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5 Steps to Grow in Self-Awareness

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Self-awareness is not just knowing yourself. It’s knowing yourself relative to other people. It’s knowing yourself in the context of your setting. Not just how do the people around you impact you, but how do you impact them. Recently one of the teams I lead had an upset. One of the team me…
By sethbarnes

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Self-awareness is not just knowing yourself. It’s knowing yourself relative to other people. It’s knowing yourself in the context of your setting. Not just how do the people around you impact you, but how do you impact them.

Recently one of the teams I lead had an upset. One of the team members, Steve (not his real name), decided after a few weeks on the team that he needed to leave. Steve’s explanation was that he was a victim. Naturally other team members had to consider this – was his version of what happened true?

As we dug into Steve’s situation, we learned that things were a lot different than he described them. In fact, he was gaming the system. Steve’s version of reality was off and he wasn’t asking the questions that would have helped him to better understand.

But you can’t blame Steve – we had let him on the team! What mistake did we make? The main thing we did wrong was to not adequately assess Steve’s self-awareness. He was self-absorbed, but not self-aware.

Self-awareness and growth

One of the primary things that I look for in developing leaders is their self-awareness. Too many people are not only extreme in some way, but they are oblivious to the fact that they are extreme. They think “I’m  normal and other people are strange” when it’s the other way around.

Self-awareness is crucial for personal growth, especially growing one’s emotional intelligence. It enables leaders to make better decisions, improve their relationships, and develop better coping strategies for dealing with challenges.

People who are self-aware do the hard work of learning about themselves. And they also do the hard work of looking around the room and seeing how they impact others. They have a sense of what is “normal” and where they fit on the bell curve of a group of people.

Someone who understands themselves well, but doesn’t understand their impact on others may just be self-absorbed, or worse, a narcissist. Imagine in a group setting that others are thinking “there’s an elephant in the room” and that elephant is you!

How to grow?

So, how do you begin to grow in self-awareness? Here are five ideas:

1. Be Curious

People are different than you. Why is that? Why do they do what they do? Do you get in conflict situations regularly? Do you find yourself in the role of a victim? Are there patterns you’re missing? Take self-assement tests such as those found on Truity.com and ask those who know you about the results.

2. Feedback

Ask for honest feedback from your friends and family. If you have a job where people interact with you, what have they observed? Say thank you, even if you disagree. Never respond defensively or people will not give you feedback again.

2. Observe Yourself:

Pay attention to your emotional responses in different situations. Notice what triggers positive and negative emotions and why. Stop jumping to conclusions. Pause and consider reflecting about any patterns that may be there.

3. Journaling

Write about your thoughts, feelings, and experience. Reflecting on your entries can help you identify patterns and gain insights into your behavior and emotions. Get out the Bible and practice listening prayer. Ask God to show you his perspective.

4. Practice Empathy

Pay attention to what others are saying without interrupting. Repeat them back to them, “so I hear you saying…” And after you’ve talked with them, reflect on their words and consider their feelings and perspectives. God asks us to love people and that often begins with empathy.

5. Read and Learn

Other people have been where you are and felt what you feel. They have written books and articles. They may lead personal development courses that would help you. Note that most of these (like this one) may only focus on one aspect of self-awareness – that is knowing yourself. You may complete the course still oblivious to the feedback of others that you need.

Therapy or Coaching

One route that has become more popular in the last decade is therapy. A therapist can help you grow by providing perspective. This is a costly way to get feedback from someone who doesn’t get a chance to observe you in action. However you may need the motivation to change. Therapy may be what you need to understand why you do what you so you want to change.

Another option is coaching and 360 degree feedback from those around you.

All this can seem overwhelming. If you want to grow in self-awareness, you’ll need encouragement along the way. Change is hard!

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