“Who am I?”
“I’m ambitious. I’m curious. I’m goal-oriented. I’m strong-willed. I’m independent. I’m a learner. I’m an achiever. ”
Not a single person has an exact answer to this question. However, if something close to these answers crossed your mind, congratulations, you’re more self-aware than you may think!
But what does it mean to be self-aware?
If you ask the American Psychology Association (APA), self-awareness is “self-focused attention or knowledge.” But I believe it’s much more than that. For me, self-awareness is an ability to understand my mind, get in touch with my thoughts, and discover my true self.
In fact, attempting to find an answer to this one simple yet puzzling question is already an example of self-awareness. But even if you don’t have an answer yet, that doesn’t mean you’re not self-aware.
It’s time for reflection! Take a look at these 15 signs if you want to find out how self-aware you are.
15 signs of self-awareness
1) You understand your emotions and openly express your feelings.
What do you exactly feel at the given moment?
Is it happiness? Sadness? Are you angry? Surprised? Do you feel disappointed?
Naming your feelings means that you understand your current emotions. Realizing your own emotions is a key to being self-aware. At least, that’s what emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman believes. As he states, emotional self-awareness helps us understand our own emotions and the way they affect our performance.
Indeed, whether it’s positive or negative emotions, when you know what you’re feeling, you can move on more easily.
But self-awareness isn’t only about knowing your emotions. You should also learn to openly express them. Why? Because expressing emotions helps people understand what we feel. When others understand us, we feel better about ourselves. And as studies show, to better understand others, we must first better understand ourselves.
2) You ask questions.
Asking questions is the greatest way to get in touch with your inner self and assess your behavior.
Why did I lose my temper? What situations make me feel terrible? What kind of person do I want to be today? What makes me happy?
These are just some of the questions that help people objectively evaluate their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
Think about it. When was the last time you asked yourself something like this? Yesterday? Last week? Never? Or maybe it’s part of your daily routine. Just remember that to be self-aware means to see things from different perspectives. And for this, you need to examine your emotional state by asking questions.
3) You think about your thought processes.
Thinking is a part of our everyday lives. We wake up and think about simple things, such as making breakfast. Sometimes we’re faced with serious problems and think about ways to deal with them. But how often do you think about how much you think?
In psychology, this process is known as “metacognition”. In simple words, it’s thinking about one’s thinking. If this process is familiar to you, you probably won’t be surprised by discovering that metacognition helps you become more self-aware.
Do you have a deep understanding of your own thoughts? Do you try to criticize popular opinions instead of accepting them unconditionally? If the answer is yes, then you can use your thoughts to move forward and become more self-aware.
4) You accept that there’s so much that you don’t know.
People who have high levels of self-awareness easily accept the fact that they don’t know everything. And we can’t know everything.
“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” That’s what Aristotle said and that’s what I believe is true.
Consider the diversity of our world. Someone living in Central Europe may be the most competent person in their literature class, but at the same time, he or she has no idea what is going on in the schools of the far east.
That’s normal. Not knowing things is typical. That’s why we should accept that there’s so much that we don’t know. Pretending to know everything just doesn’t work. And it’s not useful either. But accepting that you don’t know a lot of things will help you focus on your goals and find out what is something you don’t know but want to learn.
5) You admit your mistakes and turn them into life lessons.
Think about the last mistake you made. Was it something accidental, like spilling coffee on an important document, or a more serious one that seemed like the end of the world?
In either case, chances are high you felt disappointed in yourself for one simple reason: nobody likes making mistakes.
But as the American author Roy H. Williams once said, “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again.” I don’t believe it’s completely true because we’re humans and we make the same mistakes two, three, and maybe even four times. But mistakes indeed help us grow.
Making mistakes is a part of human nature. Even more. It’s helpful for your self-awareness. But only if you learn something from your mistakes. And for this, you just need to understand that making a mistake is not the same as “failure”.
So, if you gain valuable insights from your past mistakes, then it’s a sign that you’re more self-aware than you think.
6) You can look at things from different perspectives and accept others’ opinions.
If I ask you whether you consider others’ opinions while making a mistake, you’re likely to agree. In fact, that’s one of the biases that affect our decision-making process. In reality, looking at things from others’ perspectives isn’t easy. But it’s possible!
I’m not saying that you should accept others’ opinions and change your beliefs based on how others think. Instead, trusting your beliefs is what makes people self-aware, but only if you respect others’ opinions too.
Being self-aware means that you know how to understand others’ opinions and accept them even if you don’t agree.
7) You know it’s impossible to realize all your dreams but still focus on growth.
Everyone grows up with a dream they want to achieve. When I was a child, I dreamed of having an ice cream house with chocolate windows. Then I grew up and started hoping to become a movie director and a researcher at the same time.
I haven’t pursued any of these dreams for now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not self-aware. Why?
Because I know how to differentiate between attainable and unattainable dreams. I know how to set plans and realize them. I understand that even when I haven’t achieved all of my goals for now, I can still focus on the growth.
Giving up on some of your dreams is part of the growth process. It means that you analyzed your priorities, you became aware of your purposes and you are ready to work on them.
8) You don’t avoid making hard decisions.
Do you procrastinate about making decisions? Do you avoid taking risks even when you feel that they will help you grow? Then it’s time to move on.
Realizing your strengths and weaknesses is part of self-awareness. Sometimes it’s important to make hard decisions and maybe even fail. Why? Because successful people acknowledge that taking risks is a part of self-development.
Think about it. Do you really try to assess your thoughts and feelings objectively if you chronically avoid making difficult decisions?
Making tough decisions is a part of studying yourself. Self-aware people prefer actions over hesitation. So, don’t be afraid of failures because they will help you become more self-aware.
9) You’re not afraid to apologize.
When was the last time when you said: “I’m sorry”?
Studies suggest that saying sorry is one of the most difficult things after making a mistake. But also, it’s the most powerful.
Self-aware people are not afraid to apologize because they know making mistakes is natural. Saying sorry is a great way to express regret, admit something was your fault, and use your mistakes to grow.
Believe it or not, people who apologize are more self-aware because apologizing strengthens our relationships, helps us to build trust and receive feedback. And honest feedback can help us attain self-awareness.
10) You are aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
Do you know what you are good at? Typical answers could be something like “drawing”, “maths”, “singing”, “listening to people”, “helping my friends” or anything else.
Knowing what you do well will help you put yourself in situations where you will succeed. Although taking risks and dealing with challenges make you more self-aware, you should also analyze your strengths in order to use your skills and flourish.
But progress is only possible if you focus on your weaknesses too. So, if you acknowledge your character flaws or weak sides, it means that you also know what you need to work on.
What does it mean?
You’re one step away from success! Or maybe you have already succeeded… In both ways, you’re in touch with your inner self.
11) You’re not afraid to take new chances.
You’re open to new experiences. You understand that taking chances will help you grow. You’re willing to explore the world and never hesitate to take a step forward, even when you don’t know what’s next.
Does this sound familiar?
Then it might mean that you’re self-aware. Research proves that emotional self-awareness is crucial for taking risks. Interestingly, risk-takers tend to have higher emotional intelligence, and therefore, higher self-awareness.
So, if you’re ready to take risks, you probably have great control over your life and know what you can realistically achieve.
12) You focus on the present, not the future.
Since thinking about the future is also an integral part of self-awareness, this sentence sounds a bit surprising, right?
However, what I mean here is constant worrying about a possible future that we’re not even sure ever comes. Fear about the future is unproductive. Yes, it’s true that bad things can happen someday, but we can’t predict them. There’s no objective information about what will happen a few days from today.
That’s why we need to focus on the present. People who understand themselves realize that constant worrying about the future generates plenty of stress and anxiety.
13) You don’t expect special chances in life. You create them.
If you don’t worry about the uncertain future, you probably also don’t have particular expectations from life.
Let’s admit it. Do you sit and wait for life to improve? Try and understand that opportunities don’t just happen. It’s you who creates them.
Acknowledging that you are the one who has control over your life is a key to self-awareness. Life is never going to give you any privileges if you don’t try to deserve them.
And if you feel such a kind of control, it means that you’re aware of your possibilities.
14) You take criticism without getting defensive.
What’s your reaction when someone tells you you’re wrong?
I used to respond, “it depends on who criticizes me.” But now I know that actually, it doesn’t really matter.
Whether you’re criticized by someone who you think isn’t competent enough for someone who you consider as an authoritative person, just stop, think about their words and take criticism. Even if you’re right, looking at yourself from others’ perspectives is a chance to learn more about yourself.
So, accept negative feedback positively and use it productively to become more self-aware.
15) You have a possible vision of the future.
Although irrational worrying about the future is useless, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a possible future scenario in your mind.
Actually, having a vision of your future self will help you get in touch with your current identity.
How can you work toward your goals if you don’t have your future life mapped out in your imagination?
Knowing what you’re doing and knowing what you want to do in the future is a great part of understanding who you are.
Do you already realize why self-awareness is so important?
If not, just return to all these signs of self-awareness once again and see how many of them apply to you.
If you notice that your self-awareness needs improvement, it’s totally fine. Your self-awareness never stops growing and you can start working on it any minute from now.
So get ready to make a change, and you’ll eventually feel more comfortable with yourself.