What is self-awareness, and how do we become self-aware? Why do we even need self-awareness in the first place? Read on to learn why I think self-awareness is the most pivotal part of your personal growth practice and how to begin cultivating it to inspire real change in your life.
Self-awareness is the foundation of any personal growth practice. If you want to grow and become a better person, you have to have a basic understanding of who you are as a person first. This doesn’t mean that you know everything about yourself – none of us do. But it does mean that you a) know enough about yourself to know what your areas of growth are in the first place and b) are open to new feedback about yourself (from both yourself and from others).
But how do we become more self-aware? I’ll be the first to admit that though I consider myself a very self-aware person, I still regularly discover things about myself that I never knew. Or someone will tell me an observation they had of me and I’ll realize that they’re so right – I had never thought of myself in that way before. Of course it’s not always easy to hear feedback that’s less than pleasant or that we had no clue about ourselves – I tend to start panicking that I’ve somehow gone through my entire life never knowing some huge thing about myself – but it’s so key to our own growth to listen to how others perceive us.
But what steps can we actually take to cultivate self-awareness? I list a few below that I have been practicing throughout my life and that I think have really helped me become more self-aware over the years and can hopefully help you, too.
See a therapist or coach
Seeing a therapist (even if it’s just for a short while) or hiring a coach is really the best thing you can do to nurture your self-awareness if you’re able to hire one. I was lucky growing up that my mom and step-father were therapists, and while I always got a lot of funny questions about that whenever I told people that fact, it was the absolute best thing for my own personal growth because I was taught from a young age how to analyze my own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and then lovingly shift them if need be.
Yes, this took years and just because I had therapist parents did not mean I was perfect at any of this, but I do think I had a head start because that behavior was modeled to me so it was just something I grew up knowing how to do. Years later I started seeing a therapist, too, because I wanted a new perspective that sometimes your family can’t give you, and that was amazingly eye-opening as well.
If you don’t want to see a therapist but you still feel like you need help in some areas of your life, hiring a coach may be a great way to go. I’m so happy to see the coaching industry booming, and I think it’s helping thousands of people become better versions of themselves and become more attuned to their personal truths and internal knowing. I am hoping to hire a coach likely next year (because it can definitely get expensive) but I know it will be completely worth it for the growth I’m going to experience. There’s just nothing quite like someone working with you one-on-one to uncover truths and blocks that you had no idea even existed.
Nurture relationships with people you trust to give you honest feedback about yourself
If you can’t afford to hire a therapist or coach (or you’re not keen on the idea), then make sure you have cultivated relationships with other self-aware people who you trust to help you see things about yourself that you may not be able to see on your own. I wrote in this post about the importance of choosing a partner who is self-aware, but the same is true for friends, as well. This doesn’t mean, of course, that all of your friends have to be self-aware, but having at least one or two close friends you can talk to and who you trust to give you feedback about yourself without getting too defensive is key for your own growth.
I’m not a huge reflective journaler (I mostly write about things I’m grateful for in my journal because I tend to over-worry about things and this helps balance that out) but this works really well for a lot of people I know. If you’re not sure why you’re feeling or behaving a certain way, it can be really helpful and cathartic to just brain dump and write everything you’re feeling down to help you get curious about it and explore the why behind it. Self-awareness, after all, is really just getting curious about your behaviors and reactions so you can try to figure out why you’re behaving in a certain way.
This reflective journaling doesn’t need to have any sort of parameters – just sit down and free-write about how you’re feeling, and keep writing whatever comes to mind until you feel like you have more of a sense about the reasoning behind a certain feeling or behavior. You may be surprised at how much you may discover about yourself and your thoughts through this simple practice.
Some of my favorite ways of cultivating self-awareness in myself have been through reading books and podcasts. Books can be a great stand-in for coaches or therapists, and can really help educate and inspire you on your own personal growth journey. I devour books in this genre, and I love podcasts in this genre, as well! Look out for my favorite personal development podcasts in an upcoming blog post.
What I love most about reading and listening to self-development books and podcasts is hearing others’ stories, and how they always seem to have something to reflect to me about my own story. I love reading and listening to tales of discovery, change, growth, and reflections, and I love writing down my stories as well. Our stories are what truly connect us with the world around us, and our stories need to be shared.
While you can do each of the above actions on its own, they work best if you’re able to do or at least try all of them at some point in tandem. You may need different ones at different points in your life, as we know well by now that this journey of personal discovery is never finished. There is always more to find out and to learn, and that is what I love about this rollercoaster that is self-awareness and personal growth. I hope you join me in continuing to learn about yourself and others, to get curious about your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and to remember that we’re all on this journey together.