Self-awareness is a term used to describe a person's capacity to notice the self. "Awareness" is the ability to notice other things and coupled with "self" that ability is turned towards the self. The concept of self-awareness represents the ability of an individual to clearly understand his or her own strengths, weaknesses, emotions, values, natural inclinations, tendencies and motivation.

In their book Teachers managing stress and preventing burnout: the professional health solution (1993), Yvonne Gold and Robert A Roth define self-awareness as "a process of getting in touch with your feelings and behaviors." Other definitions of the term include "awareness of your own individuality" and "an awareness of one's own personality or individuality."

Self-awareness is examined in the fields of philosophy, psychology, biology and artificial intelligence. From a philosophical point of view, self-awareness represents the explicit understanding that a person exists as an individual separate from other people and has his or her own thoughts. It can also be defined as the understanding of the very core of one's own identity. The level of importance of self-awareness varies in different cultures.

Although he does not use the exact words, British philosopher and physician John Locke (1632-1704) was considered one of the first to create a modern conceptualization of self-awareness. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Locke develops the idea of consciousness. He talks about the repeated self-identification of oneself, allowing moral responsibility to be attributed to the subject.

In general, self-aware people know what they want in their lives; what makes them happy; what they want to change or improve in themselves; and what are their most important beliefs and values. They are aware of their relations to others and of the way the people around them perceive and respond to their behavior. This latter ability can significantly improve the quality of both personal and professional relationships. The understanding of a person's emotions and needs is important for self-esteem. The focus of a person's attention, emotions, reactions and behavior defines to a large extend his or her life path. As a result, self-awareness is considered an important tool for achieving and attaining goals.

At the same time, having a sense of self is important for people who want to change their lives or alter specific aspects of them. Psychologists believe that by improving self-awareness, an individual learns to change interpretations of different situations. Once the interpretation is changed, the emotional response is also altered. In that sense self-awareness is one of the attributes of emotional intelligence. At times it may be crucial for success at work, in a relationship and in other areas of life.

When people manage to improve their self-awareness they start seeing aspects of their life and personality they have never noticed before. For example, with anger or frustration, people start to recognise the thoughts that trigger these emotions and are able to change them. Therefore, it can be argued, enhancing a person's self-awareness allows him or her to make better choices in their thought process before the emotional response has been formed. It is easier to alter behavior early in the process, before a situation gets out of hand.

In order to improve self-awareness a person needs to learn to focus his or her attention on their personality and behavior. Generally self-awareness is not a skill that one can learn from a book. It has been found that while reading a book the reader focuses on what is written in it and on the author's concepts, rather than on their own core experiences. There are books and websites that provide numerous ideas and solutions for enhanced self-awareness.

An individual can also be their own teacher in the process, boosting self-awareness by practicing for a few minutes each day. In order to do this, it is important to focus at the start of the day and observe emotional reactions to understand what lies behind them. The next step is to alter core beliefs and to develop communication and respect in relationships with others, as this is thought to help people to become more self-aware.

Self-Awareness: Selected full-text books and articles

The Situated Self By J.T. Ismael Oxford University Press, 2007
On Building, Defending, and Regulating the Self: A Psychological Perspective By Abraham Tesser; Joanne V. Wood; Diederick A. Stapel Psychology Press, 2005
Librarian's tip: Discussion of self-awareness begins on p. 32
Self-Awareness and the Evolution of Leaders: The Need for a Better Measure of Self-Awareness By Ashley, Greg C.; Reiter-Palmon, Roni Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, Vol. 14, No. 1, September 2012
Fast-Cycling Self-Awareness to Develop Better Leaders By Seitchik, Michael; Gresh, Bruce People & Strategy, Vol. 33, No. 3, September 2010
Self-Awareness Enhancement through Learning and Function (SELF): A Theoretically Based Guideline for Practice By Dirette, Diane British Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 73, No. 7, July 2010
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
My Right I: Deception Detection and Hemispheric Differences in Self-Awareness By Malcolm, Sarah; Keenan, Julian Paul Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, Vol. 31, No. 8, January 1, 2003
Masochism and the Self By Roy F. Baumeister Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1989
Librarian's tip: Discussion of self-awareness begins on p. 26
Notes on Self Awareness Development in Early Infancy By Geangu, Elena Cognitie, Creier, Comportament, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2008
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Promoting Cognitive Growth over the Life Span By Milton Schwebel; Charles A. Maher; Nancy S. Fagley Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990
Librarian's tip: Discussion of self-awareness begins on p. 90
Self-Knowledge and the Self By David A. Jopling Routledge, 2000
Librarian's tip: "Freedom, Self-Awareness, and Moral Responsibility" begins on p. 70
Nurturing Future Leadership Skills in Five to Eight Year-Old Children through Self-Awareness Activities By Scheer, Scott D.; Safrit, R. Dale Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, Fall 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Self in Time: Developmental Perspectives By Chris Moore; Karen Lemmon Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Personalizing the Temporally Extended Self: Evaluative Self-Awareness and the Development of Autobiographical Memory"
Self and World By Quassim Cassam Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Awareness of the Self 'Qua Subject'"
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