Self-awareness exercises will help us to become conscious of our primitive and self-destructive thoughts, beliefs, ideas, assumptions, and choices. Then, we become more peaceful, loving, and intelligent beings. Not only do we stop suffering, but the people in our lives stop reacting to our self-imposed misery. Instead, they find more peace.
An African proverb says, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside can do you no harm.”
Self-awareness is the condition of being constantly aware of your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and actions. It’s about truly understanding who you are, how you act alone or around others, and how you make decisions. It’s about developing who you really are versus who you are expected to be. Over time, consistency and practice develop your self-control.
It would be an understatement to say that self-awareness changed my life. In essence, it’s you learning how to be responsible for you.
Dr. Maya Angelou once said: “When you know better you do better.”
Once you become aware, that’s it; excuses are no longer viable. When you deny the facts about yourself, you start to live and breathe self-defeat.
Here are 27 essential actions for self-awareness and authentic living. By putting into practice the self-awareness activities in this article, you will slowly and steadily find more joy and fulfillment in daily life.
1. Understand your personality
How well do you know yourself? How deeply do you understand your motivations?
Knowing your personality type allows you to maximize your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Understanding your “strengths” and “talents” can be the difference between a good choice, and a great choice. (Strengths are skills and knowledge that can be acquired, while talents are innate).
2. The three why’s.
Before acting on a decision, ask yourself “Why?” Follow up your response with another “Why?” And then a third. If you can find three good reasons to pursue something, you’ll have clarity and be more confident in your actions.
Being self-aware means knowing your motives and determining whether they’re reasonable.
3. Define your values
Your values are the core principles that define who you are and how you want to live. By defining them, you create personal guidelines for all of your decisions and actions. Without knowing your values, you live in a reactive mode, allowing life circumstances and other people to define you. Try to define your personal values.
4. Align with your integrity
Your values help you define your integrity — what you believe to be right and wrong, good and bad. When you’re living out of alignment with your integrity, you are living inauthentically and subjecting yourself to feelings of guilt, confusion, fear, and remorse.
5. Practice self-evaluation and reflection.
Keep a journal and track your progress. How would you rate your current level of self-awareness out of ten? Think about how often you say regretful things; repeat bad habits; make absent-minded decisions, and have erratic thoughts.
Set regular goals, break big goals down into smaller milestones. Ask yourself at the end of each day, “What did I do well today?” And, “How can I improve on this tomorrow?”
6. Define and set your boundaries
Often we don’t recognize we have boundaries until someone repeatedly crosses them. Be warm toward others, but say no when you need to say no. Be serious about your work and your passions, and keep your boundaries firm to maintain the integrity of your goals and the work you put into them.
7. Know your habits
Habits are behaviors and thoughts we perform almost unconsciously. Some of our habits are positive, but some aren’t useful or can even be harmful and self-defeating. Begin to notice your habits and start to change those that no longer serve your greater good.
8. Monitor your self-talk.
There is non-stop commentary in our heads that is not always helpful. A little bit of negative self-talk can spiral into stress and depression.
Pay attention to the way you respond to your successes and failures — do you pass off your achievements as luck? And crucify yourself after failures? Positive and negative feedback loops will form in your mind based off how you respond to successes and failures. Being tough on yourself needs to be balanced with self-compassion. Celebrate your wins, forgive your losses.
9. Understand your emotions
Our feelings shift and change like waves in the ocean. Sometimes there’s an obvious cause for our emotions, but other times we don’t know why we’re feeling sad, angry, anxious, or agitated. Take time to acknowledge your emotions and seek out the possible cause for them. Watch for triggers and patterns that might help you manage or treat your emotions in the future.
10. Embrace your skills and talents
When you identify and improve upon your natural aptitudes and talents, you empower yourself and create opportunities for professional success and personal happiness. Recognizing your skills also improves your self-confidence and sense of personal fulfillment.
11. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Self-aware individuals know their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to work from that space. Being mindful of this means that you know when to reach out for assistance, and when you are good on your own.
12. Seek out your stress triggers
Pay attention when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed and determine the source of the stress. Rather than lashing out or allowing yourself to get sick or anxious, manage your stress by dealing with the triggers that cause it.
13. Know what motivates you
Pay attention to what excites and inspires you. What do you feel passionate about? What gives you a sense of fulfillment, purpose, or energy? When you recognize these things, find ways to make them more a part of your daily life.
14. Identify and address limiting beliefs
We all have negative beliefs triggered by past situations that we unconsciously cling to. These beliefs hold us back and create a false shroud of fear and doubt, limiting us from living to our potential. Most of these beliefs are no longer true for us. Begin to dismantle these outdated beliefs to free yourself to live fully.
15. Be accountable for your flaws.
Nobody is perfect. Being aware of your flaws, but failing to accept accountability, is leaving the job half-done. We’re often critical of others, while ignorant of our own flaws. Self-awareness helps turn the mirror on ourselves and prevents the hypocritical behavior.
Iteration and self-improvement only happen once you recognize a flaw. Create a habit of acknowledging your mistakes, rather than making excuses.
16. Define what is meaningful
We all crave meaning in life, but often we have no idea what is meaningful to us. For some, meaning relates to their religious beliefs. For others, a meaningful life is defined by a specific passion or purpose. What is meaningful for you, and how can you make that part of your life?
17. Practice saying ‘no’ to yourself.
The ability to say “no” to yourself to put off short-term gratification for the long-term gain is an important life-skill. Like a muscle, it is strengthened with exercise. The more you practice saying “no” to small daily challenges, the better you can withstand major temptations.
There are plenty of daily temptations — social media, junk food, gossiping, Youtube. Make a goal of saying “no” to five different temptations each day.
18. Understand vulnerability
Here is a beautiful quote I found on Tumblr about vulnerability . . . “Emotional vulnerability is when an individual surrenders fully to the joys and sorrows of giving and receiving love. It is when you break open locks and tear down walls—being open and transparent.” Are you capable of opening yourself up to another person and being completely transparent and real?
19. Recognize your passive-aggressive behaviors
According to Wikipedia, “passive-aggressive behavior is the indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, sarcasm, hostile jokes, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.” Do you see yourself in any of these behaviors? Passive aggression will sabotage your relationships and undermine your self-esteem.
20. Know your emotional triggers.
Self-aware individuals are able to identify their emotions as they are happening. Don’t repress your emotions or deny their causes; instead, be able to bend and flex with them, and fully process them before communicating with others.
21. Acknowledge and heal pain from the past
Untreated pain from your past will infect your happiness and success. Acknowledge where old wounds are still causing you grief, and work with a professional counselor to help you move past those wounds.
22. Examine your assumptions and beliefs
Often we have beliefs and assumptions we’ve adopted over time but have never challenged. These might have come from parents, peers, social expectations, or lack of knowledge. Look at all of your beliefs and determine if they still apply to you. Read and research contrary opinions so you fairly view all angles of your assumptions. This broadens your horizons and makes you a more balanced, understanding, and interesting person.
23. Acknowledge how you’ve caused pain
Have you caused someone pain or offended someone? Do you need to apologize and make amends? Be honest with yourself about the pain you have caused and take action to rectify it.
24. Notice the words you choose
Our words have power for good and bad. Do you speak words of kindness, acceptance, and love? Or do your words reflect judgment, resentment, or insecurity? Think before you speak, and choose your words carefully so you reflect truth and kindness.
25. Tune into your body
Your body sends you strong messages about what’s going on with your emotions. It also lets you know when you aren’t taking care of it with nutritious food and proper exercise. Pay attention to the messages from your body.
26. Notice and address your fears
Your fears can warn you about danger, but some fears aren’t based in reality or truth. Examine your fears to determine how they are holding you back and whether or not they are legitimate. Begin to challenge unfounded fears by taking action in spite of them.
27. Watch out for the victim mentality
A victim mentality is a developed personality trait in which one sees himself as powerless and victimized by others. Once you adopt this trait, you begin to accept your victimhood as true. Sometimes we use a victim mentality to manipulate others, as a form of passive aggression. This is a very off-putting trait to those around you, and will eventually undermine your self-esteem.
Meditation is a foundational practice for improving self-awareness. To focus solely on your breathing is to focus on a key internal process. You’ll become aware of how your mind wanders and get better at snapping out of distractions.