What do you think other people see when they see you? Do they see the same thing you see when you look in the mirror?
- Do you often find it hard to connect with other people especially in certain situations?
- Do you feel like other people don’t really “get” you?
- Or do you find yourself feeling like no one really knows the “real” you?
Well perhaps you, like all of us, can stand to become more self-aware. Self- Awareness is the process of knowing who we are in relation to other people. It’s helpful to be self aware because it gives us a framework to interpret and understand all the feedback we get from others.
Here are three ways you can increase your level of self-awareness:
1. Listen to what other people say about you
What do other people say about you? Are there any major themes you’ve heard repeatedly over the years?
I was very fortunate to learn the benefits of being self aware relatively early in life. When I was about 15 years old I was involved in a very dynamic youth leadership program with a small group of other smart young people. During one of our early skill building retreats, the facilitators had us participate in a self awareness exercise in which each person was given a stack of 15 pre-printed index cards with words on them and a roll of tape. Each index card had one word on it such as – sincere, apathetic, loud, smart, honest, funny, considerate, etc. Each person was instructed to tape the index card with the word they felt best described the individual group members on each person’s back.
I was expecting a ton of sincere and smart cards taped to my back because I thought those were the words that best described me. But to my surprise and sadness, out of the 15 cards I received, 10 were “loud,” 3 were “funny” and the remaining 2 were “sincere.”
At first I was confused and shocked. I asked myself, ” How could this be? That doesn’t even begin to describe me.” Then I got angry. “How dare these people act like they know me?!” I thought. But after the initial shock and anger, I got introspective and thought about what was happening. If 10 out of 15 people each independently thought that “loud” was the best way to describe me, was there some truth to that? I thought about my behavior in the previous 2 weeks, which was as long as they knew me. When I was honest with myself, I realized I was being louder than I normally was. Not because I was obnoxious or naturally loud, but because I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd, so I thought if I turned up my personality people would notice me and I would make friends quicker. But instead, I just came off as loud and alienating and it hurt. And I think what hurt most was that I wasn’t even being me. At that moment, I wished that I could get a “do over” and present myself as I really was.That was a life changing moment for me. From that moment on, I wanted to make sure that the way I was perceived by other people was as close to the way I saw myself as possible and I became much more aware of my actions.
Important note: Part of considering what other people say about you is to first reflect on the person and the circumstance. Not all feedback provided by others will be useful or valid. But listening to trusted people who provide constructive supportive feedback is an invaluable way to become more self-aware.
2. Be purposeful about what you say and do
How does this painting make you feel? Does it energize and excite you or does it make you feel tranquil and at peace?
Most people would probably say that this painting makes them feel calm and introspective. How does the artist evoke feelings from you? Well this artist made specific choices such as the chosen color palette and the subject of a setting sun on the horizon just beyond the end of a dock.
Whether we realize it or not, we are similar to the artist because we elicit certain feelings and behavior from others when we choose what we do, say, and wear for example. Those are our materials. What choices do you make that other people see and interpret?
- What tone of voice do you use and how does it sound to others?
- What type of words do you choose?
- What do you usually talk about?
- How do you dress your body? What colors do you wear?
- How do you enter a room?
I encourage you to think deeply about your choices and decide how well they line up with what you want to project to others. When we choose how we want to make people feel and act accordingly, we are more likely to act in a way that is more in line with how we view ourselves. If you want people to trust you, be trustworthy with your actions. If you want people to be at comfortable around you, think about ways you might make them comfortable around you.
3. Reflect on your interactions with people
Think about how your interactions with other people tend to go. Both first time interactions with strangers and those with people you interact with over a long period of time. How do you feel before, during, and after talking with certain people?
Do you get the feeling that people shy away from you or are they drawn to you?
How can you tell?
If you are not getting the types of responses from people that you would like, it may be time to go inside yourself and really think about your actions. Part of being self aware is to try to understand other people better.
As human beings, we are wired to be social. In order to have a full and engaging life, interacting with other people is required to some degree. Because of this, it is helpful to have a basic ability to present yourself in a way that does not offend other people and will encourage other people to want to be around you.
Being self-aware helps facilitate easier relationships with both strangers and loved ones.
So in the comments below, I’d like to hear about how you can be more self-aware in your own life.