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Self Awareness


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Self Awareness – Who Am I?

Introduction

We usually identify our existence with our position in society, our friends and family, the needs and desires of our body, and the emotional and intellectual expressions of our mind. For example: We might say ‘I am a student studying economics, I have three sisters and live in London’. We rarely take the time to contemplate the real nature of our existence; to ask the question, "Who am I?"

Self awareness is about learning to better understand why you feel what you feel and why you behave in a particular way. Once you begin to understand this concept you then have the opportunity and freedom to change things about yourself enabling you to create a life that you want. It’s almost impossible to change and become self-accepting if you are unsure as to who you are. Having clarity about who you are and what you want can be empowering, giving you the confidence to make changes.

Try this challenge

Think about describing yourself to another person without mentioning anything about the external things that are in your life, your friends, family, studying etc. Concentrate only on yourself, how you feel and behave, perhaps recognising some of your strengths and weaknesses.

Did you manage to explore your thoughts, feelings and behaviours?

It’s easy to get caught up in irrational thoughts and beliefs and live out internal dramas that can severely affect the way we perceive ourselves and consequently determine our feelings and actions. Relationships are easy until there is emotional turmoil. This is the same whether you are at work or in your personal life. When you can change the interpretation in your mind of what you think, you can change your emotions and shift the emotional quality of your relationships. When you can change the emotions in your relationships you open up entirely new possibilities in your life.

Having a clear understanding of your thought and behaviour patterns helps you understand other people. This ability to empathise facilitates better personal and professional relationships.

Is self-awareness important?

Self awareness is important because when we have a better understanding of ourselves, we are able to experience ourselves as unique and separate individuals. We are then empowered to make changes and to build on our areas of strength as well as identify areas where we would like to make improvements. Self-awareness is often a first step to goal setting. Self-awareness is being conscious of what you're good at while acknowledging what you still have yet to learn. This includes admitting when you don't have the answer and owning up to mistakes.

In our highly competitive culture, this can seem counterintuitive. In fact, many of us operate on the belief that we must appear as though we know everything all the time or else people will question our abilities, and then perhaps judge us. If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that really the opposite is true. Because whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them. So rather than conceal them, the person who tries to hide weaknesses actually highlights them, creating the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness.

The Johari Window

The Johari Window can be looked at from many angles and provides four basic forms of the Self (the Known, Hidden, Blind, and Unknown Self).

The Known Self is what you and others see in you. This is the part that you are able to discuss freely with others. Most of the time you agree with this view you have and others have of you.

The Hidden Self is what you see in yourself but others don’t. In this part you hide things that are very private about yourself. You do not want this information to be disclosed for the reason of protection. It could also be that you may be ashamed of these areas and feel a vulnerability to having your faults and weaknesses exposed. This area equally applies to your good qualities that you don’t want to advertise to the world due to modesty.

The Blind Self is what you don’t see in yourself but others see in you. You might see yourself as an open-minded person when, in reality, people around you don’t agree. This area also works the other way. You might see yourself as a “dumb” person while others might consider you incredibly bright. Sometimes those around you might not tell you what they see because they fear offending you. It is in this area that people sometimes detect that what you say and what you do don’t match and sometimes body-language shows this mismatch.

The Unknown Self is the self that you cannot see, others can’t see it either. In this category there might be good and bad things that are out of the awareness of others and you. This might refer to untapped potential talents and skills that have yet to be explored by you, your friends, colleagues or managers.

You may find the Johari Window quite useful as you discover who you are.

 Known Self

Things we know about ourselves and others know about us.

 Hidden Self

Things we know about ourselves that others do not know.

 Blind Self

Things others know about us that we do not know.

 

 Unknown Self

Things neither we nor others know about us.

 

Observation and Value Judgments: Looking at self awareness and acceptance

Some people say we need judgments to be able to live in this world. “How could I make decisions if I didn’t judge? Isn't that how we make decisions?”

A distinction between a value judgment and an observation is as follows:

In an observation we see, hear and feel what is happening around us. We then state what we see. When we’re judging something, we go one step further in the process of observation and add in a subjective evaluation. We label the event as either “good”, or “bad”. It then becomes a value judgment. Placing a value judgement upon the event affects our decision making process because the event now has a label and affects how we respond.

How does this apply to accepting yourself?

  • You first make an observation about yourself, ("I am embarrassed in social situations”) then decide if it’s a good or bad thing to be ("It's bad to be embarrassed in social situations"). When we judge something about ourselves as “bad”, it becomes impossible to accept it and be okay with that part of yourself. However, it is possible to accept how you behave in social situations and still know you want to change it and perhaps work towards making improvements.
  • What if you were to drop your value judgments and simply saw “what is” then identified what you wanted and why? It could totally transform your experience. It might lead to new discoveries about yourself. For example: Being embarrassed in social situations is something that you have observed about yourself, it doesn’t have to have any value judgement placed upon it, and this could be described as “what is”. Then identify how you would like to behave in social situations and why, this is “what you want and why”. Having established this you are more able move forward in a positive way, as you are now aware of how you would like things to be and more accepting as to how they actually are.
  • Perhaps you would find a well of acceptance for yourself and others that you never knew existed.
  • Perhaps you would notice the less you judge yourself, the less you'll judge others. And maybe, the experience of acceptance would give you the solid foundation to move forward in creating yourself and your life in a way that is more satisfying.

References

The Johari Window: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/07/08/the-johari-window/

Getting Support

The University Counselling Service is available for students and staff of the University of Warwick: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/counselling/



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