Before we dive into the stages of self-awareness, let’s first take a look at what it actually means to be self-aware.
Self-awareness involves understanding your own internal states, emotions and intuitions and being able to observe and monitor your inner world. People who are self-aware tend to act consciously (rather than passively), maintain good psychological health and have a positive outlook on life.
However, it can be difficult to cultivate self-awareness simply because of the complexity of our human nature. It takes effort, time and a capacity to be non-judgemental to observe and understand ourselves more. When we’re caught up in actually living our lives (and all the challenges, stressors, reactions, emotions and pressures this can entail) it can be hard to step back and just observe.
For example, if you’re about to jump out of a plane for your first sky-diving adventure, it would be a challenge to disentangle yourself from the fear and adrenalin to observe your thoughts and feelings.
According to psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, we spend around half of our time acting unconsciously, or on “autopilot.” Our mind wanders and we lose our conscious connection with ourselves and the experience of the present moment.
However, working towards becoming more self-aware is something which can truly help to enrich your life. The more you are able to understand and connect with yourself, the more potential there is to experience benefits such as positivity, better life choices, authenticity, self-compassion and feeling connected with your purpose.
Let’s take a look at the different stages of self-awareness and self-empowerment, as well as some simple exercises to help you cultivate your own self-awareness.
In this first stage of self-awareness, you can start to explore your inner world with non-judgement and curiosity. Notice how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling challenged by, what your self-talk sounds like and how you react to the world around you.
In this stage of awareness, you’ll discover how to identify some of your inner selves. You may notice your inner child (the echo of the child you once were) reacting instinctively when faced with a threat. You may notice your inner nurturer seeking to soothe yourself, or those around you. You may notice your inner rebel pushing back against the rules. You may notice your inner victim, responsible parent, controller, joker, perfectionist, fixer, or critic.
Remember that it’s ok to have a huge range of inner selves and none of these are “bad” or “wrong.” They are all parts of you which you can observe and become familiar with.
As you move through the first two stages of self-awareness, you may notice yourself fighting against (or ignoring) various inner selves you perceive as “bad.” However, it’s important to start embracing all of yourself, including the inner selves you may not particularly like.
For example, perhaps when you were a child, you were often punished for being a joker, so you started to lock that part of yourself away. As you become more self-empowered, you can start to welcome back the funnier aspects of yourself and express them in healthy ways.
At this stage, you may also become more familiar with the vulnerabilities of your inner child. The more you embrace, converse with and soothe this inner child, the more they will begin to settle down as a result of feeling safe, protected and heard.
At this stage, you will start feeling able to create real changes in your life as a result of your self-awareness journey. This may involve creating better relationships through calm communication, living your life in a way that’s more authentic to you and listening to your intuition. You will also be able to connect with your inner child during challenging times to care and protect that child from responsibility, fear and stress. Your inner selves will likely be much more familiar to you and you’ll be able to better monitor and observe them without judgement.