“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. Aristotle wasn’t telling us all those centuries ago to succumb to navel-gazing. He was telling us to learn from mistakes, accept our weaknesses and live our values. Such self awareness puts you in command of your life with stronger relationships.
So, what is self-awareness and why is it important? Simply put, self-awareness is when we are in touch with our moods, emotions, feelings, dreams, values, beliefs and anything else in our internal worlds.
As a theory, self-awareness was first developed by social psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund in 1972 when they published theirtheory of self-awareness.
More recently psychiatrist Daniel Goleman brought the term to the world of business in 1995 with his bookEmotional Intelligence and subsequent research. Interestingly, psychologist Tasha Eurich has expanded on the definition as detailed in her HBR article onwhat self-awareness is.
Eurich talks about 2 aspects of self-awareness. The first one is knowing ourselves and the second one is understanding the gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
This second part where we close the gap is particularly important for self awareness in relationships otherwise, the danger is that you become too self-focused.
More specifically, why is self awareness important? So that you can close that gap and reduce your suffering created by the misunderstandings from within that gap.
Why do you need self-awareness?
Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence because with self-awareness you learn to self-regulate and to motivate yourself. Moreover, you gain a greater understanding of your emotions so you can understand others’ emotions which leads to empathy and improved social skills.
In a nutshell, why is self awareness important? So that you can build emotional intelligence and become a wiser person, with the following benefits, who isn’t at the mercy of their emotions.
Living your life as a self-aware individual allows you to stay in the present and know exactly who you are and what you need from life.
It allows you to easily let go of toxic people who drain the life out of you since you know what you deserve.
As a self-aware individual, you are more able to learn from your mistakes. If you can then partner your self-awareness with positivity and confidence, you’ll develop a growth mindset which is the ultimate path to a successful life. With a growth mindset, mistakes are learning opportunities and not failures.
Along with self-awareness comes self-acceptance. You start seeing your strengths and weaknesses for what they are such that you silence the inner perfectionist and accept that you’re human.
You also grasp your boundaries and understand your limitations because you know what you need. Moreover, you are objective and rational and can calmly say no when needed.
Self-awareness allows you to be yourself. This comes with empathy and assertiveness.
It gives birth to better productivity, and since you have a better hold on your emotions, you can more easily separate reactivity from proactivity. You also know where you best add value.
10 ways to increase self awareness with romantic partners
Do you want to live such that your subconscious rules your actions and moods? We think we’re in control but lack of self awareness gets us caught up in strong emotions, we react and we say things we later regret.
Furthermore, lack of self awareness often pushes us to live according to other people’s expectations.
When was the last time you reviewed your day-to-day to your values? Most Western society is built on values of wealth and power. Sadly, many people have different values but never break away from the cycle.
Similarly in relationships. Why is it important to be self aware? So you can be aligned with how you approach life together. For example, you might value adventure and risk taking but if your partner values stability and consistency, you’ll have a challenge on your hands.
The good news is that there are ways to improve self awareness and work through those challenges.
How to improve self-awareness starts with getting to know your internal world. Meditation is a powerful technique to do this because the aim is to observe i.e. to be aware.
There are many different types of meditation but usually, you start with an object of meditation to increase your concentration. With this concentration, defined differently for various styles of meditation, you gradually start seeing through the noise of inner chatter.
Most popular types of meditation focus on the breath because it’s easy and understandable by everyone. Nevertheless, you can choose whatever you want. For example, you can focus on your thoughts, body sensations, sounds or anything that your senses can pick up.
The more you practice, the more you become aware of your patterns of thoughts and emotions. You’ll start truly appreciating that emotions don’t define you and neither does your inner voice. With time, you’ll become more grounded and more accepting of who you are.
How to be more self aware in a relationship starts with self-reflection or introspection. As Tara Eurich mentions though, the aim is not to fall into self-absorption. Nevertheless, with self-reflection, we learn from our mistakes and we find meaning in our choices.
To do this, ask yourself the question “what”. For instance, what is causing this sudden spike in anxiety? What can I do to calm the situation? When we ask ourselves the question “why” too much, we can fall down the black hole of despair.
3. Keep a journal
You can greatly enhance self awareness in relationships through journaling. The process of writing helps tap into your subconscious so that you can better understand your emotions and subsequent behaviors.
There are countless ways to keep a journal; you can jot down your thoughts and feelings and start to understand your actions better. You can then take a trip down memory lane and explore what you could have done differently in specific situations.
How to improve self-awareness also involves reading novels. As you read about people’s lives, you gain different perspectives, which impacts empathy. In the process, you expand your language on emotions which makes it easier for you to then describe your own.
Ways to improve self awareness is to carve out time during your week for your reflection. To journal or sit quietly and contemplate doesn’t just happen. You need to schedule it, whether it’s 15 minutes at the end of the day or half an hour or longer once a week.
6. Practice active listening
How to be more self aware in a relationship means being alert to your biases and triggers. These are what stop you from listening.
Instead, work with your partner to find a common language. One example is to say, I’m having a background conversation so I need a pause. Alternatively, my inner voice is highly active so can we talk about this later?
Practicing self awareness means not believing your inner voice. The more aware you become, the more you can hit pause on that voice and leave your judgements aside. With time, you reframe your beliefs and you become more open to other people’s different experiences.
So, get used to writing down your beliefs and really challenging them. How have they served you until now and do they still serve you? What can you change them into to be more helpful?
A great way to have our beliefs challenged is to network with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Why not explore new hobbies that give you that exposure?
8. Get feedback
Self awareness in relationships grows with feedback. It isn’t easy receiving feedback though and the irony is that you need awareness to truly embody feedback.
How important is self awareness? If you want to reach that elusive happiness, it’s critical. Whilst happiness is just a concept, the more you live to your values and free yourself from your thoughts and emotions, the more content you will be.
Practicing self awareness takes work and patience. We also need a sounding board and ally to keep us on track and away from self-absorption. A leadership or life coach is well-prepared to guide you.
7 ways self awareness boosts relationships
So, why is self awareness important in relationships? To align yourselves with what you want in life and to better manage conflict. Some of the major self awareness benefits lie in the fact that you’ll understand each other’s needs and how to meet them.
1. Boosts personal growth
Why is it important to be self aware? That’s because it’s a lifelong journey that starts now and never ends. There’s always more to learn about ourselves including how we change throughout life.
If you don’t start this journey, you miss out on living. You never discover who you truly are and you never grow into the best version of yourself.
Socrates famously said “the unexamined life is not worth living” when on trial. He was talking about his accusers who were caught up in greed, self-absorption and pride. Is that how you want to end up?
2. Encourages feedback
Conflicts in relationships are inevitable but being self-aware enables you to handle criticism and feedback more proactively and constructively. Moreover, disagreements don’t have to be seen as a sign of trouble and can help strengthen a relationship if resolved in the right manner.
Instead, self awareness in relationships leads to co-exploration as you help each other grow.
3. Builds kindness and empathy
Self awareness importance lies in relationships because the more you understand your emotions and thoughts, the more you appreciate that everyone else experiences those same emotions.
Of course, the details are different but with time, you become kinder to your inner critic and so, in turn, kinder to others.
Watch this video by Jamil Zaki, Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab, to discover practical ways to practice empathy:
We’ve already mentioned listening but it works both ways. As you become more self-aware, you better know your biases and can stop pushing them onto others. You are more open to different perspectives because you appreciate that yours is only one example.
Self awareness benefits include connecting with people, especially your partner. You are now more aware of your behaviors and how they impact your partner so you can make adjustments. Likewise, you can let go of judging and blaming so leading to a more positive dynamic.
6. Builds resilience
Self awareness importance lies in your long-term happiness. Overall, life is hard and we need resilience for that. Resilience is knowing how to recover from challenges. The more aware you are, the easier it is to remind yourself that mistakes happen, life is tough but that you have the inner resources to move on.
How important is self awareness? With it, you’ll be able to design a life that fits your values with the people who complement those values. Moreover, you’ll know how to leverage your strengths to make your dreams a reality and you’ll have the empathy and wisdom to find the right partner to live them with.
Develop your best relationship with self-awareness
In summary, what is self-awareness and why is it important? Self-awareness is knowing our internal world whilst also understanding how people perceive us. The more we close the gap with how we see ourselves, the more likely life will meet our expectations.
Why is self awareness important in relationships? That’s because self-awareness cultivates empathy, a growth mindset and resilience. Most importantly, you’ll be open to growing together with your partner and laughing through mistakes. The journey never ends and constantly surprises us if we embrace it fully.
As Alice says in Alice in Wonderland, “I knew who I was this morning but I’ve changed a few times since then”. Keep being Alice and keep questioning.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.