What is self-awareness?
Self awareness is knowing who you are deep down inside as a person. It means being truly aware of your values, beliefs, priorities, habits, intentions and dreams – all that stuff that makes you ‘you’.
Self-awareness is a capacity that helps you to take a deep dive within yourself. Imagine yourself as an iceberg. When you see an iceberg, you only see ‘the tip of the iceberg’. But to witness the iceberg in totality, you need to explore what lies underneath it.
It’s very easy to get away with thinking that you are already self-aware. It’s also normal to have conflicting feelings about who you are. There is also an in between – you might think you’re a bit of this and that. But if you are a young leader, then make self-awareness your priority.
Prakhar Bhartiya, founder of Youth Alliance believes that self-awareness is the doorway to the change you want to see in the world. He says:
“Being self-aware gives you inner stability. It helps you to move from a victim mindset where you blame others to a responsible mindset where you take responsibility for your own choices.”
Why is self awareness important for young leaders?
There are a host of reasons why being deeply aware about themselves benefits youth leaders. It helps you to:
1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Self awareness shows you things you are already good at and the areas that you need to work on in order to live your fullest potential. For example, you may feel that being a hardworking person is your strength.
But you might also be beating yourself up when things don’t work the way you’d like them to. That is why the awareness that you can be harsh on yourself acts as a reminder for you to be kind to yourself.
2. Become aware of your values, beliefs, stereotypes and prejudices
Values are a set of principles that you live by. Together with your beliefs, they act as a torchlight. They help you navigate your everyday life be it at home or a workplace. They guide the decisions you make. Self-awareness shows you how you acquired your values and beliefs.
It is common for us to stereotype others and put them in a box. You might even stereotype yourself. We pick stereotypes and prejudices in a numerous ways – from the jokes we are told to the movies we watch. Becoming self-aware requires you to reflect deeply upon these areas.
3. Know your needs, establish your boundaries and create healthy relationships
A strong sense of self helps you understand what you really need and what you can do without. Once you know your needs, you can choose healthy ways to fulfil them.
Every now and then life may throw up situations where you feel that your sense of self is being violated. Having boundaries helps you create and sustain healthy relationships with others. Defining your boundaries is as simple as making a list of what’s okay and what’s not okay.
4. Ask for help when needed and stay authentic
Nobody is perfect and moreover, perfectionism is overrated. We all have only so many capacities, skills, talents and resources.
Self-awareness makes you realistic. It helps you know your fear and shame triggers. It inculcates in you the ability to tell your story – the one that is true to your heart and enables you to ask for help when you need it the most.
5. Examine the stories you have created
Every person has a story where they are the protagonist. These self-created stories either hold you back or propel you forward. Self-awareness helps you to observe these stories and challenge them when needed. It empowers you to claim your story and take full responsibility for it.
6. Make the connection between self and society
There is a clear connection between who you are and how you engage with society. Self-awareness leads you from learning about ‘me’ to ‘we’.
What may start as an attempt to understand your stance on a particular question today may inspire you to work with your community tomorrow. The path of self awareness leads you from reflection to positive social action.
List of self-awareness tools for young leaders
A youth leader can nurture self-awareness in many fun ways. Here’s a list of handy tools & platforms:
1. Workshops – ComMutiny The Youth Collective (CYC) and its collective members run workshops in various states across India for adolescents, young people and youth workers. Some of these are listed below:
- UddhamMe – People for Change, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand
- Re-lead – Blue Ribbon Movement, Mumbai, Maharashtra
- Un-tag – Prantakatha, Kolkata, West Bengal
- Challenge India – Audacious Dreams Foundation, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
- Kabir Yatra – Anhad Pravah, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
- Discovering the Diamond Within – Bosco Institute, Jorhat, Assam
- Mind Mapping workshop – CAN YOUTH, Dimapur, Nagaland
- Deep self-awareness workshop – InSIDE North East, Saikul, Manipur
- Get Real workshop – Pravah, Delhi
2. Journeys – There are also longer immersion programmes and experiences designed by youth workers for young people where self-awareness remains a key area of focus. For instance, CYC runs Be A Jagrik for adolescents and youth. The programme offers two different ‘self to society’ journeys on constitutional literacy and SDGs.
Also, Pravah runs SMILE In-Turn-Ship for college students, a 3-4 week internship with organisations and movements across India.
Youth Alliance in Delhi runs Gramya Manthan, a 10 day immersion journey followed by a year long mentorship process.
YES Foundation in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh offers a one year journey for college youth called SPACE (Self Perspective through Adventure, Creativity and Exposure).
3. App – If you do not have access to the workshops and journeys mentioned above, you can try other methods to explore yourself. CYC has developed The Unknown I-Land app which helps you learn more about yourself in a playful and adventurous way. You can download it on Play Store.
4. Exercise – You can also do an exercise using CYC’s free self awareness worksheet. It is a set of questions which help you delve into various aspects of your personality. The worksheet has been taken from the book Ocean in a Drop.
We hope this guide to self-awareness has inspired you to know yourself a little more than before. If you liked what you read, please leave a comment below and share it with other young leaders. You might be interested in our blog on youth leadership capacities.