How self-aware and honest are you?
This is about becoming aware of your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and what is driving your behaviour. It also includes becoming aware of your values, standards, what motivates and energises you, what switches you off. Some of you might be thinking, ‘But surely everyone knows what they are thinking/feeling/how they are behaving!'. Here are some examples of what people have said to me in the past:
- Giving a mini workshop for a business group on Mastering Your Inner Critic, a man came up to me at the end and thanked me. He said that before the talk he didn't think that he had an inner critic. However, going through the session, he became aware of what he was saying to himself and how bad it was making him feel. Beforehand, this was just ‘background noise' in his head and he was not fully aware of it.
- During an in-house workshop for managers, we were discussing Transactional Analysis (click herefor more about TA) and how they were interacting with their staff. One of the managers, who was in his 50s, suddenly said, ‘I think I'm a bully', which is a pretty powerful statement to make. I explained that few people are out and out bullies but by using the TA model, we can see that some of our behaviour can be bullying. This was a ‘eureka' moment for this manager, suddenly he could see what his behaviour was like, and could see that there was another, more constructive way of behaving with and managing others.
- A coaching client was re-learning how to recognise her emotions. She had grown up within a family of alcoholics and her only coping mechanism was to cut herself off from her emotions. She did this to such an extent that she had developed ME, as she was unable to recognise when she was tired and needing to rest.
My first step on the journey of self-awareness and change was in my late 20s when I had a great job, good salary, company car, my own house, a boyfriend and yet I was still unhappy. I thought, ‘hang on a moment, I was told that these things where meant to make you happy!'. And I started to see a counsellor and that set me on the road of self-awareness, discovery and development.
What have been your eureka moments about yourself?
‘People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars…and they pass themselves by without wondering.'
Denial can be a form of self-protection but if we spend too much time in a state of denial we can dig ourselves a much bigger problem. We can spend a lot of time and energy avoiding what is really going on for ourselves by over-working, over-eating, over-shopping, over-drinking and even being over-jolly when we don't actually feel it! Yet, people are often reluctant to ‘go there', they say things like:
‘If I start to look at my life, I'll realise how bad it is and get so depressed I won't be able to change anything'.
‘If I sit down and acknowledge how I feel, I'll start crying and never stop'.
‘I can't do anything about my job/marriage/health/wealth or whatever, so there is no point in thinking about it'.
However, there is no problem, however dire, that can't be helped by fully acknowledging it and dealing with the emotions, even if that means crying a lot, getting angry or furious, before you can process how you feel and then, in time, move on to identifying actions to cope with, find solutions to or ways around what you are facing.
Stop right now, write down what you are thinking.
What three words describe how you feel right now?
How is this impacting on how you are behaving as you read this and in your daily life?
‘The unexamined life is not worth living and the unlived life is not worth examining.'
Self-awareness is the first step on the journey of self discovery and development. The benefits can be any or all of the following:
- You start to understand what is driving your behaviour and what you need to do to change.
- You can separate out what is your ‘stuff' and what is other people's ‘stuff', which can lead to clearer and more honest communication.
- You can start to identify what parts of life are within your control, that you can work on and change.
- You start to understand the difference between ‘shoulds' and ‘wants'.
- You can spot the ‘wonky' thought patterns, limiting beliefs, and can start to change them.
- You start to understand what makes you happy, what makes you sad, and where possible, take action to increase the former and reduce the latter.
- There is less game playing. If you are honest with yourself, you can be more honest with others.
- Understanding your own drivers, what switches you off, what motivates you, means you can be more specific in your requests to others.
What will be the benefits to you if you are more self-aware? What will be the benefits to others?
‘Resolve to be thyself: and know, that he who finds himself, loses his misery.'
In most circumstances becoming more self-aware and honest with yourself is only beneficial. However, sometimes there can be drawbacks if self-awareness does not go hand in hand with change. For example:
- Analysis into paralysis – Sometimes clients start off over analysing themselves, their situation, other people, without being able to then move on to either take action or move on emotionally. They become paralysed by what is going on in their heads, which is where a coach or counsellor can help to move you on.
- Readiness to change – Just becoming self-aware is not really enough, you need to be ready to make changes in yourself: either in terms of how you think or respond, feel and/or how you behave. Just knowing that you are an angry or pessimistic person, is not going to help you, unless you take steps to make changes.
- Honesty without self control – I do believe in being honest with myself and with others about how I feel and what is going on with my life. However, without some self control, it would be totally inappropriate at times to either ‘be' how I am feeling or endlessly talk about it! There is a middle way between complete self disclosure and being a closed book or totally supressing your emotions.
Have you experienced any drawbacks?
There are a range of actions you can do to become more self-aware:
- Writing in a journal to check in with yourself regularly – I am thinking of getting my own Inspire Transformation journals printed to give to training and coaching clients to encourage them to write down what is going on within themselves. I've just been coaching a client who was in a less than centred state. When we explored the triggers, of which there were a few, they noticed that they had stopped writing in their journal, stopped checking in with themselves, so their thoughts had run away with themselves.
- Become more mindful – Stop, focus on your direct experience rather than what is in your head. Sit and focus on what you can hear, see, physically feel, smell, taste. Neuroscientists are finding that mindfulness is the key to taking action to manage your brain responses. This can be a case of just a few minutes throughout the day. I've just spent two minutes at the beach while at my desk! Click here.
- Use specific exercises to listen to yourself and become more self aware. There are a range of exercises in my Master Your Inner Critic, Release Your Inner Wisdom book, click here - if you buy it from me I'll match the Amazon price with free P&P!
- Understand your personality type – One way to find out more about yourself, and gain new insights, is to use a personality instrument. I use Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with clients both on a 121 and team basis.
- Read inspiring and insightful books – I love reading fiction, but also have various self development and other inspiring books on the go, that can give me a new view on myself and the world as a whole.
- Speak to someone else – This could be a wise friend, mentor, coach or counsellor. Having someone to speak to where you have time, space and permission to explore what is going on for yourself is invaluable. See below for more information on taking one of my free Coaching Audit.
What actions are you going to take to become more self-aware and more honest with yourself?
‘The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.'