Practical steps towards self-awareness
By YASIR OSMAN
Who am I? It is probably the most important question a person can ask.
Whether we admit it or not, the world and the people around us often dictate how we should dress, speak and behave. Parents, teachers, friends, co-workers, celebrities, advertisements and even politicians are strong influences that shape our thinking and being.
How can we really be who we are when we are bombarded from every side on how we should conduct ourselves? To be different is to stand out in the crowd; to be the same is to conform.
Can we even tell when we are moulded by society to act and behave in a certain way?
The answer is actually quite simple, but it can be a challenge to put into practice. It is the art of self-awareness. It all starts with acknowledging that people are different and everyone has his or her own story, personality and character.
I work as a camp coordinator for a programme called DIODE Camp. At this camp, there is an important session called “Discovering I” which is created to help campers aged 14–17 years to discover and explore who they really are.
Our main objective for this camp is to help and guide young people to fulfill their fullest leadership potential.
One of the most important elements of being a leader is to know oneself. Self-awareness is an important journey every individual must take in order to grow himself or herself to become the best person he or she can possibly be. Isn’t that what makes our lives more purposeful? That we grow and learn to be a better person each day.
In simpler terms, self-awareness is a concept of how people see themselves. As it is, everyone in this world is unique and has different perspectives.
Let us take an example of the water-in-the-cup experimental view. Some people choose to see the cup as half full, while some may see it as half empty. Still, another group of people may see it as a potential power source through fusion. Some will just take the cup and drink the water.
Everyone is born with different temperaments, much like an easy-to-please baby or a demanding baby who cries most of the time. As we expose ourselves to different people and experiences, our character and personality can be moulded by these factors.
Not one person in this world will encounter the same experiences in life. Thus, these experiences will dictate and influence the perception and worldview one will have about the “water in the cup” expression.
Discovering every part of you requires a series of events such as gaining life experiences, taking personality assessments, self-reflecting and gathering other people’s feedback.
Embrace life experiences
To find out about one’s true potential, all the person has to do is to step out the door. Take for example the movie The Hobbit. An Unexpected Journey.
The movie follows a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who loved his easy-going life until Gandalf, the wise wizard, asked him to go for an adventure. By stepping out his front door and joining other hobbits and Gandalf, Bilbo began to understand what he was capable of doing.
He learned he could outwit trolls. He discovered he was brave enough to fight orcs, and strong enough to persevere through hardships.
Life can be the best teacher if the person is open to its lessons. It is true that reading a book can provide much information but how can knowledge be imparted if it is not utilised.
How can a person learn how to swim without touching the water? Hence, all you have to do is to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the world.
Take personality assessments
There has been much research done to understand human ability, temperament, personality, psychological state and other factors which can unlock the secrets to human development. Thus, self-awareness can also come about by taking an assessment of one’s personality.
Personality tests are used to find out if a person is an introvert or extrovert, or if a person is people- or task-oriented. Through such tests, we can gauge how we interact with people at work and at play.
One of the well-known personality tests is MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), created by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. By using psychometric questionnaires, they are able to measure people’s preferences on how they perceive the world as well as how they make decisions.
DOPE personality test divides people into four bird groups, i.e. the “neutral dove”, “analytical owl”, “relational peacock” and “decisive eagle”. These bird groups represent different personalities. The latest research also includes another bird group called the “openness swan”.
All the birds have their different basic desires, emotional needs, controlling factors and characteristics. These two assessments are just among the many personality tests available online and offline.
A self-reflection can be done through various avenues like journaling, meditating, strolling on the beach, or simply pausing to just think about your life. It is a good way to see which stage a person is in their lives.
Sometimes, in this modern age, people go through life at a pace that is so fast they are unable to see where they are heading. They come to a point whereby they are not even sure if they are taking the right path.
By simply taking a moment to reflect on their experiences, they can see a little clearer on where they are going.
Journaling is a great method to chart their current paths. Through the process of writing down their feelings, thoughts and life experiences, they can see their progress on self-development and what they want to accomplish in life.
The latest avenue of journaling is via social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A person can chart their whole history just by going through these channels.
Gather feedback from others
Finally, another way to know yourself and be self-aware is by getting feedback from other people. There is a psychological study on the effects of self-disclosure and how it affects one’s ability to increase self-awareness.
One of the self-disclosure tools is called the Johari Window whereby it indicates four types of information based on the degree of a person sharing a part of themselves. One of the windows is called the blind spot. Having a blind spot is the inability of a person to recognise his or her own strengths and weaknesses.
Some people love to watch the reality show American Idol, especially during the audition. Inevitably, there will always be contestants who think they can sing very well, but fail to impress the judges with their singing prowess. However, by giving it a go and receiving feedback from the panel of experienced judges, they are made aware of their own blind spots.
To succeed in life, one must first know one’s true capabilities, strengths and passion. Step outside and truly explore the world, for you might find your greatest potential of being who you really are. Reflect and learn from your past experiences to continue to challenge your perception of the world.
Besides that, make use of available personality tests and tools such as MBTI to increase self-awareness. Getting feedback from other people can also help manage your own blind spots.
In conclusion, these methods are only effective when you are honestly true to yourself and when you accept who you truly are. Everyone of us has a purpose in life – knowing yourself can be just the first step to discover what your purpose is.