If you lack self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are won’t get very far.
~ Daniel Goleman
Why is self-awareness so vital? Because distressing emotions, limiting beliefs, and self-sabotage are a natural part of being born and growing up. If you aren’t self-aware, you cannot solve mental and emotional problems that can otherwise be resolved.
Lacking self-awareness, yet desiring inner peace, is like taking your broken-down car to a yogurt shop and expecting the staff to tell you what went wrong and then fix it. Nothing against yogurt shop staff:) They just aren’t trained as auto mechanics.
In this post, I’ll mention ten important areas of self-awareness, then refer you to a free online quiz that tests your level of self-awareness in each area.
FYI, the following self-awareness categories are of my own design, based on my 25 years working as a counselor and coach. These are not areas of clinical assessment or diagnostic in any way.
10 Areas of Self-Awareness You Should Understand
Self-awareness is taking an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.
~ Debbie Ford
1. Inner Self – Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic (VAK)
This is the seeing, hearing, and feeling model that comes from neuro-linguistic programming. The VAK model recognizes that we process information within, primarily through three of the five senses: seeing, hearing and feeling. Further, our processing is redundant. In other words, seeing an internal image will inspire feelings about the image and sounds either related to the image or our own inner commentary. Seeing, hearing and feeling all work together.
How self-aware are you of the inner images, sounds, and feelings in your mind and body? Most people have at least one area of the VAK model where they are not as strongly aware as others. Discovering where you are less aware can lead to an opportunity to expand your self-awareness.
2. Personal Paradigm: What’s Your Worldview?
A personal paradigm is a worldview. It typically answers questions about how life exists and why we’re here. Is there a God? Or not? Why are people on earth? What’s our nature: good, evil, spiritual, animal or what? And so forth.
What’s your personal paradigm? Knowing where you stand in relation to these questions brings clarity to your life and informs your life purpose. Of course, it is not necessary to claim to know the objective truth about the universe in order to hold a personal paradigm, which consists of beliefs.
3. Personal Beliefs Related to Yourself
Personal beliefs are perspectives about what is true (for you). In the self-awareness test at the iNLP Center, we focus on your beliefs related to who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing in the world. Naturally, some of our self-related beliefs are positive and some are negative. We’re all a mixed bag. Still, your personal beliefs shape your world and often determine what you’re willing to do in life. This is an important area to explore.
4. Life Values: What is Most Important to You?
Life values are indications of what’s important to you in life. You can trust that a value is important to you (or congruent) when it successfully guides your choices and behavior. If health is important to you, then you will make healthy decisions. If success is important to you, then you’ll make decisions and spend your time in ways that lead to greater success.
Being aware of your life values is like having a reliable guide for every important decision. Making decisions in line with your values is a sure path toward fulfillment.
5. Inner Conflict: How Are You Divided?
Inner conflict may be universal. It can happen when our beliefs or values conflict with each other. For example, you may believe you are capable of healing your emotional issues. At the same time, you may harbor serious doubts. This is a sign of inner conflict.
You may also have values that conflict. You may value security because it helps you feel safe. At the same time, you may love freedom. These two values may lead to conflicting desires and difficult decisions.
Inner conflict is one of the more complex issues to diagnose, but when we’re aware, we can begin the internal negotiation process necessary to heal the divide. Self-awareness is the first step!
6. Stress and Negativity Triggers
Triggers are those things that automatically bring on a negative, frustrating state. A classic example is someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard (although chalkboards aren’t so common anymore:). This can automatically make you cringe.
Throughout each day, when you find yourself in a negative state, there is always a trigger – something (on the inside or outside) that prompted the bad emotional reaction. A particular tone of voice or seeing a specific object (dirty socks left on the floor) might trigger you, for example.
When you know your specific stress and negativity triggers, you can begin to deprogram them – to create a different response.
7. Inner Parents: How Are You a Reflection of Your Parents?
The influence of parents or primary caregivers is pervasive. Nobody leaves childhood without taking their parents with them in some form on the inside. Beliefs, values, behaviors and personal paradigms are all heavily influenced by parents during our formative years. How are you carrying your parental influence?
This may be a hard one to see or admit, especially if you’re resentful toward your parents. Who wants to know he acts like just his father when he hates his father? Still, this level of self-awareness will allow you to change how you act, which makes the most sense of all if you are resentful.
8. Personal Limitations or Abilities
We all have limitations. Some of these are self-imposed, usually due to limiting beliefs. Others are legitimate limitations to our intelligence and natural skills. For example, I know I do not have the intellectual capacity to formulate physics theories like Einstein. I know I can’t beat Roger Federer in tennis. In this case, the word can’t is not a negative term. It’s simply the truth about the limits of my skills or natural gifts.
Knowing your real-world limitations could be experienced as a huge relief. When you’re clear about what you can and can’t do, you no longer need to pretend otherwise or take on inappropriate commitments. Most of all, you can bring expectations of yourself in life with reality – another relief.
9. Self-Sabotage: How Do You Get in Your Own Way?
Getting in our own way is another universal tendency. Do you know why you sometimes sabotage your own success? And do you know how – or understand the intention behind doing so?
Self-sabotage may be the most perplexing issue of all. Why would anyone harm herself? Still, we all do in one way or another. Worse, self-sabotage is difficult to see because we tend to look outside ourselves and place blame instead of looking within for the cause of our angst.
Again, self-awareness is the solution. You’ve got to see a problem before you can take any proactive steps to resolve it.
10. Your Future: Got Goals?
Human beings are naturally goal-oriented. We move toward what we want. Consciously setting goals is one way to be intentional about your future. This section of the self-awareness test at the iNLP Center will help you learn where you stand in this area.
The Self-Awareness Test
The iNLP Center self-awareness test addresses the above ten areas of self-awareness. Again, this is not a clinical test – it’s a free, online quiz intended for educational purposes only. It’s a non-commercial, no-obligation exploration of self-awareness. No email address required. You will be forwarded to your results immediately.
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