Big Picture

Why self-awareness is your best friend & 4 tips to get better at it

Self-awareness. It is a superpower. If you think you have it covered, think again. In a five-year self-awareness study, it was discovered that although 95% of respondents thought they were self-aware, only 10% to 15% fit the criteria. The disparity is explained by the imbalance between how we see ourselves (internal self-awareness) and how others see us (external self-awareness). Genuine self-awareness, like a bona fide best friend, is a rare quality.    

Your best friend. There are friends, acquaintances, and then there are the superlative best friends. Your best friend does not judge; they support you, are your go-to and have your interests at heart. They see the best and worst of you, know your deepest secrets and even shames. They tell you the home truths, often when it is not easy to do. 

The self-awareness attribute acts in the same way but above and beyond. The attribute is your best friend forever- if you nurture, cultivate, and embrace it. Like all relationships, for the one with yourself to be profound, it must be honest, humble, kind and bestow lashings of self-love. That is what best friends do. 

Best friends are frequently referred to as soul mates. Well, heightened self-awareness is the pathway to your soul. Nurturing self-awareness is a fascinating exercise of self-discovery. The better you understand yourself, the more accurate your perception of others and the stronger your connections. 

So, how to develop self-awareness?

  1. Feedback.
    Feedback is a gift and plays a notable role in self-awareness. It is also a gift, not viewed as impertinent to ask for. Most people dread feedback, but being in this state holds you back. When isolated from the observations and opinions of others, all we have is our inner voice. All we know is our own truth. While the views of others are not always accurate, even the wrong ones can bring us closer to understanding ourselves. Without feedback, we rely only on our own myopic view, become too comfortable and we stop growing.

    Direct feedback is provided both verbally and written. Verbal feedback can sometimes be given in the heat of the moment, which is not ideal as it incorporates other inflections that undermine the intended message and is the reason why people dread feedback.

    Sensory feedback is picking up on the signs, subtle and not-so-subtle cues. Sensory feedback is formidable and when self-awareness is developed, you will be flooded with daily sensory signals and some from people unaware they are communicating with you. It is their unconscious messaging! But, your sensory receptors need to be ‘on’. Don’t be on silent mode, ignoring incoming calls.

  2. Asking for feedback.
    First, be great at receiving feedback. If defensive, people will refrain from providing honest feedback. Don’t go to the people who you know will say nice things. You are not seeking positive affirmations; you want feedback, a genuine opinion. If you disagree with what you have heard, ask for examples to understand better. Mostly, do not take it personally. It will cause discomfort for all and put you on mute, can’t see, can’t hear. Or rather, don’t want to see or hear.
  3. Patterns and trends.
    To find truths from feedback, look for patterns and trends. When there is repetition, anticipate some sort of message for you. Look for a common word, phrase, or statement. It could be that you are stubborn. Perhaps there is a grain of truth? You may be disappointed initially, but instead, view it as a gift to learn more about yourself. Ultimately, you choose what to do with the information gifted to you. 
  4. The leadership trap.
    Experience and power can hinder self-awareness.
    Power in positions can impair a leader’s search for disconfirming evidence. We might think the more experienced we are, the better our self-awareness. Not so! The problem is that the more senior our roles, the fewer people we surround ourselves with and the less people above to provide honest feedback. 

Who wants to tell the CEO their delivery lacked empathy or that they alienated half the audience with the opening joke? Not many, and yet of all the roles, these are the people who need it the most. 

Once you develop your self-awareness, you become honest not just about the parts of yourself that you like but those that you don’t. Human beauty lies in imperfection, in the shadow and the light of our psyche. To be genuinely self-aware means acknowledging and accepting it all and doing the same for others. Being fine with our weaknesses, inadequacies, and shortcomings makes us complete. Only then we can arrive on the path of self-discovery and ultimate self-awareness.


Written by Roxanne Calder.
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Roxanne Calder
Roxanne Calder, the author of ‘Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future’ (Major Street $29.95), is the founder and managing director of EST10 – one of Sydney’s most successful administration recruitment agencies. Roxanne is passionate about uncovering people’s potential and watching their careers soar.


Roxanne Calder is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.