Developing self-awareness is the foundation of all important life changes and deep inner work. The more self-aware we are, the more we can understand, accept, and love ourselves. And the more we love ourselves, the more we can love others. Can you see how this is all connected? Self-Awareness: 11 Ways to Increase It in an Unconscious World.
Go through the following self-awareness activities list and choose one practice that resonates with you. Try it out for one week and see how you feel. Then, repeat the process!
1. Tune into your body
Your body is one of the most direct ways to connect with your emotions. If you tend to get lost in your head too much, practice scanning your body. Search for areas of tension or discomfort and ask, “What is happening here?” For instance, you might find yourself clenching your fists or jaw and realize that you’re feeling angry. You might have tense shoulders and realize that you’re “carrying the weight of the world” on your shoulders. Or you might even discover that a persistent physical issue you have is connected with a stressful place or person. Once you have become aware of the issue, you can then take steps to reduce your stress, anger or sadness.
2. Identify your specific type of “body armor”
Body armoring was a concept developed by psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and came to describe the process of storing traumatic experiences within the muscles of our bodies. ‘The issue is within the tissue’ in other words. If you have a certain part of your body that is frequently sore, stiff or full of pain, it is likely that there’s some kind of trapped or reinforced emotion stuck there. By paying attention to your body, you will be able to identify your type of body armoring. Read more about how to explore the emotions hidden in your muscle tension.
3. Ask someone to point out your blind spots
Yes, I know this initially sounds pretty damn scary. But it’s actually one of the most powerful self-awareness activities out there. A word of caution, though: unless you want to be roasted, it’s better to find a trusted friend, counselor, spiritual guide or coworker for this activity. You’ll want to ensure this person is close to you and feels comfortable with being honest. Then, ask them to reveal any weaknesses or unhelpful habits that you might possess. Remember that for this task you have to mentally prepare yourself. You don’t want to ask someone to do a favor for you and then tear out their throat in anger! Facing our flaws can be confronting and distressing to the ego. So ensure that you’re in a calm and centered space beforehand. Studies have shown that our coworkers can evaluate our strengths and weaknesses twice as more accurately than we can – they see things that we can’t or won’t see. The more people you seek out, the better. Make use of the insight others have in your life and use it to your advantage.
4. Stand in front of the mirror
A simple but powerful way of becoming more self-aware is to listen to your self-talk. The best way that I’ve found of doing this is to stand right in front of the mirror staring at yourself. What insecurities or negative self-judgments arise? What are the dominant feelings you experience? Mirror work will give you a direct insight into how you perceive yourself, and therefore increase your self-awareness.
5. Think about your greatest strengths
Reflect on your accomplishments and the things you’re proud of. What do you like about yourself? Get a journal and record all of your discoveries. The more aware you are of your strengths, the more you’ll be able to make self-aware decisions that are aligned with your authentic self.
6. Explore your biggest weaknesses
It might seem unnecessary or even detrimental to explore your weaknesses, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” Once you are able to face and own these darker parts of yourself, the more freedom and power you will paradoxically experience. My favorite way to explore weaknesses is by examining the shadow (read more about shadow work). To begin this process, make a habit of noticing whenever you experience strong emotions such as shame, guilt, anger, resentment, and fear. Ask, “what triggered these feelings?” You might even like to keep a shadow journal to record your discoveries so that you can track your journey of self-awareness.
7. What is your #1 distraction?
Our distractions tell us a great deal about our fears, impulses, and hidden desires. What unnecessary task takes up a lot of your time? Perhaps it might be watching TV, online shopping, snacking, masturbating, scrolling through Instagram, playing video games, gossiping with friends or even getting lost in daydreams. Distraction isn’t always a bad thing, but when we obsessively find ways of escaping reality, there’s a problem. Draw awareness to your distractions and you will be on the path to greater self-insight.
8. Practice meditation and mindfulness
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, whereas meditation is learning how to become aware of your thoughts. Together, they make a dynamic duo. Mindfulness helps to ground you in reality which increases self-awareness. Meditation, on the other hand, is a way in which you can become intimately acquainted with your mind and its processes. Both practices can be incorporated relatively effortlessly into your day. If you have five or ten minutes to spare, take time to drop into your body and senses. Here are eight mindfulness practices you may like to explore. I also recommend apps such as Calm to support your meditation practice.
9. Keep a daily ‘sunshine and sh*t’ journal
Record all the things you loved and hated within your day (aka. the sunshine and shit!). Write down how you felt, what your plans are, and anything else you’d like to express. Journaling is a simple and powerful form of self-expression that is a wonderful way to enhance your self-awareness.
10. What do you dislike the most in others?
“I hate people who are judgmental” I once remember saying. My wise friend at the time turned around and retorted, “but aren’t you judging those people for being judgmental?” Oops. Yeah, it happens a lot. Most of us aren’t even aware that we are projecting a lot of our shit onto other people. Why? Because when we disown the parts we dislike about ourselves, it’s easier to live with ourselves. But the easy path is the lazy path. Self-growth isn’t always flowers and rainbows, and nor does it need to be. The reality is that if we want to become truly self-aware, we need to own our projections at some point or another. By reclaiming and embracing the denied, suppressed, and shunned aspects of ourselves, we feel more at peace with ourselves and those around us. This, of course, requires radical self-honesty. Do you have the guts to own your projections? Check out my article on psychological projection.
11. Read books, take tests, attend workshops
Self-awareness is a life-long process – there is no real ‘end’ point because we are constantly morphing and evolving. It would be pretty boring if self-awareness could be condensed into a five-day retreat! With this in mind, it’s important to have fun on the journey. There are so many intriguing ways to ‘peel back the layers’ of your psyche. This entire website, for example, has hundreds of articles which can help increase your self-awareness. I’ve also designed a hell of a lot of free psychological and spiritual tests, which you can find in our free tests section. So, in essence, have an insatiable thirst for self-knowledge. Go out there and watch lectures, attend workshops, and gain new skills. See life as a school and use every opportunity you can to increase your self-awareness and self-acceptance – it’s such a beautiful way to live life!