As you create and curate your digital identity, you’re building a digital representation (or multiple representations) of yourself. This means that you’re trying to think about who you are…or who you would like to be.
When I work with students or colleagues in this area, they often come back to statements like “Who would want to hear from me?” or “Can I share this part of my identity with that part?”
Much of this deals with the struggle between internal self-awareness (how well you know yourself) and external self-awareness (how well you understand how others see you).
Types of Self-Awareness
There are two types of self-awareness:
- Internal self-awareness – how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. Internal self-awareness is associated with higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness; it is negatively related to anxiety, stress, and depression.
- External self-awareness – how clearly we see how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above. People who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives.
Within these two types, there are four archetypes of self-awareness.
People who score high in self-awareness (“Aware”) know themselves well and also understand how others see them.
Conversely, “Introspectors” lack external self-awareness. They are unaware of their blindspots and don’t know what they don’t know. Looking for external feedback is critical to developing external self-awareness.
“Pleasers” are focused on external perception. They care so much about what others think of them that they are not authentic. They’ve lost touch with themselves and don’t do much about it. Instead of seeking fulfillment, they assume the identities others expect from them.
“Seekers” are lost souls. They lack clarity on who they are or what they stand for. They are also clueless about how others perceive them. This can be a temporary or permanent stage. We all lose clarity of who we are from time to time. Some people simply decide not to do anything about it.
Once you’ve oriented yourself to the types and archetypes of self-awareness, you can think about your own perspectives and aspirations.
Eurich points out that “Self-awareness isn’t one truth. It’s a delicate balance of two distinct, even competing, viewpoints.”
Experience and power often hinder self-awareness. That is to say that just because you have experience and status…it doesn’t always mean that you are self-aware.
In addition, to see yourself more clearly, you might skip the introspection mode. Introspection doesn’t always improve self-awareness. The problem with introspection isn’t that it is ineffective—it’s that most people are doing it incorrectly.
Eurich closes with a call to focus on building both internal and external self-awareness by seeking honest feedback from loving critics. Ask what instead of why as we learn to see ourselves more clearly.