Wayne Ergle
September 1, 2023

Types of Self-Awareness: From Inner Thoughts to External Impressions

When we talk about personal development, self-awareness often pops up. But what does it mean to be self-aware? Simply put, it’s about knowing what’s happening inside our heads and hearts and understanding how others see us. It’s like chatting with ourselves, getting to know our likes, dislikes, strengths, and areas we can work on. But here’s the kicker: Self-awareness isn’t just one big thing. It splits into two main parts: private self-awareness and public self-awareness. Think of it as looking inward and then looking outward. By getting a handle on both, we can make better choices, connect more with others, and live in a way that feels right for us.

In this guide, we’ll embark on a journey to explore these two types of self-awareness, delving into their nuances, benefits, and the ways to cultivate them. Whether you’ve been reflecting for years or just starting to dip your toes into introspection and mindfulness, there’s something here for everyone.

Key Takeaways: Insights into the Two Types of Self-Awareness

TL;DR: Diving deep into the world of self-awareness, we uncover its two essential facets: the internal gaze into our thoughts and feelings and the external view of how others perceive us. If you’re pressed for time but want the core insights, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know:

  1. What is Self-Awareness? Self-awareness is the recognition of our inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations and understanding how others perceive us.
  2. The Two Primary Types of Self-Awareness:
    • Private (Internal) Self-Awareness involves looking inward and focusing on personal thoughts, feelings, and motivations. It’s about understanding your inner world and recognizing patterns in your behavior and reactions.
    • Public (External) Self-Awareness: This is about looking outward and understanding how others perceive you. It involves recognizing the impact of your actions on others and aligning your behavior with societal norms and expectations.
  3. Tangible Benefits Await: Cultivating self-awareness leads to enhanced decision-making, improved emotional regulation, better interpersonal dynamics, and increased job satisfaction.
  4. Actionable Steps to Enhance Self-Awareness: From practicing mindfulness and journaling to actively seeking feedback and working with professionals, there are practical steps you can take to boost your self-awareness.
  5. Navigating Challenges and Misconceptions: Overestimating our self-awareness or confusing introspection with genuine self-awareness are common pitfalls. Being open to feedback and continuous learning is critical.
  6. The Journey is Continuous: Self-awareness isn’t a one-time achievement. It’s an ongoing process that demands regular reflection, adaptation, and a commitment to growth.
  7. BYOI’s Core Belief: At Be Your Own Invention, the conviction is clear: Self-awareness is a transformative tool for personal development. It’s the gateway to unveiling your unique potential and embracing the authentic you.

With these core insights in hand, you’re well-equipped to delve deeper into the world of self-awareness. But remember, understanding the broader concept is just the beginning. To truly harness its power, it’s essential to grasp the distinct types of self-awareness. Let’s dive into these two pivotal dimensions and uncover the nuances that make each one unique.

The Two Types of Self-Awareness: Private and Public

An artistic representation of the types of self-awareness featuring a dancer in the midst of an energetic performance.

Understanding ourselves is a bit like piecing together a puzzle. Each piece represents a facet of who we are, and when combined, they paint a complete picture. In the realm of self-awareness, these pieces can be broadly categorized into two types: private and public. Let’s break them down.

Private Self-Awareness (Internal Self-Awareness)

Have you ever had those moments where you’re lost in thought, reflecting on why you felt a certain way or reacted the way you did to a situation? That’s private self-awareness in action. It’s all about:

  • Tuning into our inner world: Recognizing our thoughts, feelings, and desires. It’s the deep dive into understanding our motivations, fears, and dreams.
  • Emotional Intelligence: This is closely tied to private self-awareness. It’s the ability to understand and manage our emotions, which in turn helps us handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
  • Introspection: Taking time to reflect and ask ourselves questions like, “Why do I feel this way?” or “What triggers this emotion in me?” can provide valuable insights.

Quote: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

Fictional Case Study: Sarah’s Journey of Internal Reflection

Sarah always found herself getting overly anxious before team meetings. Through introspection, she realized it stemmed from a fear of public speaking she developed in school. She addressed her anxiety, from practicing mindfulness to joining a local public speaking club. Over time, her confidence grew, showcasing the power of private self-awareness in action.

A young woman business person at her desk. Created for a fictional case study on the types of self awareness.

Public Self-Awareness (External Self-Awareness)

While private self-awareness is about looking inward, public self-awareness is about understanding how we come across to others. It involves:

  • Perception: Being aware of how others see us. This can be a reality check, especially if their perception doesn’t align with how we view ourselves.
  • Seeking Feedback: Actively asking friends, family, or colleagues about our behavior can provide a clearer picture of our external self-awareness. Questions like, “Why did you say that?” or “How did my actions make you feel?” can be enlightening.
  • Mindfulness in Social Situations: Being present and observant in social settings helps us gauge reactions and adjust our behavior accordingly.

Quote: “We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.” – Virginia Satir

Fictional Case Study: James and the Mirror of Feedback – Introspection

A young business man in a suit is standing speaking to his colleagues. Created for a fictional case study on self-awareness.

James always considered himself a good listener. However, a colleague pointed out during a feedback session that he often interrupted others during discussions. Surprised, James decided to be more mindful in meetings. He realized his colleague was right. By actively working on his listening skills and seeking regular feedback, James improved his relationships at work, highlighting the importance of public self-awareness.

The Benefits of Self-Awareness

Understanding ourselves internally and externally isn’t just a philosophical exercise. It has tangible benefits that can profoundly impact our lives. Let’s explore some of these advantages.

Personal Growth and Emotional Intelligence

  • Enhanced Decision-Making: When we’re in tune with our feelings and thoughts, we make decisions that align better with our core values and beliefs. This leads to choices we’re more likely to be satisfied with in the long run.
  • Improved Emotional Regulation: Recognizing our emotions as they arise gives us the power to control them. Instead of being slaves to our feelings, we can manage and direct them constructively.
  • Job Satisfaction: Research has shown that self-aware people often find more satisfaction in their careers. They understand their strengths and weaknesses and can navigate workplace challenges more effectively.

Quote: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

Improved Relationships and Social Interactions

  • Better Interpersonal Dynamics: When we understand how others perceive us and know our feelings, our interactions become more genuine and harmonious.
  • Increased Empathy: Recognizing our own emotions makes it easier to understand and resonate with the feelings of others, leading to deeper connections.
  • Conflict Resolution: Being self-aware helps understand different perspectives during disagreements, making finding common ground and resolving issues easier.

Quote: “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fictional Case Study: Mia’s Transformation through Emotional Intelligence

Mia often found herself in heated arguments with her team. After a particularly intense disagreement, she took a step back to reflect. Through introspection, she realized that she often let her emotions dictate her reactions. Mia started approaching conflicts more rationally and empathetically by working on her emotional intelligence and practicing self-awareness. Over time, her relationships with her team improved, and the work environment became more collaborative.

Ways to Increase and Improve Self-Awareness

Becoming more self-aware isn’t just about understanding the concept; it’s about putting it into action. Here are some practical steps to enhance your self-awareness and actionable advice on implementing them in your daily life.

Mindfulness and the Power of Reflection

  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, without judgment. It’s a skill that can be developed with practice.
    • Put it into Action: Start with just 5 minutes a day. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Over time, increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
  • Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can provide clarity and perspective.
    • Put it into Action: Dedicate a few minutes daily to jot down your emotions, reactions to events, or introspective thoughts. Reviewing these entries over time can offer insights into your behavior and thinking patterns.

Quote: “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” – Buddha

Feedback and External Perspectives

  • Seek Feedback: Regularly ask friends, family, or colleagues for feedback on your behavior and interactions.
    • Put it into Action: After a meeting or social gathering, approach someone you trust and ask for honest feedback. Questions like “How did I come across during the discussion?” or “Did I seem receptive to other’s ideas?” can provide valuable insights.
  • 360-Degree Feedback: This is a more formal approach where feedback is gathered from those around you, including peers, subordinates, and superiors.
    • Put it into Action: Consider implementing a 360-degree feedback system in a workplace setting. If that’s not feasible, create an anonymous feedback form and share it regularly with those you interact with.

Research and Clinical Approaches

  • Work with a Therapist: A professional can provide objective insights into your behavior and thought patterns.
    • Put it into Action: Consider scheduling regular sessions with a therapist or counselor. They can offer tools and techniques tailored to your needs.
  • Educate Yourself: Dive into research on self-awareness. Books, articles, and courses can provide deeper insights and strategies.
    • Put it into Action: Pick up a book on self-awareness or emotional intelligence. Tasha Eurich’s research, for instance, offers valuable insights into the topic. Dedicate some time each week to reading and applying the knowledge.

Quote: “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

Common Misconceptions and Challenges in Developing Self-Awareness

While the journey to self-awareness is rewarding, it has hurdles. Understanding these challenges and misconceptions can help us navigate them more effectively.

Overestimating Our Self-Awareness

  • Many believe they’re more self-aware than they actually are. Research has found that while 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10-15% truly fit the criteria.
    • Put it into Action: Regularly check in with yourself. Ask, “Am I truly understanding my actions and their impact, or am I just skimming the surface?”

Confusing Introspection with Self-Awareness

  • Just because we’re thinking about ourselves doesn’t mean we’re being self-aware. Sometimes, introspection can lead to rumination or negative thoughts.
    • Put it into Action: When reflecting, focus on constructive questions like “What can I learn from this?” rather than dwelling on negative aspects.

Avoiding Feedback Due to Fear

  • We might shy away from feedback because it can be uncomfortable or confrontational. However, avoiding it can hinder our growth.
    • Put it into Action: Actively seek feedback and approach it open-mindedly. Remember, it’s a tool for growth, not criticism.

Quote: “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Believing Self-Awareness is an Innate Trait

  • Some think that people are either born self-aware, or they’re not. It’s a skill that can be developed and honed over time.
    • Put it into Action: Dedicate time to self-awareness practices, whether journaling, mindfulness or seeking feedback. It’s a journey, not a destination.

Fictional Case Study: Raj and the Feedback Challenge

A young business man in a suit is standing speaking to his colleagues. Created for a fictional case study on self-awareness.

Raj always considered himself a good leader. He believed he was in tune with his team’s needs and was making the right decisions. However, when the company introduced a 360-degree feedback system, he was taken aback by some of the comments. Initially defensive, Raj took a step back and realized this was an opportunity to grow. He began actively seeking feedback, attending leadership workshops, and meditating to improve his mindfulness. Over time, his leadership skills improved, and he became more self-aware.

Build Self-Awareness: Always Improve, Always Grow

Self-awareness isn’t a destination; it’s a continuous journey. As we evolve, so do our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Embracing this dynamic nature and taking action is crucial for sustained personal growth.

The Evolving Nature of Self

  • As we go through life, our experiences shape and redefine us. What we knew about ourselves a year ago might not hold today.
    • Put it into Action: Regularly revisit your self-awareness practices. Adjust and adapt them based on your current life circumstances and feelings.

The Power of Reflection

  • Reflecting on our actions, decisions, and feelings can lead to profound insights. It’s about understanding the past and preparing for the future.
    • Put it into Action: Dedicate a few minutes at the end of each day or week to reflect. Ask yourself, “What went well? What could I have done differently? How have I grown?”

Quote: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” – Ginni Rometty

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

  • The world around us is constantly changing. To stay self-aware, we need to be open to learning and adapting.
    • Put it into Action: Attend workshops, read books, or take personal development and self-awareness courses. Stay curious and open-minded.

The Role of External Feedback

  • As we grow and change, so does the way others perceive us. Continuously seeking external feedback ensures our public self-awareness remains accurate.
    • Put it into Action: Make it a habit to seek feedback, especially after significant events or changes in your life. It can provide a fresh perspective.

Fictional Case Study: Lena’s Lifelong Commitment to Growth

A young female entrepreneur at the counter of her quirky bake shop. Created for a fictional case study on the types of self awareness.

Lena, a successful entrepreneur, always believed in the power of self-awareness. Even after achieving significant milestones, she never stopped her self-awareness practices. She regularly attended personal development workshops, sought feedback from her team, and dedicated time to introspection. This commitment not only helped her navigate the challenges of the business world but also ensured she remained true to herself, showcasing that the journey of self-awareness is lifelong.

In Conclusion: Embracing the Authentic You

The journey of self-awareness is profoundly personal, filled with introspection, discovery, and growth. It’s about understanding the intricate dance between our internal world and the external environment. But more than that, it’s about embracing the authentic you, with all its strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and fears.

At Be Your Own Invention, we believe in the power of self-awareness as a catalyst for change. It’s the key that unlocks the door to a brighter, more genuine future. Whether you’re just starting or deep into your journey, remember that every step and insight brings you closer to your true self.

Quote: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

As you move forward, remember that self-awareness isn’t a one-time achievement. It’s a continuous process, evolving as you do. Embrace it, nurture it, and let it guide you. Your unique invention, your authentic self, is waiting to shine. Let’s uncover it together.


What does it mean to be self-aware?

Being self-aware means clearly understanding one’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s about recognizing how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.

Can you provide some examples of self-awareness in everyday life?

Certainly! Self-awareness includes recognizing when you’re stressed and taking a break, understanding why certain events trigger emotional responses, or seeking feedback after a presentation to know how to improve.

What are some essential self-awareness skills I should develop?

Key self-awareness skills include introspection, active listening, seeking and accepting feedback, emotional intelligence, and recognizing and understanding one’s biases.

How can I gauge my level of self-awareness?

Gauging your level of self-awareness can be achieved through self-reflection, seeking external feedback, and self-assessment tools. Regularly asking yourself introspective questions and comparing your self-perception with input from others can also provide insights into your self-awareness level.

How does self-consciousness differ from self-awareness?

While both focus on the self, self-consciousness often pertains to an acute awareness of how one appears to others, sometimes leading to embarrassment or awkwardness. On the other hand, self-awareness is a broader understanding of one’s internal and external perceptions, encompassing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without necessarily being tied to judgment.

Who is Eurich, and why is she significant in discussions about types of self-awareness?

Dr. Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist and a leading expert on self-awareness. Her research and writings, particularly her book “Insight,” delve deep into the science of self-awareness, offering valuable insights and practical advice on how individuals can become more self-aware in both personal and professional settings.

Wayne Ergle

Wayne firmly believes that each of us possesses extraordinary gifts and talents, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world. But life's hurdles often obstruct our path to greatness. That's why he birthed Be Your Own Invention – to ignite the flames of motivation in everyone's transformation journey. Wayne’s transformation story includes conquering a 20-year battle with severe alcohol addiction, emerging triumphant and sober since 2018.