5 Signs Of Lack Of Self Awareness & How To Overcome It

Worried you suffer from a lack of self awareness?

In this article, we are going to explore:

  • What a lack of self awareness is
  • 5 signs of a lack of self awareness
  • 2 ways to become more self aware
cut out images of a head in paper

What is A lack of Self awareness?

Self-awareness is one of the most important psychological traits you can develop within yourself for life. Its benefits extend to everything—whether it’s managing your emotions in conflict, understanding your weaknesses at work, or being realistic about what you can accomplish. Every step of the way, self-awareness is necessary to make it happen.

When you have a lack of self awareness, you fail to identify what you’re feeling and how it manifests itself in your daily actions. You fail to see the patterns in your behaviors and thinking. As a result, you tend to experience more negative emotions because you don’t know how to better align your choices with what you want.

You can’t fix what you don’t realize is broken. Self-awareness allows you to see your natural [shortcomings] and how those might impact others around you. Without that understanding, you’re likely to overestimate your strengths and underestimate what stands in your way.

5 Signs of Lack Of Self Awareness

By identifying where you lack self-awareness in life, you can become more self-aware.

Try to approach this list with openness, vulnerability, and courage.

1. You numb to distract 

Typically we avoid pain through distraction. We transport our minds to some other time or place or world where they can be safe and insulated from the pain of day-to-day life.

We stare at our phones, we obsess about the past or our potential futures, make plans we’ll never keep, or simply try to forget. We eat, drink and work ourselves into numbness to dull the reality of our problems. We use books, movies and music to carry us to another world where no pain exists.

a man in a grey jumper sat outside, scrolling through his phone, and looking sad

There’s nothing wrong with distraction, we all need some sort of diversion every now and again to keep us sane and happy. The key is that we need to be aware of our distractions.

We need to make sure that we’re choosing our distractions, instead of our distractions choosing us. We’re the ones opting in to the distraction, rather than simply being unable to opt out of distraction. We need to know when we’re checking out. Our distraction needs to be planned and moderated in bite-sized chunks.

2. Your emotional reaction doesn’t match the situation

Have you ever felt a strong emotional reaction that felt larger than the situation required? Perhaps you went into a nervous breakdown about some news, or maybe you flew into a rage at something your friend did (or didn’t) do.

If your emotional reaction doesn’t match the situation, you more than likely have a lack of self awareness. Your extreme emotions were triggered by something much more deeply rooted than the present events.

Emotions aren’t sparked by what you experience in the moment. They are set off by how your brain interprets events based on your past experiences. You don’t react to what is. You react to what you think has occurred based on what you experienced or learned in the past.

Being self-aware at the moment allows you to choose to respond, rather than getting lost in reaction. This gives you space to understand what needs to be addressed within you.

a couple argues and points fingers at each other in a heated debate, perhaps due to a lack of self awareness

3. You repeat negative emotional patterns

Emotions are incredibly complicated to recognize and control. That’s because they’re rooted in some of the deepest parts of our brain wiring. Because they’re so deeply rooted, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s causing them. And if we don’t know what’s causing them, we can’t do anything to stop them.

A clear sign of a lack of self awareness is if you find yourself repeating negative emotional patterns. These negative emotional patterns are different for everyone. Some of you might fall into fits of anxiety and panic; others might become super lonely or depressed.

For me noticing emotional patterns was what catapulted me onto my spiritual path. One day I was reflecting on my career and how I had complained about similar things in different situations. I then reflected on my relationships and noticed I had complained about similar aspects with different people. My realization was that I had been the only consistent part of all of that. I was the problem!

The reason these patterns repeat themselves is that you aren’t able to recognize what’s going on. The more self-aware you are, the more likely you’ll be able to do two things. First, you’ll identify that you’re in a negative emotional pattern. Second, you’ll be able to recognize what caused this pattern and what might need to change to prevent it.

a woman looking sad, lying on her bed, and hugging her pillow

4. You get sucked into the drama

In my own experience, I had lost sight of what was important to me because I got caught up in the drama of life. Maybe you resonate with this, the drama is when we fall into the trap of having a problem orientation mindset and react to the anxiety that arises when we focus on what we don’t want or don’t like.

When we are in “drama” we step into three primary “roles” or patterns of destructive and reactive behaviour otherwise called The Drama Triangle. First described by Dr. Stephen Karpman in the late 1960s, the Drama Triangle roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer vividly describe the most common ways we human beings relate to ourselves and each other.

We shift in and out of all three roles, sometimes at lightning speed, racing around the very dynamic and reactive Drama Triangle roles. The result is that we feel trapped in frustration and often feel victimized by the situation. 

These roles over time become outdated and limiting. They are not necessarily “bad”—they simply limit our effectiveness and prevent more creative ways to work with life’s challenges. By becoming aware of these patterns when they arise, we can observe them in action and choose a more empowering way to think, relate, and take action.

a couple having an argument over a lack of self awareness. She pushes him away

5. Your Identity Rules You

Self-awareness is essentially getting to know yourself. If you suffer from a lack of self awareness, you may feel unsure of your identity or try to reconcile it with the labels other people place on you. Or you may be so tightly fixed to an identity you feel protects you in some way.

My identity of working in Olympic sport kept me locked in a professional trap. I was shielded by the persona people put on me when they heard what I did. I maintained my roles in sport to protect this image, despite feeling desperately unhappy & unfulfilled. People knew my career, but they didn’t know who I was.

Often people who are more self-aware are more likely to make choices that symbolically represent their identity. These symbols could be what you wear, what name you go by, or what you post on social media.

People with higher levels of self-awareness actively work to present an image to others that is consistent with their internal identity. People with low self-awareness often fall into the trap of creating an identity to make up for a sense of lack within.

a ceo sits at her desk in front of a computer

2 things you can do about it

Everyone is at a different point in different areas of their lives, so it’s not as simple as offering an x and y to get to z approach.

That said, I realize a lot of people need a little more guidance in this area because it can be so confusing (and scary) when you start to uncover parts of yourself you didn’t even know were there. 

So here’s a short list of things you can do to start to become more self-aware in your everyday life.

#1: Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is simply the practice of observing what is going on in your mind, body, and environment with focus, clarity, and, importantly, acceptance of what is happening.

It’s just a practice of paying attention to what you can notice. You must focus with some degree of concentration on what you are thinking and feeling at a given moment.

a watercolour splodge with the words here. now. written on it

Then you must clarify those thoughts and feelings: where do they occur in your body, how exactly do they feel—warm/cold, tight/open, exciting/fear-inducing etc.—are they fleeting or enduring, and so on.

Meditation simply teaches you how to be more aware of what you’re thinking and feeling, usually while you’re sitting quietly without any external distractions. The goal is to take the self-awareness skills you learn from meditation and apply them to your everyday life, being more focused with more clarity and more acceptance of what is going on at any given moment.

#2: Get Honest Feedback From Others

Asking someone you fully trust to point out your blind spots can be a really powerful way to up your self-awareness game—but it can also be incredibly painful.

Others often have a better perspective on us than we do, especially friends and family close to us. Asking them in a simple and safe way (by “safe,” I mean you’ll be accepting of their feedback rather than attack) can lead to great gains in self-awareness.

friends chat and laugh over coffee

How self-aware are you?

If you related to any of the signs on this list, you’re one step closer to becoming more self-aware because you were able to identify these qualities in yourself! It’s important to remember that you can improve your self-awareness with practice.

Even people with high levels of self-awareness must keep reevaluating themselves every time they change. And while it can be hard to have honest conversations with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, there are many benefits to becoming self-aware. 

Self-awareness doesn’t make everyone happier, it makes some people more miserable. Because if great self-awareness is coupled with self-judgment, then you’re merely becoming more aware of all the ways you deserve to be judged.

The practice of self-acceptance is crucial on the path of self-awareness.

Want More On The Mind?

Check out our resources on Mindfulness & Meditation.

Richard Husseiny

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