While self-awareness is closely linked to self-confidence, it can also backfire. Knowing yourself helps you understand your capabilities, values, and desires. To do this, you need to ask yourself the right questions or the process can actually hurt your self-confidence.
A study by Organizational Psychologist Tasha Eurich, broke self-awareness into the following criteria: internal (how clearly you view your values, passions, aspirations, and impact on others) and external (how well you understand how others view you). Both of which are components of emotional intelligence and are tied to higher life satisfaction.
This same study found that: contrary to popular belief, self-awareness is not developed through introspection alone. This is because there are a number of often imperceptible ways in which our mindsets are implicitly biased, that keep us from accurately finding the source of our actions, thoughts, and emotions.
What’s more? Looking for the probable source of your reactions can lock you into a ruminative cycle of making excuses, blaming others, or outright denying your own behaviors – and that blocks your self-discovery.
Psychology research values “correlation” over “causation”, meaning that it’s possible to see connections between events, but the cause is harder to point to. The same is true of self-awareness. You’re more empowered when you look for patterns in your behavior, rather than digging for the elusive cause of them.
If you’re asking “why” you are a certain way, you are more likely to get stuck searching for answers that may not even be available to your conscious mind, or that may be circling around a useful solution.
Instead, Dr. Eurich recommends asking “What”. “What” is an action word. It brings the focus back to you, rather than searching for answers outside of yourself. And that’s an empowering shift to make. When you ask “what”: What you stand for, what you tend to do in certain situations, and what you can do about that as a result, it mobilizes you into action—action that leads to growth and self-discovery.
Asking “what”, rather than “why” may seem like a small difference, but it sends you down a completely different thought path. This small shift helps you stay present-focused, empowered, and moves you out of a headspace that bars progress and confidence.
For example, wondering why you procrastinate on a project won’t necessarily help you stop doing it, but asking what you can do about it will help you figure out a method that works best for you, and achieve both higher self-awareness and self-confidence as a result.
So definitely seek self-awareness but be sure to also be self-compassionate by asking the right questions to help you find palatable solutions, not just depressing faults. We all have some weaknesses and we are also our own hardest critics. So also be sure to spend some time reflecting on your strengths and definitely celebrate those. Maybe even celebrate that you are working on “you”- because not everyone has the confidence to!
Special thanks to Elior Moskowitz for her research and editorial contribution to this post.