Self-awareness was first defined by Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund (1972), who proposed that, at a given moment, people can focus attention on the self or the external environment. In other words, when you focus on yourself, rather than your environment, you compare yourself with your standards of correctness. These standards of correctness specify how you ought to think, feel, and behave. They are, essentially, your values and beliefs, otherwise known as your ideals.
You feel pride or dissatisfaction depending on how well your behavior matches up with your standards of correctness. If you’re dissatisfied, you might make changes to your behavior to better align with your standards. For instance, you might note feelings of discontent in your current role, and recognize you value creativity but don’t have the opportunity to exercise that passion. That dissatisfaction could lead you to pursue other creative outlets, changing your behavior to fit your standards. Self-awareness, then, is a fundamental tool for self-control.
Tasha Eurich, a researcher, an organizational psychologist, and her team of researchers came up with two categories of self-awareness, which I think are important to note: internal self-awareness, and external self-awareness.
Internal self-awareness is something I’ve already mentioned — it is how you see your values, passions, and aspirations, and how well those standards fit with your environment and your reactions (which include thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses). Essentially, internal self-awareness is recognizing your current job doesn’t match your true passion for marketing, or feeling dissatisfied with a heated conversation you had with your colleague, which conflicts with your belief that kindness is important.
External self-awareness, on the other hand, is the ability to see how other people view you. People who know how others see them are typically more empathetic. Leaders who can see how their employees view them are usually more effective and have stronger relationships with their employees. External self-awareness is recognizing your employee took your feedback personally because of your tone or realizing your employees are disheartened by the data provided in your last email.
Some ways to enhance your self-awareness are: learning how others perceive you; being videotaped or recorded; being in front of an audience; and meditation. You learn more about yourself by reflecting on the consequences of your thoughts and actions. So, what about people who are punished for something and then repeat the same negative patterns of behavior, you may wonder. Well, just like you, everybody still has the power of choice. A person may be fully aware that what they’re doing is wrong or counterproductive but choose to do it anyway for whatever reason.