The 3 Stages Of Our Self Awareness
January 2, 2021
Our thoughts shape our behaviors, our behaviors shape our actions, our actions become the habits we live, and the habits make our personality.
Our life is a recurring pattern of our thoughts, actions, and habits. If we want to change the type of person we are, we need to get out of the hold of the recurring patterns of our thinking and actions.
To do this, we need to be aware of the underlying patterns of our personality.
At a fundamental level, awareness is a state of being conscious of oneself and one’s surroundings.
“I am experiencing a pain in my left toe” Or “I can sense the presence of the car that is tailgating me”- This is awareness.
Interestingly when one becomes conscious and aware of one’s awareness, it becomes our self-awareness.
There are three stages or levels of our self-awareness.
Stage 1- I Know What I Am Doing
I am conscious of the different thoughts going through my mind, and I am able to draw a clear connection between my thoughts and the behaviors and actions I take through the day.
“I notice my teenaged kid spending a lot of time on Instagram. It triggers in me a feeling of irritation. I tell him to stop wasting time and do something useful. When I say it, I am conscious that my tone is displaying an overt irritation that is ticking my son off. He reacts defensively when I expect him to accept my feedback. This infuriates me further, and we get into a heated argument”.
Most of our life runs on autopilot in terms of our habits and impulses, and we don’t realize we are on autopilot mode. Because we are not aware of our recurring habits, motivations, and routines, they control us instead of us controlling them.
When I have some sense of self-awareness, I am able to look back and recognize the pattern that is controlling me “hmm, Seeing my son constantly on Instagram is triggering irritation and anger within me.”
I am at Level 1 of my awareness when I know what I am doing and the underlying thoughts triggering my emotional state and actions.
Stage 2- I Become Aware Of My Beliefs And Mental Models.
Our way of thinking is rooted in some core beliefs and values instilled in us from our childhood. These are often deeply embedded in our subconscious and hidden from our consciousness. When we get to the level of self-awareness, like peeling an onion, we start recognizing the link between our thoughts and our beliefs and mental models.
This second stage of self-awareness is where you start finding out who you are.
“I believe that social media is terrible and offers no value. So anyone actively using social channels like Instagram is wasting his or her time(belief 1). I know better than my kid. I know what is right for him and what is wrong (belief 2). Social media is bad for him, and I fear that it will impact his academic performance(belief 3). I don’t want my kid to perform poorly in his academics. As a parent, it’s my job to control his actions(mental model)
Level 2 of our awareness is an uncomfortable place to go. It brings us face to face with our real beliefs, values, fears, and anxieties at the root of our thoughts and actions. It forces us to go on a journey of self-discovery. Our feelings are the markers or the sign-posts that will help us understand ourselves better.” why am I feeling agitated. My child browsing the social app is just the trigger. What is the real underlying reason why I am upset? Hmm, is it my fear about my child’s academic performance?”
Stage 3- I Become Aware Of My Ignorance.
As you become more aware of your own emotions and desires, you come face to face with a big realization. You are full of ignorance.
When you hit level 3 of your awareness, you realize that you are just a feeling machine, and your thoughts, actions, arguments are entirely hostage to your feelings.
“A heated argument with a colleague has me fully stressed. Just then, I see my son browsing Instagram. The residual anger from my verbal duel with my colleague needs an outlet. My son is a good target at that moment.”
We think we are rational and driven by our free will. Author Dan Ariely explores how irrational our actions often are in his book Predictably Irrational. We all have this blind spot that everything we do is based on facts and evidence, but we are entirely wrong most times.
- We twist our memories to suit our internal feelings. If we feel judged, we will construe and attribute motives to the completely innocent behaviors of others.
- We think we are better at something than we actually are, or we think we are worse than we actually are. It’s entirely based on how we feel at any point.
- We suffer from biases that make us do irrational things.
When we get to level 3 of our self-awareness, we begin to face our inherent flaws. When we become conscious of our blind spots, they stop being blind spots. We are no longer enslaved to our mind’s faulty mechanisms.
Practicing mindfulness is a good start point for developing self-awareness. In mindfulness, you practice observing what is going on in your mind, body, and environment with focus, clarity. Mindfulness involves focussing with some degree of concentration on what you are thinking and feeling at a given moment. With enough practice, you will get to explore your three stages of awareness.