Know Yourself

How Self-Aware Are You?

There were an impressive nearly 300 million results when I typed the key words self-awareness into search. There is a vast amount of information available in the internet on this topic. You will find various definitions, a few models, many exercises and thousands of articles about being self-aware. The question is where to start learning more about it.

We could look at Wikipedia or check out articles found in the web. We could read scholarly articles or books about the topic. Or we could just start paying a bit more attention to what is going on in our lives.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Carl Gustav Jung
Photo: Sandy SQ

Self-awareness may or may not be the same as understanding ourselves. Personally I don’t think it matters. What does though is having a sense of who we are and how we behave. A few questions that you could ask yourself are the following:

  • What is important to you?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What brings you joy?
  • What makes you angry?
  • How do you cope when feeling angry, sad, guilty, anxious?
  • How does your behaviour impacts the people in your life?

In a nutshell I would describe self awareness as a sense of who we are, how we behave and how we impact others. The latter is of uttermost importance in the workplace. While some people seem to get on with everybody others may have a hard time to be assertive or may be even intimidating others. Being aware about how we come across helps to identify issues we may have with other people or they have with us. Having clarity of who we are helps us to align with what we want to achieve or where we want to be. This gives us energy, optimism, and the strengths to beat the odds and overcome adversity to reach our goals.

Photo: Sandy SQ

I have always believed to have a high level of self-awareness until I red the book by the organisational psychologist Tasha Eurich: Insight How to succeed by seeing yourself clearly. In the book Eurich refers to the 7 pillars of self-awareness including values, passions, aspirations, fit, patterns, reactions, and impact and provides resources and exercises to gain more insight. But the more I dived into finding out what these single pillars mean to me the more confused I got. What do I value? What am I passionate about and what are my aspirations? I could find answers one day that sit with me well and another day I found others to be true to me. But I did eventually have insights such as that one of my core strengths is adaptability, that I like to exploring new things and really dislike repetitive tasks. Apparently it is a lot easier to be self-aware when all is fine. To be aware of our actions when we are emotionally charged is a different story. So I am still working on it. Am I self-aware? Some days I may be and on others I may be totally oblivious of how I behave and what impact I have on others.

Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life has written an extensive article about the 3 levels of self-awareness that gives a great overview on the topic. In this article he makes clear that self-awareness is only useful if it leads to self-acceptance. If not it may end up making people miserable.

I have had always a great interest in the tools available to assess my character, personality and find out more about who I am. At first I was looking for traits that I were agreeing with. But the ones I wasn’t so happy about I found to be the real gems. One of these tests suggested that I am rather passive than assertive. Reflecting on my behaviour it turned out that at that stage in my life I would have kept quiet even though I had an argument or question. With awareness and acceptance I was able to work on becoming more outspoken.

Assessing your level of self-awareness

In a series of surveys, Eurich found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are.

Jeff Kauflin, Forbes Staff in the article
Only 15% Of People Are Self-Aware — Here’s How To Change
Photo: Sandy SQ

As Eurich found out most of us overestimate how self-aware we are. But how do we find out, how self-aware we actually are? First of all, you can take a few minutes each day and check in with yourself. How has your day been? Was it full of energy and fulfilment or rather dull and boring? Did you feel upset about someone’s behaviour or did somebody else overreacted based on what you have said or done? What are you telling yourself? Are you finding excuses why something didn’t work out or reasons why you would have done some things or will do them in future? It doesn’t need to be always a thorough assessment. A few minutes of reflection or observing your thoughts can give you valuable insights.

There are many other options though. There are free resources, commercialised assessments such as psychometrics and similar tests, the option of working with a coach or asking friends, family or colleagues for feedback. You can also create an anonymous questionnaire (such as 360) and send it to people for more inside of how you are seen by others. I listed a few free resources that I have used in the past.

Free Resources:

Self-Awareness appears to be one of the most important skills in today’s business world. It appears to help identifying where the view of ourselves deviate from the way others see us. There is a beauty in awareness that makes it easier for us to adapt. But most importantly I believe self-awareness helps us to identify who we are and what we can bring into the world to make a difference and at the same time lead a fulfilled life. Once we are clear about what carries us forward and what holds us back we have also found one of the keys to achieve our goals and make progress towards turning our dreams into reality.

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