Know Thyself: Laying The Groundwork For Genuine Self-Awareness

Are you feeling brave after reading my recent article, Acquiring EQ Through Self-Awareness? Are you ready to look into the mirror to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions? You’ll be making a tremendous step toward meaningful interactions, better work results, and peace of mind. But first, let’s set some Self-Awareness ground rules.

Better Doesn’t Mean Perfect

Self-Assessment begins with an honest assessment of oneself from within. Scary? Indeed, but necessary. Since thoughts, feelings and beliefs originate in the brain, your personal conduct is a response/reaction to these inner workings….something you may be unaware of as it happens. This is where self-compassion and a commitment to letting go of perfectionist tendencies come in handy. When you accept that you are “perfectly imperfect” without criticizing yourself for it, you can only improve (and remember, that means becoming better, not perfect).

It helps, of course, to learn to laugh at yourself. More succinctly, it’s mandatory that you stop taking yourself so seriously, unless you’re a doctor in surgery. Remember, we each make about 35,000 decisions every day. It’s just unrealistic to think that every one of them is going to be the right decision. Moreover, right for now doesn’t mean right in the long run.

Accentuate The Positive

Who is your worst critic? I know who mine is….me! Humans tend to have a negativity bias, particularly when assessing ourselves. And only when we become aware of that can we can begin to look for the positive. Mistakes will be made, but if mistakes are what you’re programmed to look for, they are all you’ll find. That’s when we start not only noticing, but embracing our strengths, our talents, our intuition. And because these details lead to confidence and belief in ourselves, we become more Self-Aware. It’s not as scary to lean into fear and discomfort when we realize the possibilities on the other side.

Judge Not

The most important part about the process of becoming Self-Aware (a.k.a. mindful, or “woke”) is to acknowledge that it’s not the same as self-judgment. Ever notice how you can be particularly nasty to yourself inside your head? That approach is anti-productive, and serves to diminish your EQ and derail your growth mindset. True Self-Awareness takes curiosity, which, rather than being a weakness, is an opportunity to grow emotionally. It’s the intuition to observe questionable patterns within yourself without being scared or reluctant to address them.

Focus On The Physical

Armed with self-compassion and courage, you’re now prepared to learn my little secret about Self-Awareness: it’s a two-step process! And to get to the root of becoming aware of yourself in the moment, simply backtrack. Begin by becoming physically aware. Take, for example, one of my clients who realized that she crosses her arms during meetings or conversations. Upon a deeper dig, she realized that she does this when she feels defensive, and was inadvertently sending off a negative vibe.

Another of my clients noticed that he became short-tempered during certain times of the day. Imagine his surprise when he realized that he became snippy when he was hungry. And he’s not the only one! Researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel and Columbia University examined more than 1,000 decisions by eight Israeli judges who ruled on convicts’ parole requests. Those judges granted 65 percent of requests they heard at the beginning of the day’s session and almost none at the end. Right after a snack break, approvals jumped back to 65 percent.

It appears that being “hangry” is a challenge for many of us, but we don’t necessarily realize it until we trace back the physical manifestations. It’s our coworkers and loved ones who realize it first! The tapping of a toe when you’re impatient, speaking more rapidly when you’re uneasy, and crossing your arms to protect yourself are all physical manifestations of what you’re thinking and feeling.

Aspire Higher

There’s so much in the brain, the heart and the gut that leads to physical manifestations that once we are aware of what we’re showing to the world, we can pinpoint what we are feeling and thinking, and then we can affect change in ourselves. Awareness of our emotions is the first step to showing up as we intend to. And, analyzing how we are showing up can help us tailor or even transform our behaviors, thoughts and conclusions. It’s the road to emotional management, and to exhibiting the EQ that we should aspire to as professionals.

But as with all things in life, this self-management is not as easy to execute as it sounds! In my follow-up article, I’ll clarify and illustrate a slow-motion, frame-by-frame look at Self-Awareness in the workplace.