Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.

It is not to be confused with consciousness in the sense of qualia. 

Self-awareness is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses (internal self-awareness), as well as how you affect others and are perceived by them (external self-awareness).

When you’re self-aware, you’re typically able to make smarter decisions and handle feedback and constructive criticism, because you have a healthy and positive sense of who you are. Also, to the self-aware, the constructive criticism you receive may sting, but it isn’t a huge blow to your sense of self.

People believe they’re more self-aware than they really are. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, executive coach and author of the book Insight, explained to Harvard Business Review: “‘According to our research with thousands of people from all around the world, 95 percent of people believe that they’re self-aware, but only about 10 to 15 percent really are.’”

One way to cultivate self-awareness is by being open to feedback, Gourani says. “Feedback is not easy to a lot of people, and it is an essential component of change. You have blind spots and it is like ‘you’ve got broccoli in your teeth …’ You need people to tell you that, because you can’t see it.” Eurich says it’s helpful to check in with a core group of trusted people (three to five people at different levels at work) you depend on for feedback and criticism. She dubs these people “your loving critics.” So when you receive feedback or criticism from an unknown source or one you may not trust, you can check in with your loving critics.

The truth is, the higher you go in the corporate ladder, the less self-aware you tend to become. Perception and how you come across to others has to be something you own, whether you agree with it or not.

Another way for leaders to cultivate self-awareness is to practice a technique called a “pre-mortem,” or anticipating unexpected outcomes. In other words, write down the opposite of what you think is going to happen, so you’re considering all the factors. Also, if you’re trying to cultivate self-awareness in others, there’s nothing better than good old-fashioned constructive feedback that is “timely, specific and future-oriented,” Eurich said. In other words, set your expectations of what you would like to see in the future.


Seeking Awakening of Self-awareness.

Awakening is a moment of deep, deep insight. A moment of drastically expanded awareness. A moment of boundless presence. One can’t do anything to produce this moment, but one can increase awareness, one can expand presence.

Cultivating one’s awareness does not guarantee that awakening will happen, not even a little, but it does create an environment that is more conducive to awakening.