For several millennia, wise people have realized the value of self-awareness. As far back as at least 550 BC, the Greek phrase, “gnothi sauton,” which means “know thyself,” was a common saying.
And it’s still around today. For the last half-century, the idea of “know thyself” has really been the cornerstone of all reputable leadership training. And, for the past 25 years, self-awareness has also been the cornerstone of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness can be defined many ways, and at the risk of sounding all woo-woo, it has many layers as well.
In his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman defines self-awareness as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.” My version is a little simpler, but covers similar territory: “perceive and assess our own emotions, desires, and tendencies.”
As I’ve talked about in previous videos, this includes knowing our own behavioral style, including our strengths and weaknesses. Let me tell you, this isn’t always easy. I remember when my coach had me take my first DISC Assessment almost 30 years ago. Among other things, it pointed out my strengths and my weaknesses. I was like, “NOOO!” I was devastated! I had weaknesses! I didn’t want weaknesses. I wanted only strengths.
The real value of self-awareness
As it turns out, knowing your strengths and weaknesses is one level of self-awareness. However, coming to grips with your weaknesses is a whole different level. You develop not just self-awareness, but self-acceptance in realizing that you are capable in some areas, and not as capable in others.
Part of the reason that self-awareness is the cornerstone of the EQ model is that you develop some grace and mercy toward yourself. Then, when you own that … when you come to grips with accepting your own weaknesses … then you have a foundation for being able to display empathy toward others. And empathy is part of the second level of the EQ model.
I firmly believe that it’s hard to display empathy in any real depth if you don’t have a gracious understanding and acceptance of your own strengths and weaknesses.
Another area we need to be aware of our cognitive style – the strengths and weaknesses in how we notice and process information, and how we make decisions.
It’s also valuable to understand our personal motivations. Some are innate and some are learned, but motivations drive our behavior, and it’s good to be consciously aware of what drives us.
But remember, we can’t stop at just knowing these things about ourselves. The real value of self-awareness comes in accepting ourselves as we’ve been designed.
Now, I do need to throw out a caution, because part of being emotionally intelligent is understanding the power of emotions. Deep emotional imprints can lead us to believe things that are not true.
In future videos I explore that more, plus I will share some ways to strengthen your self-awareness.
In the mean time, let me suggest you download a free copy of my latest book, 10 Steps for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence.