Discover Yourself: How to Become More Self-Aware

Learning how to become more self-aware will help you tap into your fullest potential.

Would you like more power in your life? Learning how to become more self-aware will help you tap into your fullest potential.

Recently, I was reading through the Chicago Tribune, when I came across a headline, “Roseanne Barr Says Former co-star Sara Gilbert Destroyed Her Life.”

Basically, after years of abusive language to others and exhibiting almost zero self-awareness, once again, Roseanne was choosing to shift the blame for her failures (including getting kicked off her TV show for racist language) onto someone else. It struck me that this was a glaring example of what a lack of self-awareness can lead us to.

So why is self-awareness so important anyway? What does self-awareness do for us? What steps should we take to become more self-aware?

The Importance of Self-Awareness

The great philosopher, Socrates, once said life without self-inquiry and discovery isn’t a life worth living.

Socrates lived 2,000+ years ago, but his words still ring true today. If we’re not working to become more self-aware, to discover more about ourselves, and to understand ourselves, then we’re not fulfilling our potential. Life without potential doesn’t lead to satisfaction.

Constantly working to become more self-aware is a component of social-emotional intelligence. This exploration of self helps us understand our emotions, our effects on others, and their effect on us. The quality of self-awareness has become more and more critical in today’s world.

People are going into new jobs and situations that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Many didn’t even exist five or 10 years ago either. Consider technology and the impact of our words (or Tweets) on others. We no longer exist in a world where our sphere of influence consists only of people we know or those we see at the office. Today, we have huge amounts of influence on (and are influenced by) people we may never meet face-to-face.

Not only is self-awareness critical for shaping our responses to current events happening in our world today, but self-awareness is critical for our own happiness and satisfaction as well. The more we build our capacity for learning and growth, the more expansive and powerful our influence becomes in the world. We all have the potential to become a force for good, but tapping into our potential requires self-awareness and social and emotional intelligence.

What it Means to Be Self-Aware

The most obvious definition of self-awareness is realizing YOU are a person with control over your situation, your emotions, your thoughts, and your actions. In the morning when you get up and look in the mirror, that’s a form of self-awareness. As you straighten your hair, brush your teeth, and put on your clothes properly, you’re exhibiting an awareness of who you are and the choices you wish to make each day.

On a deeper level, without self-awareness, we can’t make the adjustments we need to make to strengthen our relationships with others. This relationship-awareness is called social-emotional intelligence. It’s twofold: how do I become aware of my influence on the world around me (social intelligence) and how do I become aware of what’s going on inside me (emotional intelligence).

Social-emotional intelligence has become the most critical skill in the workplace. Emerging research suggests social-emotional intelligence is vital for leadership, interpersonal relationships, critical thinking, and more. Almost any career path we follow requires strong social-emotional intelligence.

The more we move toward leadership positions in our career, such as C-level positions and upper management, the more responsibility we have, the more our social interactions increase, and the more it becomes critical we have strong self-awareness and social-emotional intelligence. The CEO’s success is almost 80% social-emotional intelligence—knowing how to lead and how to influence people. Technical skills become outmoded as you move up the ladder, as time moves forward, and as innovation advances. Interpersonal skills, on the other hand, NEVER go out of style.

Self-awareness helps us to develop those strong interpersonal skills. We’re aware of what we want to happen in our relationships. We assess situations, identify that what we want to happen isn’t happening, and we assess and discover ways to right the course. Self-awareness is understanding and taking responsibility for how I’m influencing my world.

Self-Awareness Leads Us to a Great Life

At the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, we talk about the quality of leadership. Leadership is the aspect of every human being that influences the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. Leadership isn’t a position or title, but a quality within each of us. Without self-awareness, we can’t assess the influence we’re having on the world. We can’t make internal changes to get the external results we desire.

So, when we see that a celebrity, in this case, Roseanne Barr, says another person has destroyed their life, we know that’s not very self-aware. How could one person destroy her life while she is still living it? If she assessed the wake of damage to others she’s left in her path, insulting others with little self-awareness, she would realize if anyone had led her to where she is today, it’s her own doing.

Our world too often celebrates drama and victimhood. In fact, if we look at any tabloid in the checkout line, we see the headlines all about who was betrayed or whose life was ruined by someone else.

We listen to people who aren’t at all self-aware, blaming the world for their problems instead of taking a long, hard, internal look at themselves.

The fact is, blame, shame, and justification don’t change circumstances. In the case of Roseanne, blaming her co-star for ruining her life won’t change her situation, nor will it allow her to learn something about herself. When we blame others, we don’t have a chance to look inside and use the opportunity to grow.

If you want to lead a great life, then become a person who takes personal responsibility. Learn what you need to learn in order to become the person you need and want to become.

How to See Ourselves More Clearly

So, is it possible to see ourselves as purely and clearly as others see us? Of course! In fact, if we’re truly being honest with ourselves, we can know ourselves best of all. But it takes an open approach.

To understand how self-awareness develops, it’s useful to understand and realize there are things about you no one else knows. BUT there are also things about you other people see, of which you may not be aware.

Break it down by looking at self-awareness in four zones:

  • What’s known to me but not known to others (self).
  • What’s known to me and known to others (public self).
  • What’s known to others but not seen by me (blind spot).
  • What’s not known to anyone yet (hidden zone).

In order to dig in and understand our blind spots, we need to solicit feedback from others to help us maximize our self-awareness. We should offer them the data to assess us properly and work together.

When we’re open to the feedback of others, we can learn what they see in us and we can begin to see those qualities in ourselves. Together, we can work to uncover the hidden zone and discover even more about ourselves.

When we move into those blind spots and uncover what we didn’t know about ourselves, our public self expands. As we explore, our blind spots are reduced. We become more self-aware. We share more, get more feedback, and start to explore our hidden zone.

As we increase our self-awareness, our capacity to hold greater influence over ourselves and the world expands with our new knowledge. We’ve all heard the words ‘knowledge is power.’ With more knowledge, we tap into our personal power and become stronger leaders, live fuller lives, and unleash our fullest potential.

For more ways to tap into your personal power, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training weekend, where we’ll explore new ways to discover a fulfilling life and reach your untapped potential.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Understanding Emotional Development

Most of us studied human development in school, where we learned the various stages humans go through physically as they make their way from infant to adult.

Just like humans physically grow and develop into adults, we also go through emotional development as we mature.

But there’s another side to our development—our emotional development and growth.

Understanding the origins of our emotional development helps us understand where our feelings, beliefs, and emotions come from. As we work to increase our emotional intelligence, we can dig into our foundation.

Each of us has a set of core beliefs that shape our emotional development throughout life. Here’s how to understand the pattern of emotional development so we grow into more emotionally intelligent human beings.

How Emotional Development Begins

As babies, we’re driven by instinct. Our emotions become wired into who we are as we grow. Our neurons are in place when we’re born, but they aren’t yet connected. As we develop, we start to form connections with our parents, other children, and those people in our lives like grandparents, friends, aunts, and uncles. Our emotional development begins.

We start to recognize expressions and learn to mirror emotions back to the people around us. This is part of the communication process, but it’s also where we start our emotional development. You see, as babies, our ability to express emotions starts as soon as we’re born. When babies are upset, they cry. The way our parents soothe us determines how we’ll deal with emotions and care for ourselves later on. The mothering nature of our mom serves as a kind of external cortex of the baby’s brain.

As babies, we’re very attached to our mothers and look to their emotions as we start to form our own emotional development. Studies have been conducted on this infant and mother emotional bond. In one particular study conducted by Dr. Edward Tronick at Harvard University, mothers were directed to present blank, unreactive, unemotional faces to their infants.

At first, the infants’ response was to try to get their mothers to smile back at them or respond. Quickly, the infants became frustrated because they couldn’t sense the emotional connection with their moms. In fact, many of the infants became extremely distraught because they were so used to mom reacting and communicating through expression.

As We Grow, We Continue to Desire Connection

Our desire to emotionally connect with other humans is carried with us into adulthood. We long for human emotion and human interaction. We want to engage and connect with others. While most of us don’t have a perfect relationship with our emotions, we continue our emotional development as we get older. It’s up to us to work on closing the gaps in our neuropathways.

When we were babies, we started with a foundation of core beliefs, ideas, and emotions. We refer to this core structure as our “matrix.” Our beliefs, our experiences, and the ideas instilled in us by our parents all contribute to our matrix. It’s how we learn how safe the world is, how welcoming the world is, and how we coexist and interact with others.

Before language or critical thinking, we were forming our beliefs about the world around us and our place in it.

We may learn to believe “I’m enough,” or “I can take care of myself.” We may also learn to believe untruths such as “I’m not enough,” or “I’m not capable.” These limiting beliefs are carried with us in our matrix and may later hold us back as adults.

As toddlers and small children, we have a huge drive to explore the world and discover. We also have a drive to stay close to our parents, get comfort, and be safe. We’re learning how to express our feelings and understand our boundaries.

Researchers discovered children hear the word “no” every nine minutes as they’re in the toddler phase (we’ve all heard of the terrible twos). It’s tough to make sense of the world and understand our personal power and potential when we’re constantly being inhibited and told no. Many of the limiting beliefs we may form at that time are because we’re small in a world that is large and dangerous.

As we become older and more capable, growing into our adolescent and teenage years, we emotionally mature. We start to become our own person where we make choices, test our beliefs, and see what sticks (and what doesn’t). Yet, this core matrix is still with us being reinforced with our interactions and experiences.

Our matrix is still part of us as adults. It’s the reason why we may encounter certain people or situations that just bug us for no apparent reason. We may feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable in a certain spot because it triggers part of our core operating system. This may not even be identifiable to us on the surface.

As we continue to grow and work on our emotional development, we can start to work on these areas in our core makeup. We can rematrix ourselves and strengthen our emotional intelligence throughout our lives.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

We all feel feelings. It’s part of our human experience. For many of us, understanding the feelings and the reasons behind those feelings is confusing and hard to pin-down. You may not know why you’re feeling a certain emotion and may even struggle with identifying the emotion fully.

When we question what we’re feeling, one of the first areas to examine is what your body is doing. Are you feeling tension in a certain area? Are you feeling hurt in the pit of your stomach? Are your eyes welling up with tears? Our body often responds to our emotional state before our brains identify fully what’s going on.

Although many of us may worry certain feelings should be avoided (like sadness, hurt, or anger), it’s important to remember there are no “bad” or “wrong” feelings.

Our emotions simply are what they are. The five primary emotions are fear, sadness, anger, joy, and hurt. Typically, we can distill our emotional state down to one or two of these areas.

From there, simply being able to identify and name the feeling is very powerful. As I like to say, we name it to tame it. Once we identify our feeling, we bring our brain back online to better deal with what we’re experiencing.

Each of us has inner power and strength we may not even realize. When we tap into our inner strength, we acknowledge what we’re feeling and we can start to assess the direction to take. It brings us out of the frantic state where we aren’t really sure what we’re experiencing.

One couple I was recently working with was fighting over the way they planned to deal with insurance coverage for the husband’s upcoming surgery. Both husband and wife were upset, arguing, and feeling emotionally scrambled. Once they began to talk about the situation, it came to light that the underlying emotion was really fear. The husband was scared about undergoing the surgery and the wife was fearful about the possible outcome.

After identifying the fear, it instantly became much easier to manage and address. We could discuss why they were both scared and what strategies they could use to address the fear. The issue wasn’t the insurance at all. That was simply a method for displacing their true emotions.

None of us are perfect at dealing with our emotions and many of us are still at the early stages of our emotional development. Starting to identify, talking about, and allowing ourselves to fully experience our emotions is a big step in the right direction.

As we identify our own emotions, we may also become more sensitive and empathetic to the emotions experienced by those around us. We become more emotionally intelligent.

Emotional development is a lifelong process. We continue to grow our emotional intelligence as we age. Emotional intelligence comes from experiencing new learning opportunities, from experimenting, and playing and growing. With each interaction, we’re given a set of data that we interpret and draw conclusions from. As we emotionally develop as adults, we can look at our life experiences as a chance to get more in touch with our emotions: fear, hurt, anger, sadness, and joy.

For more on developing your emotional intelligence, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming weekend of More Life Training, where you’ll learn new approaches and tools you can use for building your best self.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Is Too Much Social Media
Killing Your Social Life?

We all want to feel more alive. We want to live vibrant, socially active lives, where we build connections with others and live with purpose.

Wondering how much is too much social media? Here’s how to tell if you’re using social media to substitute for genuine human interaction (and what to do about it)!

Nowadays, most people are too busy scrolling through their smartphones, using too much social media instead of forming real, face-to-face connections.

How much is too much social media? If you have a problem with too much social media, how do you take back your time and start living a life outside of your newsfeed?

How Social Media Has Changed the Way We Socialize

Social media isn’t really about “being social.” It’s a way to pass time that becomes an addictive activity. It feels good. We receive validation from each “like” or thumbs up. Research shows how we’re addicted to our screens. We have the illusion of social life and illusions of relationships carried around in our handheld devices.

How many friends do you have? When you think of the number, do you count all of the “friends” on your Facebook page?

For most of us, “friends” are people we spend time with and those we share deeply personal connections with. We may have acquaintances, coworkers, and old college buddies, but there are probably a limited number of people we would count as true friends, and even fewer we would count as allies.

That’s because building friendships take time. It requires emotional connections, openness, energy, engagement, and work. Casual relationships, on the other hand, simply require us to click a friend request. Suddenly we’re inundated with the details of someone else’s life. We see what they ate for breakfast, where they go on vacation, and what they did last weekend.

We’re becoming spectators for other people’s lives instead of living our own. Engaging in too much social media masks as social interaction, but it doesn’t really nurture us as true relationships do.

Social media is easily considered a soft addiction. It’s a way we use up time that mimics productivity. We may feel we’re learning new ideas as we read articles, share posts, and like the comments made by our friends. Socializing online may feel like vibrant engagement.

It even lights up the pleasure centers in our brain. We may feel a little rush when someone likes our post or comments on something witty we said. This makes social media a highly rewarding and addicting phenomenon. We become addicted to the power of likes—all the confirmation our friends are passing on to us.

But when all is said and done, are those relationships online really genuine? Chances are, some might be genuine, but most probably aren’t. We may closely follow and use up valuable emotional bandwidth processing comments made by a person we’ve only met once or twice.

It’s one thing to get a like or a comment, it’s quite another to sit across from someone who is empathizing with your challenges with your parents, your partner, or your kids. Having someone understand you and help you to problem solve is nourishing human interaction. Social media simply gives us a format for putting our complaints out there and having someone identify with our complaints. In the end, it’s not doing much but helping you continue to become a complainer.

One phenomenon I discovered on social media and found interesting was that whenever I talked about pain and problems, people were all over it. But when I talked about my victories, no one had anything to say.

Years ago, this would sound ridiculous, but now it’s become the norm. It’s changed the way we view others and the way we view ourselves. Privacy has changed as well. We may share details of our lives with strangers (a swimsuit photograph on the beach, for example, or intimate worries about the ways our daughter is parenting our grandchild) we would never share with most people in the past.

FOMO—When Too Much Social Media Hurts Our Self-Image

Judith’s first book was called There Must Be More Than This, because what she discovered in her research was that people were engaged in addictive activities leaving them feeling empty. These activities didn’t bring fulfillment and satisfaction like other, more meaningful activities.

Meaningful activities, like supporting friends in their career or relationship or offering difficult feedback to allow them to change directions in life, brings us nourishment. We learn and grow; we’re engaged and fully experiencing each moment. There’s not a screen between us.

But with social media, we’re putting up a screen that only allows us to see the superficial. Sure, it’s nice to stay in contact with friends from high school, but how many of them are we really meaningfully connected with? How many of them are going anywhere in life? On the other side, how many of them present a polished, glossy picture we compare ourselves to?

The phenomenon dubbed FOMO (fear of missing out) has become common in the age of social media. Many of us view the lives of others online and worry ours don’t measure up. We may even carefully curate experiences to ensure they’re “Instagrammable” and photo worthy.

I recently saw a headline, “The Most Instagrammable Spots in New Zealand.” Now, can you imagine visiting a location, not to experience the culture or take in the beautiful sights, but simply because it was great to share on social media? Our experiences in our real lives are becoming less important than curating a certain image online for our followers.

What does this all mean?

Well, in short, it may mean we need to put down the phone and start engaging in real life. It’s difficult to conduct in-depth discussions when you’re limited by the characters of a Tweet or only using photos on Instagram to express your point. How do you share and connect with others in real and genuine ways?

I was president of my senior class in high school and I recently led the effort toward my 50th reunion. It sure was fun to see people again. One of the beautiful observations I had about this group was, although they may use social media to stay in touch, they also engage in other, more direct ways. Many of my classmates enjoy frequent phone calls, meet for face-to-face coffees, or get together with their grandchildren. Social media can be used as a vehicle for social engagement, but we can’t leave our engagement up to social media alone.

Do a gut check—are you replacing a social life with social media or are you facilitating a deeper social life?

Come up with an answer you’re not happy about? Read on.

Breaking the Social Media Soft Addiction

As I discovered about my classmates—you can use social media to facilitate deeper engagement. If you only post about your children or grandchildren, like, and share, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s nice to see happy photos, sure, but what do you really get out of it other than a distraction from the areas of life where you aren’t so happy? After all, it’s easier to brag about your kids or grandkids than it is to talk about the challenges of your marriage, singlehood, relationships with children, and more.

If you find you’re using social media as an escape, a soft addiction, or a tool to substitute for genuine engagement, it may be time for a social media fast.

One of our suggestions to break social media addiction is to turn off social media for a while. Try an hour, then go for a whole evening. Feeling brave? Turn it off for a day. Could you even make it a week? A month!?

As Judith explains in The Soft Addiction Solution, we can’t simply swap one soft addiction for another. If we quit social media without exploring the underlying cause of our addiction, chances are high we’ll replace it with something else instead.

Think about what it’s like to stop an addiction. Why do you feel drawn to social media? The real goal is to get to the root of our social media fixation. What are we not gaining from our real life and how do we get it from our everyday interactions instead of seeking it out online? What are you really looking for in your connections with others? Is your engagement deep or simply shallow?

Most of the activities on social media are meaningless. People that get the most out of it are engaging from a deeper place, meeting a deeper yearning, and at the highest level, working through their life purpose. While sharing about your children and grandchildren is fine, you should look at the purpose beyond it. Think of social media as hollow calories—it’s like eating cake and never getting nourished. Sure, it’s delicious and enjoyable for a moment, even appropriate at times, but ultimately it doesn’t bring you what you need, and it doesn’t contribute to your greater purpose.

Each person has a purpose. You’re an important piece of humanity. Will you become as much as you can become, or will you use social media as a weigh station and a stall from what you need to do in your life?

So, try a social media fast. Many people can’t go beyond a day. Can you go further? How serious are you in really having a nourishing social life? Start with a day, then challenge yourself to a week.

It may mean beginning to face the emptiness you could instead fill with meaning rather than the distraction and social “illusion” of social media. As a matter of fact, there are people at the Wright Foundation who are living extremely meaningful lives and find they simply don’t have time for social media. They’re too busy living vibrantly.

So, if you’re ready to live with more purpose and more attention, give social media a break and opt for real social interaction! You may be surprised at how little you miss social media once you aren’t focused on it.

For more ways to live with purpose, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training weekend, where you’ll learn to instill more meaning, more engagement, and more satisfaction into your life each day!

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.