How well do you know yourself? Self awareness is a critical factor in the success of our relationships, friendships and work staff. Unaware people often hurt others and their relationships because they are not cognizant of how their words, attitudes or behaviors impact others. This is especially true with unaware leaders whose lack of awareness causes staff to think that they are uncaring, harsh, lack empathy or simply narcissistic.
Self awareness means that I understand how I am wired, how I am likely to react to others and situations, what my blind spots and shadow side are, what pushes my emotional buttons and how I am perceived by those around me. While those perceptions may not be the "real us" from our point of view, they are the "real us" to those around us.
For instance, I can be viewed as distant and private by those who know me from a distance. To mitigate against that I work on spending quality time with those I work with and being as self-disclosing as possible so that they understand the real me. However, if I was not aware of that perception, I would not be able to take steps to counter it.
What is important to understand is that we have a view of who we are but others around us also have a view of who we are and the two views may be very different. In fact, the more self aware we are the less discrepancy there will be between our view of us and others view of us and the less self aware we are the greater the discrepancy will be. That is because a large part of self awareness is understanding how others perceive us.
Self aware people are able to take steps to mitigate against the parts of their wiring that can be troublesome in interactions and relationships. We cannot fundamentally change our wiring (although the Holy Spirit can) but we can manage our shadow side in ways that facilitate healthier interactions and relationships.
How do we grow our self awareness? I would suggest doing some reading on EQ or Emotional Intelligence as a start. That will at least give one a framework to understand oneself better. To drill down deeper, we need to have some conversations with those around us as to how they perceive us and what they think our blind spots are. Because we are blind to our blind spots, only feedback from others will help us understand what they are.
Find a trusted friend or colleague and ask some questions: What do you see as my greatest strengths? What do you see as my greatest weaknesses? Describe your perception of who I am to me. What things do you think I am blind to in my interactions, attitudes or actions? Are there things I do that unintentionally hurt others or damage relationships? If you could be completely candid with me about something you see that I should be aware of, what would it be?
I am blessed to have a wife who is honest with me and trusted colleagues who I can have those kinds of conversations with. I am more self aware because of it and better able to manage those parts of me that can hurt others or be perceived as insensitive. I have come a long way but am certain I have a long way to go given the complexities of how I am wired. However, my self discovery has been a major part of my growth as an individual, husband, father and leader.
It should be obvious that this kind of self discovery takes a great deal of humility and a lack of defensiveness. It is defensive people, and those who need to project a certain image who are the least self aware because they lack the ability to hear feedback from others. In fact, if you are unable to ask these kinds of questions and hear candid feedback it should be a warning to you that you are not only self unaware but likely to stay that way because of the fear of understanding the real you. Growing our self awareness is part of the journey to becoming healthier individuals.