What Does Developing Your Self Awareness Even Mean?


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I hear this question fairly often and it’s a good one.  The term self-awareness is ubiquitous in its use and yet how many people actually stop to really consider its meaning.

In this blog post, I am going to discuss a few definitions of self-awareness and why I believe it is the starting point for all leadership development.

Here are three different definitions of self-awareness.

Pick your favourite!

‘Conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.’ Oxford English Dictionaries.

‘Self-awareness involves being aware of different aspects of the self-including traits, behaviours, and feelings. Essentially, it is a psychological state in which oneself becomes the focus of attention.’   Rachel Goldman Psychologist in an article on Self Awareness.[1]

‘The consequences of focusing attention on the self.’ The American Psychological Association.   (The association also clearly points out that there is a difference between subjective and objective self-awareness.  More on that later!)

Whatever way you choose to look at it, self-awareness relates to your perceptions of self and how you feel about them.

Let’s look briefly at the two types of self-awareness.

Subjective self-awareness means how you perceive your own emotions, behaviours and attitudes.  In other words, your own relationship to your own awareness.

Objective self-awareness is about how you assess yourself in relation to other people and external factors.   This is where the development of self-awareness comes in.  Even though it still includes reflecting on our own emotions and behaviours – this is where we look to act and improve ourselves.

To return to the question at hand, developing your self-awareness means taking account of how your emotions, behaviours and attitudes affect you and your life.  It also means looking objectively at how you can develop in these areas to improve yourself and your life.

Here are a few strategies to develop your self-awareness:

Journaling is a great tool to learn more about yourself.  How are you feeling today? What is currently holding you back in your life? What is frustrating you?  What do you believe about yourself in this moment?  What areas of your life do you need to work on?  What are your strengths?   I could go on!   There are literally hundreds of questions you could ask yourself to develop awareness.  Take a new question every day and journal on it.   Look back in a month and you will be amazed at what you have learnt about yourself.

Once after having a really bad day, I started to journal just to get it out on the page and out of my head.  I wrote about ten or eleven pages of A4.  I didn’t re-read it and just put my journal away.  About six weeks later I came across it and re-read it.  I was astounded at how astute I had been about some of the areas I needed to address – which I had subsequently done.   It was an incredibly valuable exercise.

Another really useful way to develop your self-awareness is to find out what your emotional triggers are and when they usually occur.   This will help you to self-regulate – a key part of Emotional Intelligence.  When we allow our triggers to control us, we are not in charge of our emotional well-being.  We are at the mercy of our emotions and that reveals a lack of self-awareness.  You may not manage it every time and that’s cool, but awareness is the key.  If you don’t know what triggers you, you will just keep reacting.

Finally, and obviously one of my favourites (!) use self-assessment tools to find out more about what drives you, what areas you need to develop and what strengths you can lean into.   I recommend the EBW assessment.    For a free 20-minute consultation to find out more, just click here to book a slot.


I am offering a 25% discount on all assessments booked between now and the 1st December so it’s a great time!  To avail of this discount quote ‘SELF 17,’ in any correspondence.

[1] https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-awareness-2795023


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