7 ways to build self-awareness


Why self-awareness? When it comes to being Emotionally Intelligent, self-awareness is often described as the ‘cornerstone’ of our EQ. I’ve shared this post from the vault, as I think our self-awareness has been a bit bruised in these uncertain times. The good news is that we can take small, steady steps. Here’s a few reasons why it’s worth taking time to build our self-awareness:

  • We can identify what we’re good at (and not so good at)
  • We can better manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours
  • We can notice our inner dialogue (which may be working well for us – or not helping at all) and compare it against reality
  • We can improve our Emotional Intelligence
  • We can improve our relationships with others
  • We can be more fulfilled at work and beyond

How to build awareness and where to start?

1. Practising meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness exercises encourage us to take some time to be quiet, introspective and accepting of our thoughts. Join a class, form a group or simply get the app – such as Headspace or Calm.

2. Completing a psychometric assessment

There are heaps of assessments out there – some great, some not so. Find out if your workplace favours a particular tool and if it’s possible for you to get your profile.  If you’d rather look for an assessment beyond work, check out ’16 personalities’, or The VIA Institute on Character and complete the questionnaire to find your 24 Character Strengths. Discuss your assessment with a trusted friend and notice when you behave in ways that match your profile – and when you do the opposite!

3. Identifying your values

Getting clear on what really matters to you will help you better understand your reactions in some situations. Yes, we’ve all seen those corporate values on the wall – and maybe got a bit sceptical. On a personal level, make no mistake that values are A Big Deal. Acting in ways that go against our values can lead to the corrosive feeling of guilt; if another person prods our values it can be the end of a relationship. This post aims to help you get started.

4. Asking for feedback

We’re not the only person who has perceptions about ourselves. Feedback, given well, is a gift that we can benefit from. Does a respected colleague’s feedback on our ways of working ring true to our self-perception – or does it deliver a much-needed wake-up call? No excuses, there are plenty of people you can ask for feedback.

5. Reading and learning about self-awareness

Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ’ is a classic and still a good place to start. Other titles I recommend are ‘Emotional Agility’ by Susan David (after reading you can complete the self-assessment) and ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters.

6. Reflecting as a habit for learning

Reflection can help us learn from our everyday experience and in doing so, build our self-awareness. Just taking a few minutes towards the end of each day to pause thought on what’s gone well (and not so well) and what we’re grateful for can build a helpful habit. You can take a longer look on a weekly basis; here are some questions to help you do that. You can also keep a journal – a habit well worth getting – and learn from your observations.

7. Getting out of our comfort zone

“Eeek!” might be your response – and possibly mine too, depending on the challenge. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend we all book parachute jumps or other activities that put us in physical or psychological danger. That’s not getting out of our comfort zone so much as being in the zone of risk, danger and panic. If that’s your idea of fun, good for you. The rest of us can take steps to get out of our comfort zone by taking on something new, finding ways to use our strengths in different situations on different challenges, one step at a time.


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ 


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Please don’t copy it and pass it off as your own.

Image credit: Self-Awareness – Depositphotos – Deposit Photos

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