Self-Awareness (I) – What is it and why does it matter?

“95% of us think we’re self-aware but in reality research shows it’s more like 10-15% of us who actually are” Dr. Tasha Eurich

Just because I’m a psychologist doesn’t mean I’m completely self-aware. 

Just because I spend every day working with some of the most self-aware people and helping them to become even more self-aware doesn’t either. 

So what on earth is self-awareness and why is it so elusive?

Self-awareness is “the ability to see ourselves clearly, to understand who we are, how others see us and how we fit into the world.” (Eurich, 2017)

My gaps are around self-worth. I know I don’t always see myself as positively as other people do and that hurts. But I’m working on it and ‘am far better than I was 5, 10 and 15 years ago. 

Self-awareness is something we all have to work on throughout life. Well we don’t have to but by ignoring it we miss out on the amazing benefits which include allowing you to:

– be more emotionally resilient (something we all need at the moment)
– get closer to fulfilling your potential
– live out your purpose
– have better relationships
– be more creative and so much more…..

Leaders who are self-aware are more promotable. Those who aren’t self-aware are 600 times more likely to derail. Companies that have more self-aware employees perform better, are more financially successful, have better returns. 

This all applies to us as individuals too. As Eurich says “There pretty much isn’t any positive outcome that better self-awareness doesn’t impact.” It gives us power. It’s what she calls a meta skill for the 21st century. Self-awareness is not just about being more effective at work but it’s living a meaningful and fulfilling life.

The reason it’s so elusive is that it isn’t as straight forward as simply knowing who we are by doing a personality assessment or thinking we know our wants and needs. It’s more complex than that. While finding more self-awareness is empowering, lifechanging and leads to incredible outcomes. Searching our soul to become more self-aware, done the wrong way is disabling, dangerous and leads to a mental cage. Something I discovered as a teenager. 

My Story – searching for answers

I like many other adolescents struggled massively with my ‘head’. I desperately wanted to be understood by others and to understand myself. Despite outwardly having it all – I went to a good school, had no struggles academically, was sporty, had friends – my inner turmoil often felt utterly unbearable and my approach to trying to work things out unwittingly made them even worse. 

The relentless anguish made me do whatever I could to find answers, to solve myself, to work things out. I read so many books to try and find out what was going on and how I could ‘fix’ my head. I fought my thoughts because that’s what I thought I should do. It led me to try harder and harder to correct every emotion that came my way. I analysed and analysed. I was unwittingly digging myself deeper and deeper into turmoil. 

This only got worse when I went to university to study psychology. I still couldn’t find the answers. Things got worse. I saw a counsellor who sent me straight to the doctor. The doctor diagnosed me with severe clinical depression and said she didn’t know how I’d even made it through so far. 

What has this got to do with self-awareness? 

This approach is what we’re often led to believe leads to better self-insight. It doesn’t. Instead it leads us down rabbit holes of despair. 

When I left uni I ended up working as a management consultant, avoiding psychology because it had seemingly not provided me with the answers I so desperately sought. It was miserable. Despite meeting some wonderful people, learning masses and working for amazing clients it was hugely incompatible with my values, purpose and aspirations. 

After 2 years I somehow persuaded them to let me have a year off and bought an around the world ticket heading off (on my own) to look for answers (spoiler alert – this didn’t lead to self-awareness either but it did get me a little bit closer). 

So HOW do we become more self-aware? 

Well this falls into three steps – the brain, your place in the world and you

I’ll talk about how my life got so much better by understanding the ‘correct route’ to self awareness and break down what that means to you in the next couple of blog posts so be sure to check back.

We’re also doing a series on it for the Dot to Dot podcast exploring this over the course of 8 episodes, with myself and fellow psychologist Lou Jones. PLUS interviews with people such as New York Times bestselling author and psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich whose Tedtalk on self-awareness has been viewed more than 7 million times. 

Links to podcast.

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Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

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