The Meaning of Self Awareness: 6 Steps To Creativity and Confidence

Self-awareness is an incredible skill that allows you the freedom to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions to understand yourself better.

You’d think the fact that you spend 24 hours a day inside your own head would make you more than self-aware, but it can be tough to get out of your emotions and observe yourself without judgement or bias.

Although it’s almost impossible to be 100% self-aware, honing this skill opens up the path to freedom, confidence, and creativity. 

So, if you are ready to level up your life, it’s time to get self-aware.

What is Self-awareness?

The definition of self-awareness is, ‘conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.’ It is essentially, within philosophy, the experience of one’s own personality or individuality. Some may confuse self-awareness with consciousness, however consciousness differs in that it is being aware of one’s environment, body and lifestyle. The self-awareness definition is the recognition of this consciousness.

In 1972, researchers Duval and Wicklund proposed the self-awareness theory. The theory highlights the idea that you are not your thoughts but rather the thinker observing your thoughts.

They go on to talk about self-evaluation, a skill where you are able to reflect on your “inner self”, rather than going through your day acting on emotion and feeling alone (as most of us tend to do). 

According to this study by Tasha Eurich, only 10-15% of people that define themselves as self-aware actually fit the recognised criteria of self-awareness. That’s because it is such a difficult skill to master.

The idea of self-awareness is that everyone has a set of standards against which they compare themselves. As such, when you practice self-awareness, you are seeing how you measure up to your self-imposed standards of conduct.

Silvia and Duval (2001) further theorised that we’d only take action following self-evaluation if we thought the possibility that we will succeed in aligning ourselves to our inner set of standards exists; if not, we tend to avoid making changes.

For most people, having a set of standards is a positive tool to help navigate life and decision making. However, for people that suffer from mental health problems, including perfectionism, the self-imposed set of standards may be unrealistic, causing excessive avoidance of action.

Luckily, we can change our set of standards if we find we don’t measure up to them, so if you are one of those people that has unrealistic expectations of yourself, this exercise in self-awareness will help you start to notice where you need to be kinder to yourself and adjust your expectations. 

According to this study by Tasha Eurich, only 10-15% of people that define themselves as self-aware actually fit the recognised criteria of self-awareness. That’s because it is such a difficult skill to master.

The two types of self-awareness 

Psychologists have shown that there are two different types of self-awareness. The two types of self-awareness are known as ‘public’ and ‘private’. We’ll explain what the differences are between the two.

Public self-awareness type

This type of self-awareness occurs when we are aware of the thoughts and perceptions of others. We’ll often experience this type of self-awareness when we are in a social situation, and we may be the center of attention. Examples of when this may occur are when we give an answer in class, or are telling a story to a group of friends.

Public self-awareness informs us of how we should act and respond in a social situation, and follow ‘normal social rules’. It is human nature to please and want to be accepted, so this awareness helps to dictate our behaviour.

Of course, this type of self-awareness, although useful, can in fact cause anxiousness and distress. It is all too common for those that are giving a presentation in front of a crowd to become nervous and worried about how they are coming across, and what others may be thinking of them.

Private self-awareness

The other form of self-awareness is ‘private’. As you might expect, this form of self-awareness happens when we are aware of our own details. It is the awareness of oneself from your own perspective, and not from others. An example might be looking into a mirror and noticing something about your body or face.

What are the benefits of self-awareness?

Becoming more self-aware and being able to act outside of emotional impulse has incredible benefits to offer across your life.

-   It leads you to make better decisions

-   It allows you to become more proactive in self-development

-   It helps you build better relationships with others

-   It enables you to understand situations from other people’s perspective

-   It improves leadership skills

-   It increases your productivity

-   It decreases stress levels

-   It makes you more self-confident

-   It makes you happier.

With so many life-improving benefits on offer, how can you work towards improving your self-awareness? 

Six meaningful steps to cultivate self-awareness

1. Assess how you talk to yourself 

The first step to any self-awareness journey is to observe how you talk to yourself. Many people go through life subconsciously berating themselves for not achieving their goals and end up losing a lot of self-confidence in the process. 

So, take a step back and listen to what your brain is saying when you are experiencing extreme emotions. Often, your mind will produce a narrative based on emotions you are feeling to try and understand what is going on around you, but it doesn’t mean this is accurate.

Self-awareness is about separating yourself from those initial feelings before you react and assessing what the narrative is. You’ll realise that your mind will produce inflammatory thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself a lot of times. 

For example, if you get something wrong at work, you might feel anxious, and you might have butterflies in your stomach as a result. Your brain may then turn around and rationalise that it happened because you aren’t good enough, and if you don’t make an effort to step back and observe these thoughts, you might automatically believe what your brain is saying.

Instead, challenge these thoughts and think about if there is evidence to support it, or your mind is just being mean – more often than not, there's no evidence to support it.

In separating yourself from your thoughts and feelings, not only do you improve your self-awareness, but you also learn to be kinder to yourself and skyrocket your confidence in the process.

2. Use visualisation for self-awareness

As we know, self-awareness theory states that we base our interpretations of ourselves on the set of self-imposed standards we have. Therefore, in order to increase happiness, it’s essential that our actions align with this.

One great way to do this is to practice visualising yourself the way you want to be. What do you want to achieve? What will bring you happiness? Think of this as your “ideal” self.

In being clear on what you want, you are essentially setting a goal for yourself. Then, as you go about your daily life, holding on to that visualisation will help you reduce reactionary behaviour based on raw emotion and opt for actions that better align with the vision of your ideal self.

Likewise, it will also help you start to recognise when your actions are inhibiting self-growth and development. Once you are able to find this clarity and guide your actions towards your ideal self, instead of self-sabotaging through reaction, you’ll find your confidence improving, and your capacity for creativity will start to increase.

3. Ask others how they perceive you 

Feedback is one of the best ways to truly become self-aware. But, you see, as easy as it is to propose looking at your own actions without bias, the execution is a bit harder. That’s because we can never fully get rid of the bias in the way we perceive ourselves – after all, we’re stuck with ourselves 24/7!

One way to find an objective view is to ask others for feedback on your performance and on how they perceive you as a person. Friends, family, and co-workers are all great resources for this.

You may find that how you perceive yourself is not how others perceive you, and this can then act as a good indication you may need to adjust your actions to better align with how you want to be perceived. 

Make sure you ask a selection of people as everyone sees the world differently and how one person perceives you may be different to another. Not to mention the fact that your specific relationship with that person will also influence their response. 

4. Seek new experiences 

For most of us, life can get repetitive. We go through our same daily routine every day of the week, and things stay fairly much the same. We can predict what will happen and when. So we can easily become self-aware of how we act in our day to day life. 

What happens when we step out of our daily routine, though? Can we guarantee we’ll be capable of self-awareness in new, unchartered territory?

An incredible way to develop self-awareness is to place yourself in new situations and observe how you feel and think. It’s normal to become reactionary in unfamiliar circumstances, so it’s essential to hone your self-observation skills “in the wild”.

You don’t have to do anything extreme to achieve this either. There are opportunities all around you to have new experiences. Go and visit a new part of your town, city, or country. Take yourself to a museum you would never have seen before. Sign up for a class in a skill you’re not very good at but have always wanted to learn.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous and can afford it, go on holiday to a place you’ve never been and immerse yourself in their culture. Explore how these new customs make you think and feel. Learn where you may hold on to bias and where you can release judgement of yourself. 

There is so much more to discover about yourself in the unknown, so jump at every opportunity to take yourself outside your comfort zone and expand your self-awareness in all life situations. Your creativity will thank you for it!

5. Journal your thoughts and feelings 

Journaling is a valuable way to help us understand what we are thinking and feeling and why. We will have an emotional response that leads to immediate thoughts in any given situation. But it’s not always clear what has caused them.

Using a journal, you can puzzle out the processes going on inside your mind to become more self-aware about your emotional triggers and how you react to different situations.

When you are in the midst of intense emotion, find a quiet place to go and sit down with your journal. Then, take a deep breath and start investigating your thought process.

Here are some critical questions to ask yourself:

-   What has just happened that may have triggered my emotion?

-   How do I feel today? Am I in a good mood or a bad mood?

-   Did I get enough sleep last night, or am I quite tired?

-   Have I eaten recently?

-   Have I had a lot of caffeine today?

-   Are there any facts to back up the thoughts in my head, or am I just reacting to my emotion and finding an interpretation for it?

-   Is there anything I might have done to contribute to this emotion?

You’ll notice a lot of questions have nothing to do about what has happened and instead focus on your state of mind and your wellbeing. And there’s an important reason for this. So often, we try and attribute emotions, particularly negative ones, to something that has happened outside of our control. However, our bias and personal circumstances play a significant role in causing emotion more often than not.

So if you are tired, grumpy, hungry, or highly caffeinated, it’s possible you are more likely to feel negative emotions more strongly because you were already in a bad mood. That’s not to say something external didn’t trigger your initial response, but the magnitude of your emotional reaction may be affected by your circumstances.

Once you become more self-aware of this, you’ll find yourself able to empathise and rationalise your responses and gain a strong sense of self-confidence in the process. 


6. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is often recommended as a solution to most mental health and wellbeing journeys. And for good reason. Mindfulness helps you cultivate the skills you need to be present and avoid spiralling into worry or negative emotions.

For self-awareness, this skill is crucial. When you are able to be present in your thoughts and body, you can observe your sensations and avoid snap reactions. All mindfulness practices work on the skill of becoming an observer of the self rather than living in your emotion.

So, whether you choose yoga, guided mediation, mindful listening, nature walks, or a combination of mindfulness activities, you’ll learn the core skills needed to simply be present without judgement of yourself or the situation.

Mindfulness is renowned for its exponential positive effects on creativity and self-confidence, so make sure you put it at the heart of your self-awareness journey.

Self-awareness Quotes

  1. Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don't mean self-consciousness where you're limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns. - Tony Robbins

  2. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. - C.G. Jung

  3. If it is bread that you seek, you will have bread. If it is the soul you seek, you will find the soul. If you understand this secret, you know you are that which you seek. - Rumi

  4. By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life. - Deepak Chopra

  5. Being spontaneous is being able to respond with confidence; calmly trusting that, whatever the outcome, you will have a positive if challenging experience that will lead to greater self-awareness and success. - Sylvia Clare

  6. Strong people have a strong sense of self-worth and self-awareness; they don’t need the approval of others. - Roy T. Bennett

  7. We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness, which is our greatest blessing, is also our downfall. - Joko Beck

  8. Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize? - Marcus Aurelius

  9. Self-awareness is not just relaxation and not just meditation. It must combine relaxation with activity and dynamism. Technology can aid that. - Deepak Chopra

  10. People need to know that they have all the tools within themselves. Self-awareness, which means awareness of their body, awareness of their mental space, awareness of their relationships - not only with each other, but with life and the ecosystem. - Deepak Chopra

  11. Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. Know thyself is not a narcissistic pursuit. - Marianne Williamson

  12. I think that's the real loss of innocence: the first time you glimpse the boundaries that will limit your potential. - Steve Toltz

  13. It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon. - C. JoyBell C.

  14. As you become more clear about who you really are, you'll be better able to decide what is best for you, the first time around. - Oprah Winfrey

  15. By now he had learned enough to know that when he was getting annoyed at somebody else, it was usually because there was something that he himself should be doing, and he wasn't doing it. - Lev Grossman

  16. We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful. - Eric Micha'el Leventhal

  17. I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion. - Billie Jean King

  18. Indecision may or may not be my problem. - Jimmy Buffett

  19. Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can. - Michael A. Singer

  20. Without self-awareness we are as babies in the cradles. - Virginia Woolf

Final thoughts on Self-awareness

Becoming more self-aware will allow you the mental space you need to stop judging yourself and start growing your self-confidence.

In turn, by clearing your mind of negative thoughts and learning that they don’t control you, you clear the space to start developing your ideas and unleashing your creativity.

It’s a difficult skill to master, but as you practice every day, you’ll improve your self-awareness and start to reap all the rewards that come with it.

So with all this newfound confidence and creativity, what will your next masterpiece be?

The Meaning of Self Awareness: 6 Steps To Creativity and Confidence

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