Take a moment to think of someone in your life—present or past—who wasn’t very self-aware. In my mind, I can picture some examples that are almost comical, some that are painful, and a few that are still baffling to this day. It’s well established in research that people who lack self-awareness struggle to make a positive impact in nearly every aspect of life. And when people lack the ability to see themselves clearly, it is no stretch to see the impact on their meaningful relationships within work, marriage, friendship, and parenting.
Self-Awareness is Complicated
Here’s the tricky part: when we think about people who aren’t self-aware, we think of other people. I have yet to meet someone who says, “Well now that you mention it, I’m not very self-aware and it’s causing a lot of problems in my life.” Dr. Tasha Eurich, a renowned organizational psychologist, found that 85% of people believe they are self-aware, but only 15% of people actually meet all of the criteria. A disconnect that large means that almost none of us are as self-aware as we think. Yikes.
Now for some good news: There are some relatively simple things we can start doing today to become more self-aware, thus strengthening our meaningful relationships and careers. The journey of self-awareness is just that—a journey. In our one-and-done culture, we are drawn to quick fixes. We can start by thinking of self-awareness more like a continuum than a simple check box. Growing along the self-awareness continuum is ongoing work.
Dr. Eurich found that self-awareness is two-fold. Internal self-awareness is knowing who we are on the inside—our values, passions, and patterns. External self-awareness is knowing how others see us. People are often better at one than the other, but everyone can improve in both. They are different, but equally important lenses for understanding ourselves.
Ready to go a little deeper? Self-awareness is all about the shades of gray. It’s about seeing more than one truth about yourself and, to quote Dr. Eurich, all the “complexities and nuances” that you embody. With all of these layers to navigate, it’s no wonder that few of us are as self-aware as we like to think.
Build Your Self-Awareness Skills with Intentional Conversations
Time to Get Curious: One highly effective strategy suggested by Dr. Eurich is to engage your “loving critics”. Your loving critics are the people who love you and will tell you the truth. Who are the loving critics in your life? Who loves you, knows you well, and will be honest with you? These people in our lives are critical to our journey of self-awareness. They know who we desire to be when we are at our best and can help push us to see where there are challenges and disconnects.
- Who could be your loving critics?
- What do the people who know you the best know about you?
- How might you invite them to share with you?
- What can you do to help those loving critics feel comfortable sharing?
Here’s Your Challenge: Having a conversation with your loving critics can be tough. You mean I have to listen to someone I love and respect tell me the truth about me? I can feel my amygdala triggering already. Here are a few tips to help you stay engaged, calm, and productive:
- It’s ok to experience emotions in this process. Your goal isn’t to be stoic or claim to feel nothing. Your goal is to regulate your emotions as best you can, ask for a break if needed, and take ownership of how you are feeling.
- Stick with “What” questions; Avoid “Why” questions. “What” questions help us think more critically and stay focused on the future, which helps us feel more empowered.
- If you are seeking specific insight, invest some time in crafting quality questions before you meet. Your loving critic may appreciate knowing the questions in advance. This might help both of you feel more comfortable throughout the conversation.
- Be mindful of how your loving critic best processes and shares information. While your loving critic might feel best communicating ideas in writing, you might prefer an in-person discussion. Find a balance that serves you both.
Final Thought: True self-awareness is so complex that it took Dr. Eurich and her team a full year to properly define it. Give yourself some grace as you push yourself to grow this incredibly important skill set each day.
Ready to get started? Who will you ask to serve as your loving critic? What excites you about this process? What concerns you? Share with us in the comment below…