How To Master Your Emotional Intelligence Chapter 3 – What Is Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness means being aware of various aspects of the self, including traits, behaviors, and feelings. In essence, it is a psychological state in which one focuses attention on oneself. Self-awareness is one of the first components of the self-concept to emerge. While self-awareness is a central component of your personality, it is not something you focus on every moment of the day.
Instead, self-awareness is woven into the fabric of who you are and emerges in different places depending on the situation and personality. People are not born with a complete sense of self. However, research has also found that infants have a rudimentary sense of self. Infants have an awareness that they are a separate being from others, as evidenced by behaviors such as the burrowing reflex, in which an infant searches for the nipple when something touches its face. Researchers have also found that even newborns are able to distinguish between touching themselves and others.
Development of self-awareness. Studies have shown that a more complex sense of self-awareness begins to emerge at about one year of age and is much more developed by about 18 months of age. Researchers Lewis and Brooks-Gunn conducted a study to examine how self-consciousness develops. The researchers stuck a red dot on an infant’s nose and then held the child in front of a mirror. Children who recognized themselves in the mirror were more likely to reach for their own nose than for the reflection, indicating that they had at least some degree of self-awareness. Lewis and Brooks-Gunn found that almost no infants under one year of age reached for their own nose rather than their reflection
About 25% of infants between 15 and 18 months reached for their own nose, while about 70% of children between 21 and 24 months did so. It is important to note that Lewis and Brooks-Gunn’s study only points to an infant’s visual self-awareness; children may already possess other forms of self-awareness at this early stage in life.
For example, researchers Lewis, Sullivan, Stanger, and Weiss suggested that the expression of emotion requires self-awareness as well as the ability to think about oneself in relation to others. Development of Self-Consciousness Researchers have suggested that an area of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex, located in the frontal lobe region, plays an important role in the development of self-consciousness.
Lewis and Brooks-Gunn’s experiment suggests that the development of self-consciousness in children begins around 18 months of age, an age that coincides with the rapid growth of spindle cells in the anterior cingulate cortex. However, one study found that a patient-maintained self-awareness even when areas of the brain such as the insula and anterior cingulate cortex were severely damaged. This suggests that these areas of the brain are not required for most aspects of self-consciousness and that consciousness may instead arise through interactions between different brain networks.
Stages of Self-Awareness. So how exactly do children become aware of themselves as independent beings? Researchers suggest that children go through a series of stages of self-consciousness between birth and around age 4 or 5. Self-awareness can be identified by how children respond to their own reflection. Types of self-awareness Psychologists often divide self-awareness into two different types, either public or private.
Public self-awareness. This type of self-awareness occurs when people are aware of how they appear to others. Public self-awareness often occurs in situations where one is the center of attention, such as when giving a presentation or speaking to a group of friends. This type of self-awareness often forces people to conform to social norms. When we are aware that we are being observed and evaluated, we often try to behave in ways that are socially acceptable and desirable. Public self-perception can also lead to judgment anxiety, in which people are worried, anxious, or concerned about how they are perceived by others.
Private self-awareness. This type of self-awareness occurs when people become aware of some aspects of themselves, but only in a private way. For example, seeing your face in the mirror is a type of private self-awareness. Feeling your stomach tighten when you realize you forgot to study for an important exam or having your heart flutter when you see someone you are attracted to are also examples of private self-awareness.
Self-Confidence. Sometimes people can develop an overconfidence and fall into a state called self-confidence. Have you ever felt like everyone is watching you, judging your actions, and waiting to see what you will do next? This increased self-awareness can make you feel awkward and nervous. In many cases, these feelings of self-consciousness are temporary and occur in situations where we are “in the spotlight.” However, for some people, overconfidence can also indicate a chronic condition such as social anxiety disorder. People who are privately self-conscious have higher levels of private self-awareness, which can be both a good and a bad thing. These people tend to be more aware of their feelings and beliefs and are therefore more likely to adhere to their personal values.
However, they are also more likely to suffer negative health consequences such as increased stress and anxiety. People who are self-aware in public have higher levels of public self-awareness. They tend to think more about how other people see them and are often concerned that other people may judge them based on their appearance or actions. As a result, these people tend to conform to group norms and try to avoid situations in which they might look bad or feel embarrassed.
Self-awareness plays a crucial role in how we understand ourselves and how we relate to others and the world. When you are self-aware, you can evaluate yourself in relation to others. For people who have an extremely strong sense of self, they may be overconfident. If you feel that you are struggling with self-consciousness that is negatively affecting your life, discuss your symptoms with your doctor to learn more about what you can do to manage these feelings.
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