If you ask most people if they believe that they’re self-aware, they will likely answer yes; however, only 10-15% of people who identify themselves as “self-aware” actually are because people overestimate their level of self-awareness.
Lack of self-awareness is why people are often surprised when they receive feedback about how their behaviors are negatively impacting others, even damaging their relationships and limiting their career opportunities.
Your level of self-awareness is probably low if you often feel like a “bull in a china shop” because you don’t realize that you tend to overreact, or get easily irritated, or act angry about things that others consider no big deal.
Without self-awareness, your ability to develop a high level of emotional intelligence (commonly referred to as EQ), is limited. With a higher EQ, you’re able to better manage your own emotions, handle conflicts and stand out as an effective leader, resulting in greater career opportunities.
When you have a high level of self-awareness, you have a clear understanding of your strengths and shortcomings. It’s about knowing yourself on many different levels, from your physical reactions, to your emotions and how you communicate to others.
If you have a high level of self-awareness, you own up to mistakes, ask for help when you need it, and focus on what you can do to improve.
Here are 7 actions you can take to develop more self-awareness:
1. Clarify why self-awareness matters to you. Clarity about your “why” will motivate you to take action and make changes in how you think and act. For example, perhaps your “why” is that you have a goal to be the best leader possible. Focusing on increasing your self-awareness will help you achieve that goal.
2. Determine specifically what you will do differently in the future. For example, do you want to be more patient, empathetic, decisive, creative, present in the company of others, or a better listener who doesn’t interrupt others? The fact that you decide to intentionally focus on demonstrating different behavioral responses will increase your ability to change and respond differently.
3. Find role models that demonstrate self-awareness. The best way to develop self-awareness is to learn to think and act like someone who has a high level of self-awareness. If you know someone who seems very self-aware, notice how they handle challenging situations. Ask yourself if you would have reacted differently. Observing how others demonstrate self-awareness will help you learn about it.
4. Learn how to “be” with your feelings vs automatically reacting to them. The next time you feel negative about something, try to identify why you’re feeling fear, anger, frustration, disappointment, etc., before responding. Are you simply reacting to a situation automatically based on old patterns or habits?Take a minute to slow down and breathe, as that will give you time to think and make a well thought out response. Creating moments to pause like that expands your level of self-awareness. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
5. Ask a trusted friend or co-worker for feedback. Leaders I work with often tell me, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know, until I got feedback about how I was coming across. Now I understand how my behavior is not only hurting me, but it’s hurting others I care about.”Confide in a good friend or co-worker that you would like honest feedback from them about how you show up. Explain to that person why you want to improve. For example, share that you’ve decided to focus on becoming a better leader so you can move up in your career. Ask for specific feedback about anything they observe you doing that indicates a lack of self-awareness.
6. Intentionally calm your mind every day. This slowing down of your thinking/not thinking raises your antennae on what you feel and how you respond to everything. Slowing down relaxes you and creates space for what some people refer to as reflective intelligence. When you’re in a relaxed state, insights about yourself surface that help you understand yourself at a deeper level. You can create a relaxed state through meditation, walking in nature, journaling or doing some other kind of calming activity.
7.Take an EQ Assessment. A more specific way to overcome any blind spots about your level of self-awareness is to measure it! A professional EQ assessment, administered by a certified EQ coach, gives you real data about how you perceive your level of self-awareness and how others see you. A certified EQ coach can identify your self-awareness level and advise you how to increase it over time.
I specialize in helping leaders develop their self-awareness and other EQ skills, which transforms them into high performers who navigate conflicts easily, build high-trust relationships and create work cultures that thrive. These leaders have fewer problems to manage, which gives them more quality time with their families and helps them have happier lives.
If you’d like to know more about how I help leaders excel to higher levels of success, schedule a complimentary call with me by clicking here. Together, we can figure out if I can help you in your leadership journey.
Jennell Evans, MA, CMMI
Leadership | Emotional Intelligence | Mindfulness
Advisor & Speaker