Nowadays self-awareness seems to be the one thing that has become, say very essential in the management world – and that too for a good reason. If we can look into ourselves more clearly we can be more self-assertive and original. We can make swift decisions, have a better understanding of peers, and an open yet strong point of view. We are less likely to get indulged in the practice of lying and deceiving. We are more-effective leaders with more understanding and efficient employees.

In layman’s terms, self-awareness is the ability to see within oneself, it’s the difference between how others see us and how well we perceive ourselves. So, before we could focus on the importance of self-awareness and how one can cultivate it, we need to assess this multi-dimensional concept and come to a just understanding.

Self-awareness has broadly been categorized into two, Internal and External. Internal self-awareness is the assessment of one’s morals, beliefs, interests, aspirations, and emotional reaction to environmental (societal) stimuli. Internal self-awareness is negatively related to stress, anger, and anxiety. External self-awareness is one’s understanding of how others see them. If we are externally self-aware then we could understand others better considering their perspective. We could be significantly more empathetic to them and be better listeners.

When it comes to internal and external self-awareness it’s easy to value one over the other. But both are equally important. A person is incomplete if he only masters in one. The concept of self-awareness is a delicate balance between the two and it can easily drive an individual to be highly efficient and focussed.

Why is self-awareness important? It is very important because it helps us to recognize ourselves as unique and powerful individuals. It helps us know our strengths and weaknesses and work on them to strive towards excellence. It is the very first step on the way to success. Being self-aware acknowledges the cores we are good at, but at the same time, it also means being conscious of our strengths. This means introspecting ourselves from time to time and recognizing our mistakes and later working upon them. This includes taking responsibility for our actions and owning up to the consequences.

In today’s highly competitive nature, it is very common for people to have a mindset where they try to portray themselves as very knowledgeable because if they don’t then other people could question their abilities and judge them. If we are true to ourselves we would agree that the case is the opposite. People will always recognize your weaknesses first whether you recognize them or not. Therefore rather than concealing them, ultimately what we end up doing is highlighting them raising questions on the lack of ethics, morals, and solidarity.

Now onto our final question, how does one cultivate and improve self-awareness? Paying attention to the characteristics that we find annoying in other people can go a long way. We’ve all had instances where someone from our peer or any colleague would do something that would particularly annoy or irritate you. Now to deal with this situation, anyone would say that the best option out is to keep your ears shut, to ignore them, but this isn’t. We have to ask ourselves, can this be a reflection in me, of something that I dislike? Is it a part of me too? 

Moving on, meditation has always been an exceptionally powerful remedy for several situations, right from weight loss to depression relief. Understanding our thought process, and making a steady stream of ideas and beliefs from it helps us to be more organised and efficient. After all we need to understand: We are not our thoughts. All too often we lack self-awareness because we are too busy overthinking. We focus on what will be rather than what actually is.

It has always been said that books are your best friends. Reading good quality literature could help to cultivate an intuitive sense of self-awareness. Writers notice very minute details of human life. Details that we often miss to see our frantic fast lane lives. Giving just 30 minutes to quality reading will help.

Here’s another question: how often do you ask your friends or your colleagues for behaviour assessment or feedback? It is a shame that we do something so important in our lives so less. Feedback is one of the best ways to grow and improve ourselves. If you’re a part of an organisation, always ask for feedback on your work. Constructive criticism can help you improve your work. It can throw light in the areas of your core that need improvement.

Lastly, learning new skills also helps us develop self-awareness. It tests us by forcing us to think in novel ways, which in turn makes us act in an even more creative yet challenging way. Learning new skills is always a powerful exercise in mental flexibility and self-awareness.

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