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Is a Lack of Self-Awareness Sidelining Your Joy? And How to Fix It!

Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are frequently talked about subjects. And there is a lot to be said, yet, like anything in life, it takes consistency and fortitude to deepen them. But how do we really know just how self-aware we are since we're generally the ones judging it?

Awareness is difficult to measure due to unconscious behaviors on autopilot and limiting beliefs masquerading as truth. Yet, if you're looking for more joy in your life, greater awareness is a fantastic place to start.

Here are a handful of emotional intelligence strategies backed by brain science to promote self-awareness and ignite more joy.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A young woman practicing mindfulness in lotus position.Identifying a Lack of Self-Awareness to Deepen Self-Knowledge

A wise man was once asked, "How did you learn to be so loving?"

His reply?

"By noticing where I wasn't loving and changing it."

Identifying areas that lack awareness can be a springboard for developing emotional intelligence and growing as a person.

Before we go on, let's define what self-awareness means.

What Is Self-Awareness?

Awareness of self is the conscious knowledge of one's character, feelings, motives, mindsets, preferences, values, temperament, desires and purpose.

It's the lens through which we view ourselves. Being self-aware means we understand our impact on others and have the power to influence the circumstances of our lives.

Self-awareness in emotional intelligence requires developing emotional awareness, which is the ability to identify and understand what we feel and interpret the feelings of others. But it goes way beyond feelings; the mind-body connection is an integral part of learning about ourselves.

Having awareness is the foundation of all personal growth. It opens the door to unlimited possibilities, new ways of interacting, and skills yet to be learned—some of which we don't even know exist!

Signs You May Lack Self-Awareness

One of the best ways to identify our blindspots is to ask loved ones. My husband and children have provided some of the biggest insights into my self-awareness.

For instance, years ago, I was lamenting to my husband how frustrated and discouraged I was personally and professionally.

After I vented a bit and calmed down, he remarked, "Have you ever noticed that right before a major personal breakthrough and expansion in your business, you get annoyed with everything?"

I had NOT noticed this pattern.

It was true and became a landmark tool to track my growth and success.

These rumbling emotions were symptoms of my readiness to reach for a new level of growth and intolerance for things that needed to change. The angst was my rocket fuel. Once I understood this pattern, it was no longer necessary to struggle and fight it. I would immediately do my Working, Not Working exercise to clarify what was needed to change or identify a missing skill.

Here are other possible symptoms of a lack of awareness:

Blaming Others Consistently

Blame was a big one for me. Even my children called me out on it! It was a habit I wrestled with until its demise.

When we're too insecure to acknowledge our shortcomings, we frequently attribute our problems or failures to others. If we are living out unconscious behaviors, we rarely take responsibility for the outcomes of our behaviors and actions. People who lack awareness are often chronically dissatisfied, complaining regularly about their problems but taking little to no action to change.

As long as we deceive ourselves into thinking we are not responsible for the quality of our lives and relationships, we are prisoners of unconscious behavior.

Ignoring or Rejecting Honest Feedback

Low awareness often correlates to a gap between how we and others view us. When there is a discrepancy, it's a hint of personal blind spots. When people are not yet ready to change, they frequently dismiss or react defensively to constructive criticism.

These people often think they are right while others are unjustly criticizing them. They're quick to offer advice but rarely seek or accept it. Yet, their self-described strengths rarely align with feedback from peers, mentors, or performance reviews.
Husband and wife are arguing at home; a angry man lacking self-awareness is yelling at his wife.

Lack of Self-Management

They struggle to manage their emotions, often experiencing outbursts of anger and frustration, or can suffer from chronic anxiety or depression. They set unrealistic expectations of themselves and consistently underestimate the time required to complete projects. Punctuality is frequently an issue.

Also, when people lack self-awareness, their blind spots often spill over to their finances through overspending, emotional spending, or repeatedly making impulsive purchases.

Difficulty in Relationships

A distinguishing trait of unawareness is often reflected in strained or failed relationships.

People with low awareness usually lack emotional regulation and are often blind to the impact of their behaviors on others. Therefore, they repeatedly create drama and the same problematic situations, failing to recognize their possible role in these patterns.

Inconsistent Behavior

I used to be the Queen of Inconsistency!

Clueless about how profoundly my erratic behaviors affected others, I'd agree and then instantly forget I agreed. I would continually please others while sacrificing my well-being, then use that burnout as an excuse to bail on commitments.

When someone is inconsistent, their actions often contradict their stated values and plans. They say one thing and do something totally different. They may appear excited while talking but rarely follow through by taking action.

A lack of awareness, empathy, and connection is sometimes compounded by staying inordinately busy or talking about what they're "going to do" rather than successfully pursuing their goals. Talking about our plans gives us the illusion that we have achieved them; a common ploy of the unaware.

I used to frequently talk about my plans to feel better about myself. It was a happy day when I stopped talking and started making things happen—more fun, too! 

Inaccurate Self-Image

People who lack awareness typically have an inflated or deflated perception of their abilities and qualities. They either overestimate their skills or are overly critical of themselves without accurate self-assessment. They set vague or grandiose personal goals (another one of my favorites back in the day) without concrete steps, unaware of their deficiency in planning. (Still working on this one.)

Introspection Is Neglected

Introspection allows individuals to gain a deeper understanding of their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. People lacking self-awareness rarely take time to reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and actions, often preferring to stay busy or distract themselves.

Increased awareness and growth prompt us to examine the gap between our values and living those values, our goals and the distance from our goals, our words and how closely they match our actions.

Low Social Awareness

People with low social awareness struggle to adjust their behavior in different situations, often responding inappropriately because they don't understand social cues. They dominate conversations and frequently interrupt others mid-sentence, unaware of how this affects the flow of conversation and others' perceptions of them. It's common for them to talk over others. Or to stay safe, they might press their mute button, be agreeable, and only listen.

When people lack social awareness, they can be uninterested in others and only seek to get their point across. Their attempts at humor often fall flat or offend, yet they continue making similar jokes, oblivious to the reactions of others.
These signs can help identify a lack of self-awareness, highlighting the importance of reflection and feedback in personal development.

Quote by Deepak Chopra on awareness.

Chopra's statement above is worth pondering. Without awareness, we dramatically limit our ability to enjoy life and relationships. How we view ourselves and the world is intricately woven into the simplest exchanges.

By becoming more self-aware, we learn to distinguish between what genuinely brings us joy and stop tolerating disrespectful relationships or a life that doesn't make us happy.

Deep Dive: "5 Best Emotional Intelligence Courses."


Spark Joy and Build Your Self-Awareness with a Daily Practice
(backed with  research)

Developing self-awareness is a practice that requires consistency, patience, and compassion towards oneself. Here are a few practical steps to integrate greater awareness into your daily life.

EQ Skill #1 for Developing Greater Self-AwarenessGain Emotional Self-Awareness through Reflection and Journaling

Dedicate time each day to reflecting on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Journaling can be a valuable tool for exploring your emotional self-awareness and understanding your true intentions and desires.

Through introspection, you can learn to identify recurring patterns in your behavior and thought processes. By recognizing these patterns, you'll be able to change unhelpful habits and develop more positive ones. It also provides a mental space to better process emotions, which leads to a clearer mind and a sense of inner peace.

Brain lifting weights-484304338_CompressedThe research: "Brain scans of people who wrote about their feelings showed that they were able to control their emotions better than those who wrote about a neutral experience. This study also found that writing about feelings in an abstract way was more calming than writing vividly."

Related reading: "5 Simple Principles People with Growth Mindset Use..."

EQ Skill #2 for Developing Greater Self-AwarenessPractice Mindfulness to Sharpen Self-Awareness

Engage in mindfulness practices to ground yourself in the present moment. This habit helps you recognize your current emotional state and thoughts so you can adjust and choose how to improve.

One way to practice mindfulness is to pick a specific area you'd like to work on, such as being more patient with your children or more affectionate with your spouse.

Then several times a day, check in with yourself and see if you've acted accordingly. If you spoke impatiently to your child, examine what was underneath that reaction. Or if you forgot to affectionately reach out to your partner, ask yourself what got in the way of being affectionate. Then recommit and repeat.

A regular mindfulness practice that has been enormously insightful for me is to daily examine how well my actions match my intentions and words.

Grandmother and granddaughter watering plants.

When they don't match, I explore the underlying feelings and possible conflicting needs or goals. For instance, my relationship with my grandchildren is precious to me. When I assess how well I'm living my values and note that I haven't spent enough time with them, I make plans to do something special with or for them. Recently, I created a fairy garden in their playroom that they loved.

Fit-brain-on-a-treadmill_488572063_CompressedThe research: "The elements of mindfulness, namely awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance of one's moment-to-moment experience, are regarded as potentially effective antidotes against common forms of psychological distress—rumination, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, and so on..."

Deep dive into mindfulness: "What Is Mindfulness? And Why All the Hubbub!"

EQ Skill #3 for Developing Greater Self-AwarenessSeek Feedback from Others for Insight

Sometimes, our self-perception can be skewed. Seeking honest feedback from loved ones (as in the above story of my husband's insight), trusted friends, and mentors can provide valuable insights into aspects of ourselves we may be unaware of or overlook.

Brain lifting weights-484304338_CompressedThe research: "...the first step to improving self-knowledge is acknowledging one’s blind spots."

Due to our natural human blindspots and cognitive biases, enlisting feedback from those you trust helps to illuminate the shadow behaviors of self. It also allows us to compare our self-image to how others perceive us, which is an incredible illusion buster!

EQ Skill #4 for Developing Greater Self-AwarenessObserve and Get Curious About Yourself and Your Behaviors

One of the most effective ways to grow is to compassionately observe ourselves—our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Do they align with our values? If you react, investigate. Ask yourself why you react to certain situations in specific ways. Explore different aspects of your personality with curiosity and openness to learn.

Williams James called curiosity “the impulse towards better cognition,” meaning that it is the desire to understand what you know that you do not. Personal growth requires us to be curious and seek self-knowledge.

The video below shows how our brains shape our sense of self.

Approaching life with curiosity opens us to infinite possibilities.

Learn new things. Get inquisitive about what motivates you, in your relationships and seek to understand people better.

EQ Skill #5 for Developing Greater Self-AwarenessCapitalize on Your Reward System to Motivate Personal Growth

Mindfulness is a natural remedy for hurrying and stress and a key component of self-awareness. It’s about being fully present in the moment, observing our thoughts and feelings without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, we can better understand our reactions to life's challenges and how we sideline joy, leading to personal growth and a deeper sense of peace.

Fit-brain-on-a-treadmill_488572063_CompressedThe research:  “Studies show that behaviors that are aligned with our goals and values subjectively feel better than those that are not. The hope is that simply by paying attention, we can notice that the new behavior is really beneficial,” Ludwig says. “When we get a positive outcome, the new behavior gets reinforced” in the brain.

Integrating Self-Care and Intentionality for Greater Self-Awareness

Recognizing the importance of self-care and living intentionally paves the way for understanding what we value and the activities that nourish us most. Making conscious choices that align with our values and desires ensures that our actions reflect our true selves.

Whether it's adopting a minimalist lifestyle or seeking abundance in experiences and travel, the key is to act with purpose and love for oneself.

When I was young, I believed that the absence of pain equaled happiness.

I was wrong. Pain is inevitable.

Ignorance may be bliss, but only because we don't yet know what we are missing out on.

Many of my clients have commented after working with me that they couldn't even imagine how sweet their lives and relationships could be prior to working with me.

It's essential to remember self-awareness isn't an arrival point but rather an ongoing unfoldment of our individuality and self-knowledge. By seeking to be more awake and present, we open ourselves to the endless possibilities that life offers.

Life is filled with challenges, but self-awareness equips us with the tools to transform these obstacles into opportunities for growth. By understanding our strengths and weaknesses, we can navigate life's ups and downs with grace and resilience, turning each challenge into a stepping stone toward a more joyful and fulfilling life.

Deep Dive: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"

Having a mentor to help you see your blind spots is a huge asset. If you'd like a partner in growth and a self-awareness coach, contact Jennifer at Heartmanity. Emotional intelligence is Jennifer's specialty!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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