Are You Truly Self-Aware? 13 Signs You Are Lacking Self-Awareness

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The key to happiness could be locked behind a closed door of self-awareness. 

People who are not self-aware are half of the problem.

The other half are people who believe they are self-aware when they really aren’t. 

Becoming more self-aware is both a mindfulness practice and a result of being more mindful.

There are two levels of self-awareness: How well you know yourself and how well you know how others see you.

This is the “Inner” and “Outer” self at work. 

A research study posted in the Harvard Business Review shows that 95% of people believe they are self-aware.

In reality, only as many as 15% of people are self-aware. 

The rest have a lack of awareness. 

What Does It Mean If You Lack Self-Awareness?

Just because you are lacking self-awareness doesn’t mean you can’t achieve it.

It helps to know self-awareness before seeing how well we can dissect ourselves under the psychological microscope. 

Show me a dozen respected psychologists, and I’ll show you a dozen different answers to “What is Self-Awareness?”

“An awareness of one’s own personality or individuality” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“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.” – Dr. Tasha Eurich, Organizational Psychologist & Researcher

People who are not self-aware are not bad, although some of their actions might make it seem that way. If you lack self-awareness, it means:

  • You might be missing social cues for etiquette and professionalism.
  • You are more likely to be depressed, stressed, or unhappy.
  • You have no idea how others perceive you in personal and professional environments. 

What Causes Lack of Self-Awareness?

As one expert stated, “Birth causes self-awareness issues.” How we are raised in nature and nurture can each impact our self-awareness from the earliest ages and develop into adult habits.

man looking at his reflection lack of self-awareness

According to a study done at Emory University, there are five stages for people who lack self-awareness. 

Level 0: Confusion

This is a complete and total lack of self-awareness and reflection on ourselves. A child at this level doesn’t understand when looking in a mirror that the mirror is showing us a reflection of our world. They believe it’s an amplification of the world around them, not a reflection of it. 

Level 1: Differentiation

This is the stage where a child might see themselves in a mirror and realize it’s a reflection of a person like them.

They can differentiate between their movements and the other objects or people in the mirror. They are just stuck at that point of recognition with little to no situational awareness. 

Level 2: Situation

In this stage, a child might wave in the mirror to get the reflected reaction. They move closer and further back to confirm that what they are seeing is indeed a reflection of their own movements and how they control the environment. 

Level 3: Identification

Level three takes up to the “Hey, that’s me!” stage. They might see a dirt mark on their face and try to wipe it off.

In the cute videos you see on social media, this would be the kid pointing at the mirrors and saying their own name. 

Level 4: Permanence

A child in Level Four can go through a photo album and point themselves out. They might see videos of the last family trip to Disney World and happily clap when they see themselves having a good time. 

Level 5: Self-Consciousness 

This is the stage where self-awareness is strong enough to know what is perceived as right or wrong. A child in this stage might not take a cookie off a plate of a fresh-baked batch because of fear or guilt. 

This is where many adults get rooted in a lack of awareness – Fear. Fear of embarrassment, feeling inferior or being left out of a social circle. They adapt their behavior against their internal being to accommodate external factors. 

13 Signs You Have a Lack of Self-Awareness

Let’s put a pin in the expert advice and research to explore the real-world ways you might be showing a complete or partial lack of self-awareness. 

1. You wonder, “Is It Me? Am I the Drama?”

The social media viral catchphrase is deeply anchored to a lack of self-awareness.

Moreover, it is turning a habit into humor to the detriment of self-awareness. If you feel like the drama is always surrounding you, directly or indirectly, you have to own your part in that. 

There are also internal signs that you are experiencing drama like if every time you meet with your boss, your stomach is in knots. Learning to regulate emotions can reduce the drama in your life. 

2. You listen to your Inner Critic too much.

Chalk up another lack of self-awareness to childhood. As Sigmund Freud explained in the Superego theory, we internalize how we see and judge ourselves from an early age.

girl in the stairs thinking lack of self-awareness

That “Inner Critic” is the voice that talks to us in a tone and with words we’d never say to another human being.

If you let your Inner Critic guide you, there’s a true lack of self-awareness. You are more than the incident in 5th grade where you fell in front of the class and now get scared whenever you present to a group. 

3. You don’t understand self-esteem vs. self-awareness.

These two are connected, but not the same. The more self-aware you are, the more self-esteem you might have. Conversely, you can have extremely high self-esteem but be oblivious to your true self. This is where narcissism is rooted. 

If you outwardly project a high level of confidence and grandeur but inwardly feel inadequate, you have issues with your inner and outer self-awareness.

Being self-aware means you accept yourself for strengths and weaknesses, not just portraying an ego of confidence at all times. 


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4. You can’t read the room.

Have you ever seen a group of friends or colleagues in a tight-knit circle with somber looks and invaded that space with a joke or a “Hey guys, lighten up!” 

This reflects a lack of awareness and inability to read the room. If you can be at a conference table and survey the room based on people’s body language and facial expressions, you might be more self-aware than you realize. 

Identifying other people’s emotions is a great step toward self-awareness and the development of empathy.

Empathy is a trait that will go a long way at work and in your personal life. It has to be real empathy, not feigned interest in someone else’s problem. 

5. You think you are never wrong.

You don’t have to admit it out loud, but you know if you’re the “know-it-all” who is never wrong. You know if you take pleasure in pointing out to someone who didn’t take your advice that you were right in the first place. 

Anyone who is always right and rarely wrong is in the group of people who lack self-awareness. 

6. You can’t take feedback unless it’s positive.

You absolutely encourage people to give you feedback as long as it’s not construction or negative.

When met with construction criticism, you feel your heart rate increase and breathing intensify. You are armed with ten reasons why you should totally get positive feedback all the time. 

7. You’re as easy as a firework to set off.

People who lack self-awareness have a hard time regulating emotions. This can lead to outbursts, crying, or passive-aggressiveness.

woman embracing herself lack of self-awareness

Other people might be scared to approach you for fear of how you might react, even when you’re in a leadership position and need to know what the person has to say. 

8. You believe things and status equal self-awareness.

A person can be aware they have a Porsche, a $500,000 mortgage, and a Country Club membership, but that doesn’t mean they are self-aware. 

Self-awareness is a priceless and free examination of who you really are as a person, even if you were transported to a desert island with none of your belongings.

Your beliefs, ideals, and standards are critical to self-awareness comprehension and have nothing to do with your bankroll or four-car garage. 

9. You’ve not mastered the two self-awareness models.

You can totally and honestly know yourself inside and out. You know what’s right and wrong. You know where you ethically draw the line on certain elements of life.

This doesn’t mean you automatically know how others perceive you, which is critical to understanding your Outer Self. 

On the flip side, your lack of internal self-awareness could still make it clear how others perceive you. As a manager, your employees might see you are empathetic, compassionate, and hard-working.

If you are doing those things even when they go against your Inner Self goal of having a better work-life balance and leaving office politics away from home, you aren’t self-aware enough internally. 

10. You have been called a “control freak.”

Your friends and colleagues might call you a control freak jokingly or seriously. You could be the person who has to arrange the coffee cups “just so” in the breakroom or always have a fresh #2 pencil to take notes. 

Some aspects of control could be rooted in ADHD or OCD, but that doesn’t give you an excuse for not being self-aware. It just means you’ll have to work harder at it. 

11. You have an inability to make decisions. 

A consistently indecisive person is usually battling some kind of internal confusion about beliefs, standards, and right vs. wrong. 

While smart decision-making comes with taking input from various people and data, the inability to make a decision when all the facts and input have been presented could mean you are not self-aware. 

12. You think overanalyzing makes you self-aware. 

Do you feel like your mind always has 50 Google tabs open? Do you spend lunch obsessing about the meeting where you spilled your coffee on your boss? Just because your mind always goes 100 miles per hour doesn’t mean you are self-aware. 

Those overthinkers lacking self-awareness are like dogs chasing their tail. It’s a great way to burn energy, but little progress is achieved. 

13. You’ve been promoted multiple times, so you must be self-aware, right? 

Nope. A good manager transitions to a great leader through internal and external self-awareness. In reality, promotions can happen by chance, luck, or previous relationships with hiring managers. 

If you have no idea how your team members see you or assume they see you as successful simply because you got promoted, it’s worth talking one-on-one with a trusted member of your team. 

Do you lack self-awareness? Read this post and find out.

How Do I Improve Self-Awareness?

Resources are available online and in the privacy of a health professional’s office to get your thinking in the right direction instead of steering in all the wrong directions.

A good starting point is to take a self-awareness test, and there is a variety to choose from online. 

Other ways to become more self-aware include:

  • Practicing meditation and mindfulness to clear your mind so you have the mental space for awareness.
  • Read books that help you recognize where you need to be more self-aware. Books about emotional intelligence are a good place to begin.
  • Ask friends and family for an honest assessment of their perceptions of your strengths and weaknesses. Ask them what they think your blind spots are. 
  • Look at people you admire and respect and see where your behaviors and reactions differ from theirs.
  • Work on making positive changes. The more you improve the areas of low self-awareness, the more self-aware you’ll become.

People who lack self-awareness might let the points above that resonate feed the beast of the Inner Critic. 

The point isn’t how many of the elements you identify with or how confused you might feel right now. The point is knowing the areas where you are lacking self-awareness, so you can focus on improving them. 

When you are more internally and externally self-aware, you’ll be happier and healthier. 

Are you truly aware of what you are as a person? In this post, know whether you know yourself well, or you have a lack of self-awareness.
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