Why Is It Important to Develop Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness refers to the ability of each person to observe and focus on him/herself. It is a key pillar for the development of emotional intelligence, as established by psychologist Daniel Goleman. In this sense, it’s also linked to self-knowledge.
Developing self-awareness is a way to get out of a state of inertia from which many people function and respond by default and to become more aware, responsible and, at the same time, free in their choices.
This is because it’s based on identifying how we feel, how we would like to feel, what we can do about it and where we want to go. In the following article, we will go into more detail about this.
How does one develop self-awareness?
Stop, observe, and focus… these are the keywords to start developing self-awareness. In itself, it implies that when experiencing a certain emotion – such as anger or rage, for example – there is a pause to ask oneself what’s causing it and where it’s coming from before acting.
Now, emotions are nuanced. The emotional world is rarely black and white, and remembering this is also important.
What are the benefits of developing self-awareness?
Self-awareness has innumerable benefits, both on a personal level and on the level of human relationships. Among them we can mention the following:
It helps us understand who we are and how we act
This is so we can unfold our potential. Knowing ourselves allows us to identify our strengths and weaknesses so that we can identify those areas or facets that require more work and those in which we can excel. Likewise, this will allow us to grow as people.
In addition, self-awareness allows us to decipher our emotions. Meanwhile, connecting them with our behaviors and thoughts will also help us understand that we function as a whole, and not separately.
Knowing our body and respecting our health
Self-awareness also works as a compass, guiding us and functioning as an alarm when certain situations are harmful and not pleasant for us. People who take care to keep track of themselves can often identify early warning signs and stop when necessary.
At the opposite extreme of self-awareness we find people who say “I haven’t had a bite to eat all day, but I didn’t even realize it”. These are the cases where they function with high levels of stress and fatigue because they have missed previous body signals.
Being clearer about what we need and our decisions
When we know ourselves, we are also able to identify what we need from other people. We can communicate more clearly and make more concrete requests. In this way, relationships are also significantly improved. On the other hand, it’s possible to make better decisions.
We have greater empathy for others
By being able to understand ourselves, we’re more sensitive to being able to understand what’s happening to others. Therefore, it will be easier to suspend critical judgment of others and become more empathetic. This undoubtedly improves our interpersonal relationships.
3 tips to help build self-awareness
Self-awareness serves to make sense of how we feel and act. Therefore, it’s important both to improve our day-to-day lives and in the long term. There are different ways to build it; we’ll mention some of them below.
1. Ask yourself questions
The worst enemy of growth is common sense – that state in which we take everything for granted and stop asking ourselves why things happen. The same happens with self-awareness and ‘autopilot’ mode.
For this reason, one of the ways to develop it has to do with encouraging ourselves to dig a little deeper with respect to how we feel, think or act, asking ourselves some questions. Some examples are the following:
- What are you feeling?
- What made you feel this way?
- How are you acting about it?
2. Meditate and pause
Self-awareness also needs silence, time, and pauses. It’s about knowing how to find space for oneself and for self-care. While meditation can be one of the ways, there are people who find it useful to keep a journal and write down how they feel.
No matter what the format, the important thing is to be able to set aside a few minutes each day to connect with yourself.
3. Ask for feedback from others
How do other people see us? Is what we think about ourselves also what we project to the outside world? Asking for feedback or constructive criticism can help us learn about some blind spots.
Self-awareness in children
Self-awareness is not “grown-up ability”, but can actually be cultivated throughout life. Its benefits are much greater when we teach children to know themselves at an earlier age. Some keys to doing so are as follows.
1. Allow them to be free
On the road to self-awareness and self-knowledge, adults have a key role, since we are the ones who guide and orient children from the beginning.
At this point, it’s crucial to be aware of the type of education we are providing, both explicitly and in those gestures or implicit behaviors. It’s also essential to open the range of options and allow them to be what they want to be (always within a framework that respects themselves and other people, of course).
Perhaps two of the most frequent biases -although many other things derive from them – have to do with gender biases, present in phrases and beliefs such as “girls should be more delicate and boys don’t cry”. There are also adult-centric biases, which underestimate children’s capabilities, among other examples.
2. Accompany them
It’s crucial that we can accompany children during the learning of self-awareness and self-knowledge, which will ultimately lead children to learn to express themselves.
In this way, they understand what is happening to them and it’s easier for them to learn to ask for what they need and, above all, to control themselves, to not feel overwhelmed because they do not know what is happening to them.
3. Make room for expression
It’s not enough to just know what’s happening. It’s also important to be able to express it. Here, everyone will find their own style to do it, but it’d good that we can help children find the words that help them to explain what they feel or what they need.
Sometimes, talking about it or writing it down helps to put those emotions in order. In turn, this contributes to connect both hemispheres of the brain; the left one – which organizes and gives logic – and the right one, which is more connected with emotions, memories and sensations.
Self-awareness is a great ally of respect
The development of self-awareness should be thought of as a continuous, lifelong process. Its relevance lies in the fact that, to the extent that we know ourselves, we can respect ourselves and assert our rights.
All this not only in relation to other people, but also in relation to ourselves. The fact is that we are the ones who are often responsible for suppressing our true needs and desires.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Sutton A. Measuring the Effects of Self-Awareness: Construction of the Self-Awareness Outcomes Questionnaire. Eur J Psychol. 2016 Nov 18;12(4):645-658. doi: 10.5964/ejop.v12i4.1178. PMID: 27872672; PMCID: PMC5114878.
- Goleman, Daniel: Inteligencia Emocional. Editorial Kairós. (2001).
Dishon N, Oldmeadow JA, Critchley C, Kaufman J. The Effect of Trait Self-Awareness, Self-Reflection, and Perceptions of Choice Meaningfulness on Indicators of Social Identity within a Decision-Making Context. Front Psychol. 2017 Nov 30;8:2034. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02034. PMID: 29250005; PMCID: PMC5714897.
Vago DR, Silbersweig DA. Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness. Front Hum Neurosci. 2012 Oct 25;6:296. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00296. PMID: 23112770; PMCID: PMC3480633.
- Seitún, M. (2013). Capacitación emocional para la familia: Cómo entender y acompañar lo que sienten nuestros hijos. SUDAMERICANA.