Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Being self-aware enables you to truly know yourself as a separate individual: your feelings, beliefs, desires, weaknesses, strengths, and motives, and to also know how you impact the lives of those around you. In contrast, being unaware cannot only wreak havoc on your own life, but on the lives of others as well. Increasing your self-awareness is only the beginning, paving the way for growth and effective change.
Here are some tips for increasing your self-awareness:
Determine who you want to be: If you don’t know who you want to be, it will be easier to ignore who you are. For example, I have determined that I want to be a compassionate person. Because of this I am more aware of my lack of compassion with certain people and in certain situations. My ability to see this deficiency only became possible when I determined my desire to be compassionate. Before, I was somewhat oblivious to it. Now when I am lacking compassion I try to be more aware of it and am able to change it. Begin by thinking about the person you want to be. Write down a few words that come to your mind that describe that aspired personality. Then analyze if those words currently define you or not. In doing this you become more aware of who you are today, and more capable of becoming who you want to be.
Take a personality test: I have learned so much about myself through personality tests. By simply answering some questions, honestly of course, you can gain valuable insights about yourself. An awesome and free test can be taken here. As you read about your personality type things start to make sense that never made sense before. Taking the test helped me recognize that I often take on the burdens of others, becoming overly involved emotionally. My empathy and concern for others is a strength, but it can quickly become a weakness. I have learned how to be responsible TO people rather than FOR people, and how to encourage and guide towards change, rather than “fix”.
Seek trusted feedback: this is a tough one. I for one don’t always like hearing what other people have to say regarding my behavior, especially if its negative. When feedback comes from a trusted individual, who cares for you deeply, it’s important to pay attention to it. There is almost always some valuable truth in it. Having a trusted mentor or accountability partner is a great way to do it. Find someone who will not only call you out on your weaknesses and blind spots, but will also point out your strengths and abilities, offering encouragement along the way. On your own you will fail, but with help and support from others you can overcome and succeed in ways that you never thought possible.
Examine your motives: Examining behavior is not enough; you need to look at the motive behind the behavior. For example, a good deed might make somebody appear selfless, but if buried beneath the good deed is a desire for praise from others it might actually be selfish. It can be the opposite as well. Someone who works excessive hours and makes a lot of money might appear to some as a workaholic or materialistic, but you might look beneath the service and find that he works so hard in order to fund several orphanages in third world countries. Looking at our own behavior or the behavior of others without understanding motives is futile.
Pray, Pray, and Pray: For me personally, prayer is number one when it comes to self-awareness. Who better to spend time with than the one who created me? The devil has done nothing but seek to destroy me and to keep me from the beautiful plans that God has for me. He doesn’t want us to become who God intended us to be; he wants us to be lost and broken, unaware of all we are capable of becoming and accomplishing through Jesus Christ and His perfect love. Additionally, we all have secret sins that we are totally oblivious too. Through prayer God can reveal those hidden places of darkness in our hearts, enabling us to become aware and overcome. In the Psalms King David said, “who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12) Through continual prayer God can help me become aware of the secret sins in my life and enable me to overcome.
Examine the way others respond to you: We all know that person who acts in such a way that drives everybody crazy! Its obvious based on body language, awkward comments, facial expressions, and avoidance. You wish somebody would just say something to stop it. Being around people like this causes me to think about my behaviors and how they affect others. How do people react to me when I’m around them? Do they seem uncomfortable, desperate to get away, down, annoyed? This can tell you a lot. Our goal should be to positively impact the people around us, building them up rather than bringing them down. Examine the way the people around you respond to you and this will give you valuable insights into your behavior.
Get Professional Help: Sometimes deep-rooted pain and issues can block our ability to be self-aware. If you are working hard to ignore painful parts of your life you will likely block out important aspects of the self as well. In this case, working with a professional counselor can help to uncover and heal hidden trauma and pain. Maybe you are carrying around pain that desperately needs to be healed. Don’t allow fear or judgment to keep you from getting the help that you need so that you can become who God created you to be.