Internal self awareness

Internal Self Awareness: Understand Your Emotions

Article last updated on August 16, 2021

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We all have things about ourselves that we don’t like, and it’s easy to get discouraged when we can’t change them.

But with internal self-awareness, you can learn more about yourself and what makes you tick so that you can take steps towards being the best version of yourself possible.

Are you busy or effective?
If your revenue is growing at a snail's pace it's time for a reality check.
Are you busy or effective?
If your revenue is growing at a snail's pace it's time for a reality check.

It doesn’t matter if your goals are big or small – self-awareness is the first step in achieving anything in life.

Self-awareness will help us understand our reactions to different situations and how they affect others around us.

With this knowledge, we’ll be able to make smarter decisions on how to react next time without hurting anyone else’s feelings or making a bad situation worse than it needs to be.

And as an added bonus, self-awareness helps us become more compassionate people because we know what other people might be going through too!

What Is Internal Self Awareness

Our internal self-awareness is an understanding of our values, passions, and aspirations.

Internal self awareness

The more in tune we are with ourselves the better able we will be to achieve happiness or success that aligns with who we really are as people.

Internal self-awareness includes how well you can relate to others around you through your feelings/behaviors; what strengths and weaknesses come from this personal relationship between yourself and those closest to you both personally (friends) as well as professionally (co-workers).

It’s hard to see ourselves clearly, internal self-awareness is a challenge.

But it’s the most important foundation for living with authenticity and making decisions that are good for us.

Compared to external self awareness, internal awareness is more difficult to achieve.

Our core desires and values are internalized in an internal self-awareness.

It helps us understand our reactions to different situations and what they can do to others around us.

With this knowledge we’re able to make smarter decisions on how to react next time without hurting anyone else’s feelings or making a bad situation worse than necessary – like getting into a fight with someone who doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment from you when all they did was bump into you accidentally.

Internal and external self-awareness create a more cohesive sense of who we are, and how we act.

They’re interconnected in a feedback loop that keeps us from being overwhelmed by our own emotions (this can happen if you have problems with external self-awareness only).

When your internal awareness is high enough, it creates a natural flow that allows you to get the most out of every situation.

Why Does Internal Self Awareness Matter 

Not only can internal self-awareness help us make better decisions and be a more compassionate people, it also helps us achieve our goals.

The clearer we are about what we want out of life, the easier it is to set specific goals for ourselves that will lead to achieving them in time.

Internal self awareness matters because it is how you learn more about yourself and find ways to work around those things so you can become the best version of yourself possible!

It’s easy to get discouraged when something isn’t going your way or when there’s an obstacle standing in your way, but with internal self-awareness, understanding who you truly are makes success not feel so distant anymore.

Understanding exactly what we want
We’ll nurture understanding of exactly what we want.

Relationship satisfaction and stronger relationships are developed when we know who we are, what we like and want from life.

It makes it easier to communicate with others because we’re able to understand how they feel about different situations as well – this allows us to empathize with them more often!

Internal self-awareness is a part of what it means to be fully human. 

How To Develop Internal Self Awareness

It’s a lifelong process. You are always learning more about yourself, and internal self-awareness helps you become clear on who you truly are and what you want out of life. 

Start by reflecting on your values: think about why they’re important to you, what makes them unique – how do they make the world around us better?

What does it mean when acting in accordance with our values is difficult but still right for you or others involved, even if there might be some short term consequences?

Three ways to increase your own internal self-awareness

Self-awareness training starts with yourself.

The more you are aware of your own feelings and thoughts, the better choices you’ll make when it comes to others and have an objective self-awareness.

1st way: Empathy

Increasing empathy for others is a great way to build internal self-awareness: the ability to see things from another person’s perspective.

To achieve this, start by remembering what it was like as a child before you learned things like prejudice and what is “normal”: when you were a child, you didn’t judge anyone because it never occurred to you.

Be honest with others about how you feel – but be careful not to hurt their feelings in the process.

The more comfortable we are talking about taboo subjects like mental health, the better understanding we’ll have of others who might be struggling with the same thing, and we can all work together to help each other overcome it.

2nd way: Feedback

Seeking critical feedback (especially honest feedback) is the key to opening up to growth.

We are in a phase where many mental health issues like depression, suicide, anxiety, social phobia etc. are ‘coming into light’.

It is very important to see depression not as something that one should just get over, but as an illness that needs to be treated.

Whereas in the past depression and anxiety have been perceived as a weakness, now it is understood that these mental illnesses are not something that one should just live with – they can be overcome.

3rd way: Reflect and Document

Reflect on your internal values – what are they, what do they mean to you and why?

It may sound silly to you at first, but try journaling! Journaling is a great way to express how we feel without having anyone else tell us that we shouldn’t feel whatever those feelings may be.

It documents our internal thoughts so that at any time, even years later when things have changed for the better or worse, it can help remind us who we were back then as well.

Talk about internal self awareness with others around you who also want more clarity in their lives: find someone willing to talk through this with you and get them involved too!

There’s power in sharing experiences like these together because people know exactly where other people are coming from – and it’s not like anyone has to be alone in this.

Situations where people have a lack of internal self-awareness

A lack of internal self-awareness may manifest itself in an individual’s social interactions, such as assuming that other people they interact with should act according to the assumptions or goals they set for themselves.

They might see other people in a limited capacity, seeing their life through the filter of themselves.

For instance, if someone’s goal is to earn more income than their boss at work, and they take offense when their boss offers them a promotion (implicitly imagining all the prestige that would come with accepting), then this person is not aware internally either about what he wants from his job or himself.

People who are low in self-awareness want primarily to gain control over their environment but rarely tell you what it is exactly that makes them feel.

Someone who finds themselves slipping into a bad habit again and doesn’t know why they’re doing it lacks internal self awareness, this is because they don’t know themselves well enough to understand why they’re doing this habit, or at least enough to recognize the possibility that they are in fact in control.

  • Lack of internal self-awareness can manifest itself as manipulation – managing others by controlling them with fear or guilt. This is because people who lack internal awareness do not know what it is that will make them feel good about themselves and may seek it through external means.
  • It can manifest itself as projecting – looking at everything from the perspective of others rather than the one who is living in a situation. Projecting is when you are constantly assuming that other people are thinking or feeling something different from what they say.
  • People who live in a victim mode and cannot change their lives because of it, but no longer want to blame others are lacking internal self-awareness – they do not see the power they have within themselves to pull them out of that situation.
  • Social interactions where people feel the need to control everything, such as their partner or boss is a manifestation of internal self-awareness.

These are just a couple of examples of internal self awareness.

It’s possible for anyone to lack internal self-awareness, no matter how old we are or what our upbringing was like as long as we haven’t taken action towards understanding ourselves better yet.

The more internal self-aware you can be about yourself, your values and passions, etc., the easier it will be to make decisions that lead you closer to living out those things every day.

Leaders Have Highly Developed Internal Self Awareness

People need to lead themselves before they can lead others.

It doesn’t matter if you are an owner of online business, coach, consultant, freelancer or anything else, in order to understand and lead others, one needs a clear understanding of oneself in relation to their environment.

This means that leadership begins with self-leadership and includes the continual search for feedback from oneself and others that can ultimately inform decisions on how best to affect change within relationships, communities or teams.

That’s how we’ll build public self-awareness.

Leading is also about performance; it is an activity we engage in every day, everywhere we go.

The difference between leading effectively or not can be found in the quality of your attention, intentionality with which you interact with people and situations, clarity of vision for where you are going together as well as how your actions will make a positive contribution both now and in the future.

We lead in our thoughts, words and actions. We live life as leaders or followers every day, all the time.

Core components for effective leadership are soft skills, self-awareness skills, strong relationship building skills and emotional intelligence skills.

Acknowledge the existence of both internal and external realities at any given moment – be in touch with your own feelings as well as what is going on around you.

The following are some archetypes connected to this question:

  1. Leader without Awareness (“The Tyrant”) – Their lack of self-awareness and the refusal to address their shortcomings often prevents these leaders from realizing what they are doing wrong. They don’t accept or seek candid feedback from others, because they avoid negative feedback. In addition, this mindset may cause them to have low awareness of others in turn. 
  2. Leader as a Victim (“The Martyr”) – These leaders take on an external perspective when evaluating themselves, while avoiding internal dialogue for fear that it’ll make life too challenging. They adopt this stance because it is easier than facing psychological discomfort with any degree of intimacy. This archetype can be found in military service members or first responders who feel they must sacrifice everything for the good of society or subordinates who feel like they need to do anything possible to protect people. They have great organizational performance and are objective evaluators.
  3. Leader with Internal Awareness (“The Trusted Advisor”) – This archetype is a conscious, assertive and internally aware leader who knows themselves and their values so they are able to serve as a mentor or trusted advisor for those willing to learn from them. Two of the best examples would be Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, who were both able to rise above their own feelings of powerlessness and engage in peaceful methods of resistance and civil disobedience.
  4. Leader with an Aligned Internal Value System (“The Advocate”) – An effective leader who is aligned internally values the good of society as much as their own self-interests. They have unconscious awareness that they want life to be better for everyone as well as themselves. This archetype is a beacon of hope, determination and resilience for others to emulate. Many people may be able to relate to this type of leader because they value their own self-interests without sacrificing anyone else in the process – how many of us can say that we’ve achieved this?

Much like Gandhi (who we mentioned in the previous archetype), Martin Luther King Jr. is another example of a leader who was able to achieve his goals without sacrificing anyone else.

He became aware of how he felt inside regardless of what others might think about him, and allowed himself to feel empowered by that, which gave him the courage and guidance to continue on with his path of social justice.

Leaders who are not able to address their own internal awareness often find it challenging to trust themselves and others, so they seek the advice and opinion of others before making any decisions or changes as well as taking on leadership roles in the first place. Leaders with low self-awareness are more likely to “fall off course” than those who are aware of themselves and the effect that has on others around them.

This is where having an internal self-awareness mentor comes into play; someone who you trust to give you feedback when you ask for it, or your own private journal to write down your thoughts so that you can later reflect upon them with a more objective understanding.

How to be successful leaders of ourselves?

In order to be successful leaders of ourselves effectively it is important to know your own emotional reactions and values, so you can experience a sense of internal self-awareness that informs decisions on a moment by moment basis.

This will help you to be more effective in leading people.

Integrate rather than deny your emotions and subjective reactions to life events, situations and other people in order to become more objective about yourself as you are also reading the world around you and interpreting things from the widest possible perspective.

This is an integral way of being; integrating one’s personal values with one’s external reality.

This means living with our emotions and feelings rather than denying that they exist or pushing them down, numbing ourselves from life, which is ultimately a way of not facing the truth about how we feel and what actions we are taking as a result of these feelings.

Being able to acknowledge your own internal self-awareness without being overwhelmed by it will help you to act in a way that is more thoughtful, grounded and self-aware.

It’s very important to be able to acknowledge your internal self awareness without being overwhelmed by it, so we can focus on what is happening around us rather than projecting our own fears and insecurities onto others.

Examples Of Highly Self-Aware People

  • A person who is a great partner because they know their own strengths and weaknesses, and seek to complement their partner’s strengths while attending to their partner’s weaknesses. This means that the person has no expectation that any one person will be able to fill all their needs; they undertake the responsibility of filling only what they are capable of.
  • A person who is a successful employee because they know their strengths and weaknesses, and seek to work in a position that suits their strengths while volunteering deliver work for managers who can handle more difficult tasks or take on mentoring roles for people who are more junior than them.
  • A person that is able to work in a team and knows their role in the team so they can be a valuable member of the team, but does not expect special treatment or items because of it.   
  • Someone who is an effective parent because they treat the child as an individual, guiding and supporting them in their endeavors without expecting them to be the adult that this person needs themselves.
  • Someone who is very productive at work because they work hard on what matters most to them and don’t let anyone or anything distract them from it. They have conscious awareness and job satisfaction.
  • A person who has many friends because they know what they can offer to the friendship and seek friends who complement their strengths, knowing that a person with different personality type or unique skill set may be better suited for some of their roles in life. Social norms and positive self awareness are the key drivers for what it means to be a good friend.

The key is therefore to learn how you feel about yourself, your values and dreams by observing how you think, act and react to situations.

Questions About Internal Self Awareness

Is there a difference between introspection and self awareness?

Introspection is a cognitive process of introspecting, or examining one’s own traits and reactions.

This requires active work by the person, as opposed to awareness in which the person responds passively.

So, the difference between introspection and self awareness is that while introspection involves an act of reflection on oneself, self awareness does not require any effort on behalf of the individual.

How do relationships affect your sense of self-awareness?

While relationships with other people can enhance your internal self-awareness, they also have the potential to block it.

Whenever you are in a relationship that doesn’t feel good for whatever reason, this will be another influence blocking you from understanding yourself better.

Understanding why we do what we do – and what we want from ourselves and our circumstances- is an important step to feeling more increased self-awareness.

Improved self awareness and understanding of our feelings, values, reactions is how we become better at being with others without projecting or manipulating.

Learning from past experiences that didn’t work out as they would have liked is one way people can improve their ability to focus internally, and not always project their own fears and insecurities onto others.

Being able to define what we want out of a particular relationship (to clarify or “name” our intentions) helps us walk away from relationships that are not fulfilling for us, rather than stay in a situation where we don’t feel good about ourselves and the other person does not understand why.

Ways in which a lack of awareness (or how being too aware) could negatively impact relationships with others:

If you are feeling intensely jealous or controlling, for example. This is a way in which the lack of internal self-awareness can manifest itself as manipulating – managing others by controlling them with fear or guilt.

If your partner doesn’t allow you to go out with friends after work or on the weekend, it could be that they are projecting – constantly assuming that other people are thinking or feeling something different from what they say.

So that’s why you need to lead yourself first…regardless of what kind relationship you are thinking about.

Is it normal to refer to myself as we when talking to myself?

It’s normal to refer to one self as we when talking to oneself, because it is impossible for an external third person observer to validate the true answer in this case.

The only answer that matters is the one from your own internal perspective.

This is why it is important to take ownership of our decisions, and believe in ourselves based on what we know about ourselves from self-awareness.


The key is therefore to learn how you feel about yourself, your values and dreams by observing how you think, act and react to situations.

Internal self-awareness is one of the most important aspects to developing a healthy relationship with yourself.

If you’re not able to understand how your brain works and what makes it tick, then you won’t be successful in some other aspects of life either.  

It’s time for us all to take responsibility for who we are – our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and impact on others – because if we don’t know where we stand within ourselves then how can we expect anyone else to?

Marko Matijasevic

Marko is performance-based growth strategist, focusing on business growth while maintaining a strong emphasis on authenticity in every individual he works with.