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Why Now is the Time to Start Cultivating Self-Awareness

In a matter of a week, my newsfeed and social feeds went from themes of “Safe Social Distancing Dinners” and “Self-Care at Home” to “What to Wear to a Protest” and “How to Recover from a Tear Gas Attack.” As if 2020 wasn’t enough of a roller coaster already, the events in the last couple weeks have brought the US to what feels like a complete state of chaos and emotional distress.

The Importance of Self Awareness Amidst Global Chaos

In times like these, thinking clearly is difficult; our logical thoughts are clouded by anger, sadness, and confusion. But times like these will mean nothing long term if each of us don’t stop to take a minute and begin cultivating some self-awareness. Why now? Because self-awareness is an important component of emotional intelligence, and emotionally intelligent people have more empathy, communicate better, and are able to optimally navigate social conflicts, and don’t we all need some more of that right now?

Self-awareness is this abstract skill that has become a leadership buzzword over the last couple of years, but what does it actually mean to be self-aware? A research study led by Harvard organizational psychologist and executive coach, Tasha Eurich, aimed to get to the bottom of what self-awareness is. Although it’s more complicated than a simple definition (you can read about that here), she essentially sums up that a self-aware person is someone “[Who] know[s] who they are, what they want to accomplish, and seek[s] out and value[s] others’ opinions.” It’s a balancing act between seeing yourself clearly and seeing how others see you.

Going off that definition, take a moment to think about how certain people in certain circumstances could have acted better and more responsibly if they better understood themselves and how what they say and do impacts others. So, let’s not take this opportunity for granted to see the importance of self-awareness and how this form of self-improvement can impact not only your life, but the lives of those around you in positive ways.

Self-Awareness – Where to Begin

Cultivating self-awareness is not a single act, but a journey. Much like going through a physical transformation, self-awareness will require you to learn and practice new skills such as self-reflection, understanding others, and managing your emotions.

I am not an expert in this area, but some of the practices that have personally helped me in my ongoing self-awareness journey are the following:

#1: Ask yourself tough questions. What do you truly value in life? What are you doing daily that reflects those values? What are some blind spots you have about yourself? Where do you think you could improve? Be honest and real with yourself. Write it down in a journal.

#2: Listen to others more earnestly. You can learn a lot about yourself by how you listen and react to others. In your next conversation, challenge yourself to listen intently and ask more questions than you normally would. This is a step towards understanding others better, and having more empathy towards them, especially if you come from different backgrounds, work in different departments, etc.

#3: Ask those around you for feedback. This may seem a bit scary, but ask for honest feedback often from those around you. This could be from a supervisor (or someone you supervise) at work, a friend, a parent. But make sure to tell them that you have a goal that you’re working towards, and that their honesty in this is important.

#4: Take risks in order to learn more about yourself, and others. Taking risks may mean speaking up for yourself or another person, it may mean reaching out to an old friend, or starting a new side hustle. Practicing courage is a great way to learn more about how you handle challenging situations, and how others around you react. It will also help you stand up for yourself and others when you need to. Write down your lessons you’ve learned, and observations you made along the way.

Remember, Self-Awareness Isn’t Just About You

Now more than ever is the time when we should embark on our personal journeys to become more self-aware people. But before you begin, resist the temptation to believe this journey towards self-awareness all about you; in contrast, self-awareness is a leadership skill and leadership is not about you – it’s about how you impact and inspire others.

Photo by Clay Banks
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