Truthfully, becoming more self-aware doesn't come easily. And, according to a new book, we may be even less self-aware than we like to believe. A lot, lot less. Organizational psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich looks into this problem in her new book, Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life, and I have to say, it was shocking to see just how much we seem to be kidding ourselves when it comes to self-awareness.
While a lack of self-understanding can have a huge effect on all areas your life, your relationship and, if you're single, your dating life can especially suffer. "A lack of self-awareness affects our relationships a great deal," Eurich tells Bustle. "Researchers have found that one in four people has emotionally distant personal relationships because of their bullish views of their personality and behavior. Without a doubt, when we take charge of our own self-awareness, almost anyone can make remarkable improvements."
One in four? Those are not great odds. But anyone who's ever been a relationship with someone who totally lacks self-awareness will be familiar with how difficult it can be. You just need to make sure that you're not just as bad. So how can you do it? Well, Eurich gives some insight into how to be more self-aware in our relationships:
1Stop Overestimating Your Abilities
First of all, you kind of need to admit that you're starting off less self-aware than you think you are. At least, that's what the research suggests. "My research has shown that although 95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, the real figure is closer to 1-15 percent," Eurich says. "For most people, it’s easier to choose self-delusion — the antithesis of self-awareness — over the cold, hard truth. And though we freely toss around this accusatory term about our politicians, reality TV stars, or bosses, we rarely if ever question whether we have the same problem. And while most of us believe we know ourselves pretty well, this confidence is usually unfounded."
So the first step is admitting that you may not have a handle on it — and be open to criticism and correction. It's harder than it sounds.
2Take Off The Rose Colored Glasses
You know that feeling when you're talking to a friend who's defending some ambiguous behavior? You can see their point of view — but also not necessarily agree with it? Yeah, so you need to start doing that with yourself.
"We tend to be terrible judges of our own performance and abilities —no matter how much we try, our brains simply can’t access many of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors," Eurich says. "Our increasingly 'me'-focused society makes it even easier to fall into this trap. It’s far more tempting to see ourselves through rose-colored glasses than to objectively examine who we are and how we’re seen... Luckily, though, my research shows we can overcome many of these barriers and that self-awareness is a surprisingly learnable skill." So stop thinking of your own rationalization for your actions — try to think how they'd look to someone else.
It's not all doom and gloom — there's actually a huge amount of room for improvement. If you're willing to be brave. "The good news is that the behaviors needed to improve and sustain self-awareness are surprisingly learnable," Eurich says. In studying people made improvements, she found they had something in common.
"Even though learning the truth about who they are and how they’re seen might be scary, it’s always better than not knowing. But taking action to improve our self-awareness is a little trickier."
You're going to have to think outside the box, to actually learn about yourself rather than just thinking about yourself. "Specifically, I’ve found that many of the most commonly accepted paths to self-awareness — things like therapy, journaling, and asking why we do what we do — aren’t always associated with more self-knowledge. In fact, the more we ponder our innermost workings, the less well we tend to know ourselves."
4Find A Critic
Your friend who always has an opinion on everything? Even when it's annoying? They may just be your biggest asset. "I talk about many specific techniques in insight, but one powerful action is to find at least one loving critic to give you feedback," Eurich says. "Even though other people rarely volunteer such information, they usually see us far more clearly than we see ourselves! And when we learn how we’re seen, it can be surprising, or terrifying, or even gratifying — but no matter what, it gives us the power to improve." Call up that friend and say you need some heartfelt advice.
5Look At Your Partner — And Your Relationship
The truth is, no matter how much you try to be self-aware, you can only go so far if your partner isn't trying too. "The challenge is how to deal with other people in our lives who don’t seem to know they need to improve," Eurich says. So you may want to think about having an open, compassionate conversation with your partner — admitting that you have some weaknesses when it comes to self-awareness and explain that the may need to look at themselves, for the benefit of your relationship. "And even if we can’t force people to become self-aware, there are many things we can do to reduce their impact on us, like changing our mindset and taking more control of our interactions with them. But more often than not, if we have a strong, trusting relationship, it is possible to help nudge the delusional into more self-awareness."
Being self-aware can feel really elusive at times and it it's really difficult to admit that you can be a bit clueless when it comes to your own behavior. But focus on the fact that you're trying to change that — it's an important first step. And be brave.