If You Do These 6 Things, You're Not as Self-Aware as You Think

If You Do These 6 Things, You're Not as Self-Aware as You Think


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May 24, 2024 at 1:30PM UTC

For anyone who’s ever worked with (or perhaps even reported to) a person who lacks self-awareness, you know: these aren’t easy individuals to be around.

Those without self-awareness tend to have completely unrealistic understandings of who they are and how they come off to others. Unsurprisingly, an unaware person’s self-belief system will often overemphasize their positive qualities and look past the negative ones altogether. In our culture, we’ve come to associate this type of person with having an overinflated ego, low emotional intelligence and an inability to connect with others. But there are unaware individuals for whom the opposite is true, as well. Take someone who consistently undervalues their own worth and tells themselves repeatedly what a failure they are — when in reality, by all measures, they’re plenty successful. 

We all have stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. That’s normal and human, and many times, these stories can be a source of groundedness and strength. A problem can appear, however, when our story is significantly different from our reality — or when we become so married to a specific story that we’re unable to see ourselves for the evolving, influx beings we are. Additionally, self-awareness isn’t the end goal in and of itself. Acknowledging that you, say, struggle with controlling your anger isn’t enough if you aren’t also taking steps to correct that problem and grow.

But how do you spot a lack of self-awareness in the first place — in yourself or others? Writing for FGB, Jennifer Koza pinpointed six common signs.

1. People who lack self-awareness micromanage.

“Almost anyone who micromanages has a good reason as to why they do it. Perhaps you’re a perfectionist. Or maybe there’s a lot riding on a particular project and you can’t let it escape your attention. Or maybe you understand that your co-worker needs an extra push to complete assignments or a project,” Koza wrote. “These are all valid reasons. But you know what’s missing from them? An understanding of how your desire to take control affects the other person. Micromanaging has demoralizing effects on workers, team members and people in general.”

2. They never believe anything is their fault.

“How often do you find yourself saying ‘Yes, but it's not my fault because (insert reason/excuse/context here)?’" Koza asked.  “It’s natural to want to give context to a situation, especially if you feel attacked or if something really wasn’t your fault. If you regularly respond to feedback or critiques with ‘yes, but…,’ you’re most likely trying to deflect unwanted negative attention. That’s understandable. But know that other people perceive you as dismissive and as a person who avoids accountability.”

3. They regularly get defensive.

“Does any kind of feedback tend to make you upset or angry? Do you find all feedback is harsh, unexpected or unwarranted? Whenever a colleague offers criticism, do negative emotions spiral out of control?” Koza asked. “If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to check in with yourself about why you get upset. After you're done with your introspection and you have the answer, ask yourself why again.”

4. They say things they don’t really mean.

“It’s easier — and emotionally safer — to respond with ‘nothing’ or ‘no problem’ when something is, in fact, a problem. When the going gets tough, we tend to bury our emotions,” Koza wrote. “Passive-aggressive behavior is a way to avoid confrontation and deflect feelings... If you rely on passive aggressive behavior to communicate, you’re also setting unrealistic expectations on others because humans are not, in fact, mind readers. It’s also exhausting — both for you and whomever else is involved.”

5. They can’t laugh at themselves.

“It’s understandable that when you find yourself in a situation where you’re feeling bad, the last thing you want to do is laugh. Maybe you react by getting angry and lashing out at whoever is around,” Koza wrote. “What you’re really doing there is deflecting — rather than sitting with deep discomfort, you distract yourself. Self-awareness in this situation is admitting to yourself you’re embarrassed/upset/ashamed. After that happens, the laughter usually follows.”

6. They think of themselves as good listeners.

“Maybe you really are a good listener! If you think you are, it’s worth asking yourself why — what do you do that makes you one?” she asked. “How about when someone is speaking? Are you just waiting for him/her to finish so you can say what you want to say? Can you get out of your own way and actually pay attention to what the other person is saying?”

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