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Know Yourself: The Importance of Self-Awareness

know thyself

Know thyself: Who are you and what is your true personality and character?

Do you really know who you are? Can you describe your character, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses? How good is your self-awareness really?

There is an old Greek aphorism ‘know thyself’ that has been quoted or paraphrased by many greats through the course of history, such as Socrates and Shakespeare.  It still rings true today as being self-aware is critical to how we relate to ourselves and others.

Therefore it is good to know your personality type, your strengths and weaknesses, your most effective learning methods, your preferred communication styles, your love languages.

We are also shaped by our values and beliefs.  Understanding this will go a long way to self-awareness.  

Know yourself and you will find it much easier to establish meaningful relationships and develop strong teams.

“This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Polonius (from Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

The currency of relationships

Relationships are similar to bank accounts.  We know that we have to invest in friendships for them to be fruitful and at times we rely on people and have to make withdrawals.  We have to invest quality time, act in ways that develop trust and bring positive emotions and energy to make down-payments.

You often hear the phrase ‘a needy person’ and in these terms, you could say that they are a person who is always overdrawn when it comes to relational accounts – they always need someone else to invest in them. 

It is a useful metaphor to keep in mind. When you are interacting with someone, ask yourself, am I investing in this relationship or am I making a withdrawal?

No one wants to be continually in debt, be that financial or relational, so we need to keep an eye on our personal balance.  The best way we can keep our own social and emotional bank account out of the red and into credit starts with being self-aware.

We need to know how to manage our emotions, how to recover our energy and which people will feed into our own reserves when we need it.

Personal development is another way we serve ourselves, and in the end, also serve others. It is not just about improving skills. As we increase in self-awareness, as we develop good habits, we also increase our resilience and effectiveness; not just our professional abilities and productivity.

Our effectiveness as professionals, as people, is built on a foundation of character. The stronger the foundation the higher you can build and the more positive the impact you can have.

The importance of integrity

We have to be true to our character. We have to be genuine, authentic. In the end, you won’t make it if you fake it.

Think about the people you most look up to.  Are they perfect?  You can be sure that they are not!  What then makes them so attractive? What is it about them that makes people want to follow them?  If they are successful, ask why are they successful?  What makes them different from the average person?  If you read biographies of such people one generally finds that the person in question is both self-aware and purposeful.  They have great strengths but also genuine vulnerability. This gives them integrity that is magnetic.

It is important to remember that we have to accept our own vulnerability and weaknesses or they will catch us up, or catch us out in the end. This takes real courage, as Brene Brown explains in her excellent book ‘Dare to Lead‘, but it is the best way to maximising our potential.

If you are being proactive by maximising your strengths and being honest about your weaknesses people are more likely to trust you.  You will be more confident and inspire the confidence of others.  If you have a firm grounding in where you are and have a vision for where you are going then you will naturally be a more attractive person. 

If you are secure in who you are then others will feel secure around you.  Therefore, start with yourself; the one person who you can really change.

Change starts with me, myself and I

This holds true for working through any sort of relationship challenges.  When family or friends hurt us it is very easy to see the faults in others and how things could be better if the other person changed.  The hard part – but the most effective way forward – is to look at yourself and start the improvement there. This is the true importance of self-awareness.

But it is hard to work out how to change unless you know your starting point.

Tools for understanding self

There are numerous tools, exercises and tests you can do to help understand yourself better. Here are of the main ones that I have found useful:

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The Myers-Briggs test is based on psychological research developed from the work of Carl Jung. You can conduct a free version of this test at Truity.com

Big 5 Personality Test

The Big 5 is another popular personality test. You can conduct a free version of this test at Truity and also at Finding Potential.

Strengths Finder

The Clifton Strengths Finder is another research-based test. This one is a paid service run by Gallup. You have to pay to do this test but you can find more information by clicking on CliftonStrengths.

Learning Styles

There has been a lot of work of different preferred learning styles. You can find a good summary of some of the key ones on MindTools.

Love Languages

For understanding relationships, the 5 Love Languages is a great resource. You can get the book on Amazon.

Have you ever done any personality or character profile tests? What test did you use and did you find it useful? Do leave a comment and let me know; I would be really interested to hear your thoughts.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”

Socrates

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