Self-Awareness is a term that has been used rather superficially in organizational life – but what does it really mean? Most leaders would say they are self-aware. It is a necessary requirement in leadership. I would argue that self-awareness isn’t as prevalent as we are lead to believe. Self-awareness, in my opinion; is the ability to really understand one’s behavior in relation to others. It is our ability to see ourselves in ‘the third person’. Are you able to see yourself in that way? Most of us would say ‘no’. Our unique behavior comes from our ‘internal dialogue’. By this, I mean the pictures, memories, thoughts or views that we have developed over our life time. From our early childhood until adulthood we are evolving and developing how we see ourselves in relation to our world. Our life’s journey, shapes the way we think and the way we think about ourselves. In our mind this becomes our reality. Our sensorial experiences create a picture of who we are and what we stand for. They become our ‘values’ which then become ‘hard wired’ and hard to shift. Let me give you an example: Have you ever sung in the shower and imagined that you were on stage with a band behind you singing your favourite song and the crowd cheering in the background only to be told (by someone in your external world) “oh my god, what the xxxx was that? Your internal world was telling you how amazing you were! Some might say you lack self-awareness but that is not my point – my point it is that your internal world dictates how you see yourself in your external world.
Self-awareness is the ability to bring your internal world and external world together. It is the innate ability to understand how your internal world impacts the external. At the risk of going even deeper – it is the ability to bring the unconscious into consciousness. To give you another example: I observed someone I work with. This person would tell me when they are uncomfortable about something – not by telling me but by bringing her front teeth over her bottom lip. She is completely unaware that she does this. I came to this conclusion because I watched her pattern in each scenario – and I saw it every time. To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I asked my colleague (a psychologist) to observe what I had seen. I didn’t tell her my thoughts only about the teeth over the lip. Every time, she observed her doing this, she said she was in an awkward or difficult position. Telling you this is not an attempt to put anyone down, only to make us all aware that there are things we do unconsciously. Ask someone you trust whether you have certain expressions or something you do when under pressure. This will become the first step towards becoming self-aware!
If you would like more information about how you relation to others visit www.NIODA.org.au they do some great experiential work on ‘self’ and ‘group awareness’.