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.