition skills. It's a much deeper dive into your feelings, and it's an active look at past events. Where you draw conclusions to constructively acknowledge what you have learned.
Your story binds you. It shapes your identity. It influences the way you relate to the world, whether it's in relationships, work, or otherwise. We store old news and allow triggers to bring those thoughts and feelings back to the forefront, regardless of reality. That's what shapes your beliefs. That's what contributes to your perception of reality.
The Key Challenge
Ultimately, the key challenge you will face with introspection and self-awareness is you.
When you start by asking why, you open the door to justifications and excuses. You have an assumption to jump on, you take it personally, and formulate answers based on biased data. It feels true… yet it's wrong. Sometimes confidence can overtake rightness. When you continuously ask why, you find ways to reinforce the reasons without investigating whether they are rational.
There are two distinct types of self-awareness and both are necessary to see yourself clearly.
The difference between the two can be great, but they're not related to each other. Just because you have a clear view of who you are doesn't mean that you have a deep awareness of how others see you.
There is usually a gap between these two things and we communicate one thing while doing another. It's the gap between the actor's view and the observer's view where the most hurt is caused. Your perception of the world is a reflection of your self-awareness.
It's time to do the work.
Through self-awareness, you can shape your identity and mindset. Don't be afraid to explore yourself.
There is so much value in knowing who you are. Truly understanding yourself gives valuable insight into your inner being - your underlying thoughts, feelings, motives, actions, and behaviors. Having that information and applying when and where necessary can radically improve your life.
Below are some specific advantages that come from knowing who you really are and how it can improve your life.
Many of us walk around confused because we lack the self-knowledge needed to guide our lives. Knowing who you really are can offer a lot of critical information about yourself. Processes such as self-reflection and introspection can help you learn about your inner self - your thoughts, feelings, actions, behaviors, and motives.
Clarity also opens the doors to your strengths and weaknesses, and your goals and ambitions. This clarity about yourself can give you more direction and a more insight on the path forward so that you can move forward with your ambitions and reach your goals.
Knowing your whole self can help you uncover the good and the not-so-good about yourself. When you know your strengths and weaknesses you know how to leverage them to your advantage. In knowing your weaknesses you can learn to embrace those aspects of yourself as you also learn how to make changes and adjustments that will help you improve in those areas. From there you can confidently move forward with deeper understanding of yourself and greater self-love (Jansen, 2013).
With clarity and confidence you become empowered to make the best decisions for yourself. When you understand yourself better, you are in a better space to control your thoughts, emotions, actions, and behaviors in a way that best serves your goals and ultimate dreams.
You are also better equipped to use your strengths and pull from your confidence to get closer to the vision for your life. Similarly, with the information you have about your weaknesses and areas that do not serve you well, you can make decisions about how to improve upon those weaknesses and/or make the necessary changes that will remove those things that don’t serve you. It is your knowledge of self that helps you make the changes you need and leverage the good things to propel yourself forward.
A final way that knowing yourself helps is, it frees you from seeking the opinions and approval of others. When you don’t truly know who you are that information is often sought from others. We look for other people to define us or tell us about ourselves as a means of finding identity and worth.
However, when you understand yourself, you don’t need other people to define or affirm you. You will move freely through your life without feeling the need to please others. In other words, other's opinions won't make or break you.
Knowing yourself is the key to clarity, confidence, empowerment, and true freedom. Knowing all of yourself empowers you to make the necessary changes that will free you from the pressure of living up to other people’s expectations, and be confident to go about living a life of value and purpose. This will allow you to be happier and more fulfilled in the short and long-term, and what more could a person truly want?
Who am I? Whether out of exasperation, wonderment, sarcasm, or genuine curiosity, you’ve probably asked that question at one point or another. And you’re not alone. The world is obsessed with self-discovery.
There are therapists, clubs, groups, and techniques all dedicated to helping you find yourself. There’s so much information available to you, it might be hard to figure out where to start. But the first step on the road to self-discovery is introspection.
What is Introspection?
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as, “the process of observing the operations of one’s own mind with a view to discovering the laws that govern the mind.” It comes from a Latin term meaning, “to look within.” So introspection helps us see ourselves more clearly and understand ourselves better. How can this process help you?
Let’s say you’re on your way to a friend’s house and you get a little lost. If you call your friend to ask for directions, what’s the first thing he’ll ask you? Where are you? Why? Because it’s impossible to give you good direction without knowing where your current location.
The same is true in life. We all have goals we want to achieve, qualities we want to develop, and new things we want to learn. But we can’t reach those destinations if we have no idea who we are right now. Introspection is the door to knowing ourselves better, we just have to walk through it.
The Benefits of Introspection
How else do we benefit from introspection? We become better people. In what ways?
● Introspection can help you identify and get rid of harmful thinking.
● It can help you have a more positive view of yourself and others.
● It’ll boost your confidence in tackling difficult problems.
● It contributes to stronger relationships.
● It’ll help you reach your goals.
Why It’s Hard
So if introspection is so great and delivers so many benefits, then why do many people struggle to do it? We live in an extremely fast-paced world. And because we’re deeply entrenched in the busyness of day-to-day living, most of us feel like we don’t have time for introspection.
We’re often exhausted and running on auto-pilot. The time we do have is spent stressing about the next thing on our to-do list. So what can you do?
Stop. Take a deep breath. And create just a little bit of space for yourself in your day, even if it’s just five minutes. Find a quiet place where you can think clearly without judging yourself.
Try asking yourself one of the following questions:
● When I wake up in the morning, do I feel ready to take on the day?
● Am I reaching my personal goals?
● What concerns do I have about the future?
● Am I living the life I want?
● Do I have issues that interfere with my happiness?
● Do I need to put more effort into my relationships?
● Who am I?
● Am I stressing out about things that are beyond my control?
● Am I thinking about negative things before I fall asleep?
● Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
● What’s most important to me?
But what if those questions feel too big and overwhelming? What’s the starting point for an introspection beginner?
Introspection Begins with Observing Your Behaviors
Psychiatrist Judith Orloff describes a technique we often use to understand other people better. More than just listening to what others have to say, we often find ourselves interpreting their non-verbal cues. We observe their behavior objectively and try and understand how they’re really feeling or what they’re really thinking. Why do we do that?
According to Orloff, what we say communicates only 7% of our meaning. 55% of communication is through body language and the rest comes through our tone of voice. Even if you didn’t know the stats, you likely have learned through personal experience that there’s usually a lot going on behind the words a person says. But how can this help you learn more about yourself?
Transform Inc suggests the following, three-tiered technique.
● How is your mind? What are you thinking about? Where is your attention focused right now? Notice and root out any self-judgment, negative comparisons, or assumptions.
● How is your heart? How are you really feeling right now? And how are your emotions affecting you?
● How is your body? Are you tired, tense, energized? What is your gut telling you?
It can be difficult to observe ourselves honestly, but it’s definitely worth the effort. The more we practice self-observation, the easier it will become.
Who am I? You might not feel like you can answer that question right now. But by making time for yourself and practicing self-observation, you’ll understand yourself better and experience all the benefits of introspection.