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Why is Self-Awareness Important for Us to Improve and How Do We Practice It?

by Racheal Teh. |

If you’ve ever been to an interview, you’d know that the interviewer's favourite question is ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’. Because it shows if the candidate self-reflects. Someone who is self-aware would have no problem answering that question, but what does it actually mean to be self-aware?

Author of the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman defines self-awareness as ‘knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions’. Basically, understanding your emotions and where they are coming from.

But why is it important, then?

In my opinion, self-awareness is important to help you create a life that is worth living because it is the life you know you want. You will make choices and take opportunities that you know is best for you to flourish, you will put yourself out there and take risks without feeling like you’re about to fail because you know your limits.

Besides this, developing self-awareness can help improve interpersonal relationships. By digging deep into your past and present self, you’ll discover things that might be triggering for you emotionally, and this will help you navigate on how to act or react around people. Things that happen throughout your life will always leave a mark in your personality; self-awareness helps you locate that mark, and deal with it, either by improving an old habit or valuing a new strength. This way, you will be more self-sufficient and you will be able to contribute to your relationships instead of always being in the receiving end.

Self-awareness is also important for us to practice self-love! By being more understanding of your emotions, reactions and thoughts, we learn to be more gentle and accepting of who we are. The world might tell us that we need to act more like this or fit into that mould in order to be accepted and successful; but if we know where we stand as an individual, we will not be easily wavered by external noises, and trust me, they’re not the greatest advice for us.

People always say that learning a life-long journey, and I agree! Self-awareness is a ‘skill’ that takes life-long learning. It is important that as we age, we also mature; and being more self-aware is an essential part of maturing.

Here are some ways that can help you develop self-awareness:

1. Journaling

By documenting your day, you can freely express your emotions, both happy and sad without worrying that your deepest thoughts will be exposed. Some questions you can always ask yourselves while reflecting are the whys and hows. “This happened, why?”, “Why do I feel this way?”, “How should I react to it?”

This helps you reflect and ponder on why those emotions were there and what you can do to change the next time it happens. Sometimes even just acknowledging that you have these emotions is good enough, not everything has to be removed or changed. Journaling is also great if you like to process thoughts and emotions on your own without external noise.

It doesn’t have to be in written form, too! It can be a habit tracker, it can be art like painting or collaging, it can even be in the form of a vlog if talking is easier for you to express yourself. As long as you get to express and process your thoughts and emotions, you’re one step closer to being more self-aware!

2. Having an accountability partner

Even though reflecting is usually done alone, we humans are communal creatures, we need friends! It is important to have people you can trust to help keep you in check. Once in a while, you can ask for their opinion on some things that you’re struggling with to help you see things outside the bubble. It can get toxic if you reflect on something for so long - you’ll get too fixated on it; this is when an understanding friend will come in handy as they pull you out from the never-ending thought-spiral.

Asking for feedback helps you open up and view the issue in a different light. It is pretty amazing how some people can bring out the best and worst in you, and open your eyes to traits you didn’t know you had. Of course, you, in turn, can also act as their accountability partner and help them with their journey of self-discovery as well!

3. Take a break from social media

On the road to self-awareness, it is crucial to take a break from social media. In this day where social media has become so integrated into our lives, living without it seems bizarre, but nevertheless essential.

Social media chokes us with so much information, it distracts us from discovering who we really are. It is so easy to compromise and blindly follow the ‘tips’ or ‘how-tos’ on social media, but what we have to realize is that most of them are just there to feed the general public’s complacency.

Taking a break from it helps us cut out many toxic habits like comparison, which stems from other people, and redirects us back to ourselves. We become more grateful and mindful of who we are and what we have, thus being more aware of where we are in our current stage of life.

4. Be intentional

The hardest part of my journey to self-awareness is being intentional; whether it is being intentional with my thoughts, my words, or my actions. I’m not saying you have to be tense 24/7 and suppress every negative emotion that arises, just be present and assess every situation that is happening in your life critically.

Be aware of what is happening, and ask yourself how it makes you feel and why do you feel that way. Then, when you have those answers, you get to proceed to the next step which is to solve the problem, if there’s any; if you don’t see a problem, then you can be more confident about your feelings and actions; win-win!

I know it sounds exhausting, but as you slowly become more aware of yourself, and you see how this improves your life; you’ll find that all the exhaustion that you went through is worthwhile.

You may find out more about Racheal on her Instagram too.

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