Self-awareness… what is it and why is it crucial to have it?

Please email me if you find a typo or something unclear. Thank you. Sophie

Self-awareness is the rarest of all the human virtues. Why? because it is all inner… and unless you have it you won’t even know you have it. And unless you grow it, you can’t change.

This is one of the things I measure in the Starting Point Measurements.

The numbers I get are between 3% and 20%, with 20% is being rare: I only found, so far, one person with that level of awareness.

So what can you notice if and when you are self-aware?

You notice your feelings and your emotions and then interpret them. Explain them.

We (and psychologists) have established that emotional intelligence is crucial to the quality of your life. Your life experience.

Unless you know what you feel, unless you really, astutely identify it, you will react to what you think you feel… and the two are not even similar.

It is one thing to have a large vocabulary of emotional words. But it is yet another to see below the surface, and see the true motivation for the feeling.

Everyone has an opinion, and we know that. But you probably don’t know that everyone also has a racket. A way to get, extort, strokes: i.e. a way to get nurturing strokes from others.

Any response is good enough to fulfill the need to be noticed… good or bad… depends on what your life circumstances taught you… plus your bend according to your soul correction.

I have students who will trigger “good” strokes, but many more students who will trigger “bad” strokes.

I favor the “bad” strokes for myself: unless I did something that my parents didn’t like, I was invisible. And being invisible feels like you don’t exist, you won’t get sustenance, because being noticed feels necessary for survival. So I misbehaved, and got strokes. I am always bratty and sometime I am bossy. That is how I extort strokes. Let me explain…

Sounds really weird, but when I wasn’t beaten up any given day, I KNEW they didn’t love me.

Love and being noticed are the same thing for a child. Getting attention means love…

Transactional Analysis says there are four basic rackets: Helpless, Helpful, Bratty and Bossy. Helpless and Helpful bring on positive strokes, while Bratty and Bossy bring on negative strokes.

The child who won’t let her shift-worker father sleep because she needs to be noticed, so she makes noise… has a Bratty racket. And unless she gets AWARE of it, she will continue extorting negative strokes… as her only means of getting strokes. And complain, weep, etc. about the strokes she extorted, saying she deserved better.

Anything that can open your eyes to how you are REALLY in the world, and what strokes you aim for is good for the purposes of increasing your self-awareness.

For example in 2007, if I remember correctly, I bought the Healing Codes. I found out that I had an issue with kindness. I had been getting strokes for being unkind… I have a Bratty racket. Obviously.

Kindness, doing good, never got me any attention, so I became bratty. But I didn’t know people wanted, hoped for kindness from me: it wasn’t part of my “behavioral makeup”… and guess what: it still isn’t. But becoming aware of it, I can now be kind at will… although it still doesn’t come naturally, and it doesn’t get me any strokes. 🙁

My current Playground students have, without the name…  bratty, bratty, bossy, bratty, bratty, bratty, bossy, bratty, bossy, bossy, bossy rackets.

But if you asked them, they don’t know that yet. They probably consider themselves helpless or helpful. Or nice. Or stupid. Or abused.

This is because of their low self-awareness. They are not aware of what strokes they are going for, they are not aware of their state of being: wanting a stroke at any and all cost. Even if it kills you. Or gets you robbed, cheated, deceived, beaten, poor, shunted… at any cost.

And if you don’t know how you are being, if you don’t know what is your intention, you will never be able to fulfill Hillel’s three lines that are the hallmark of a happy, productive, lovable person

If I am not for me, who is for me?
If I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?

If you don’t know that you are craving strokes at another’s expense, which is what racket is: extortion!, then even if you want to, you won’t know that you are needing strokes.

There was almost a moment in my life where I got aware that I need strokes, and that it is MY JOB to give them to me.

It wasn’t a long time ago.

Magically, at the same time, I started to be perceived as a lot kinder that I was before. I experienced myself a lot freer, and “gasp”, playful.

I am still overbearing, which is a bratty way of being, but I am a lot less at the expense of another… a lot less. The racket didn’t disappear: you can’t fix a racket, you cannot change a racket, you can only be aware of the trigger that brings on the racket: being needy of a stroke.

And having a choice.

Being able to give yourself a stroke is what gives you choice, not suppressing the racket: that doesn’t work.

I have found an article from 10 years ago. I didn’t write it. But I liked it enough to save it on my hard drive.

It’s from an online “dear abby” type of column.

In it there are examples of low self-awareness. Can you identify the rackets in the examples? Remember: Helpless, Bratty, Helpful, Bossy are the four main types…

If you do, email me, or post a comment. I am curious how well you can identify something in others that you probably cannot identify yet in yourself.

PS: By the way, I just went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee and I noticed extreme anxiety welling up. I muscle-tested and it was mine. My “inner child” got all worried that I am going to say good-bye to all the strokes brattiness gets me… and I will die from no strokes…

So beware: if anxiety comes up: it is a good sign that you are starting to pay attention and maybe get close to who you are being that earns you strokes. OK?

OK, here is the article I want you to read and express your view on the rackets shown in it:


How can I make sure that the way I view myself is not too far removed from how I am perceived by others, or how I really am?

Once in a while I come to the realization that a friend or family member has an opinion of themselves in a way that is completely opposite the way that I perceive them. Recently I have experienced that same jarring dissonance in one or two ways, and want to find ways to make sure I’m not deluding myself about myself.

One example: An old friend is in his early 40s and has a low-paying government contracting job. He lives with his parents to save money, and as far as I know does not pay rent or contribute to household expenses.

He has, in total, perhaps a couple of thousands of dollars in savings to his name. He has no traditional kinds of investments or savings (CDs, an IRA, 401(k), bonds, etc.) Instead, he has put any extra money that he has into a microloan lending site (

When he gets a loan paid off, he lends the funds right back out again. Sometimes he has lost money this way. Anyway, he likes to call himself an “angel investor”.

Whenever I hear him say that I just have to roll my eyes. I see that he likes the respectability of this label, but he does not even live life as a financially independent adult.

A more personal example: As the mom of a young child I like to think that I can provide helpful advice to new moms (when asked!). I find myself weighing in (I’m talking about in real life with acquaintances and friends, not online on sites like AskMeFi) on topics whether or not children should have TVs in their room to how to deal with a toddler’s tantrum at the supermarket. But then I worry that instead of sounding like a wise been-there-done-that resource, I come across as a judgmental know-it-all.

I know it’s not really possible to truly know how you present yourself to the rest of the world, and that if I’m talking to two people at once, they might easily each come away with totally different impressions of me, depending on their own experiences or prejudices. But is there some way of thinking about this that can help me give myself a reality check about my own perceptions of myself vs. how I present myself to the world?

Thank you all in advance for your thoughtful responses.

Answers by the visitors of this site,

  • Answer: The best way to do a reality check is to simply check. With advice, sometimes it is helpful to check before you speak – “Are you looking for ideas on how to handle that?” And to avoid being a know-it-all, make it clear that you are sharing your own experience – “of course every child / family is different so that might not work so well for you.” Depending on the relationship, you might be able to ask something after the fact like “was that helpful or was it off target?” With a really good friend, you can just ask point blank “was I acting like a know-it-all back there?”And please try to be more generous in your assessment of your friend. You don’t know all the details of his finances or his arrangement with parents. Living frugally to support others who have even less is admirable. Even if you don’t think he has his overall priorities straight, you can still respect the impulse.
  • Answer: To begin with, there’s the matter of your approach – do you want to be able to see yourself as others see you, or do you want what you imagine yourself to be to be the you that others see you? It sounds like you’re going for the former, in which case, there are a few things to keep in mind:Consider the background of the people around you, the life-shaping events from their past, the place where they are in life right now, and where their priorities lie. Try not to speculate. Consider only that which you’re pretty certain about. This gives you an idea of what mindset is shaping the way this person views life to begin with.Although you’re bound to at least unconsciously put up blind spots or rose-color different things you said or did, try to see yourself plainly.Now shift your point of view from yourself to the people in your life, and look at yourself from where they are.Do keep in mind that ultimately, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and the way other people are perceiving you should be a limited priority, especially considering who those people are – you’d give more importance to your spouse’s view of you than your boss’s, for example. But in the end, if you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you’re not going to be much good to anyone.I understand that feeling of listening to someone who doesn’t “get” how absurd/annoying/rude they really are, and then wonder, “Oh gawd, what if I’m just like that in a different way, to someone else, and I’m just too clueless to notice” but I wouldn’t let it hold that much sway over my life. If you listen to people, if you are able to look at yourself plainly, and can empathize with others, chances are no one that matters will think you’re a jerk, unless they do.
  • Answer: People will make their own judgments on you based on their experiences. How they view you is more of a reflection of how they see the world.Just do what feels right and let them judge.
  • Answer: Some personality types have it much worse than others:Whistling in the Dark: Narcissism and the Grandiosity Gap”The disparity between the accomplishments of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image – the Grandiosity Gap – is staggering and, in the long run, insupportable. It imposes huge demands on the narcissist’s grasp of reality and social skills. It pushes him either to seclusion or to a frenzy of “acquisitions” – cars, women, wealth, power, excitement.”On the other hand, if someone’s coping mechanism is working (i.e. they’re reasonably happy and not hurting anybody) then who are you or me to cut them down for it? There’s far too little happiness in this world as it is to go around laying metaphorical turds in people’s punch bowls.It’s a vicious cycle: businessmen think artists are losers for not being financially responsible, and artists think businessmen are losers for not being creative.Who’s right? Both and neither, yet everybody is self-righteous and smug. Personally, I think whatever you have to believe to get yourself through the day shouldn’t effect me or the way I live my life in the slightest. To each his own.

    The fact that you roll your eyes at people with different values from your own is at the heart of the problem. Either develop your sense of empathy, or “judge and prepare to be judged”, as Ayn Rand once said.

    When you think of it, that contractor really is an angel to somebody. If that’s the main thing he values in life, then more power to him.

  • Answer: I think for most people, the level of self-awareness, not judging the choices other people can make, is most obvious.In the first example, the 40-ish guy still living at home, your attitude reads ugly. Lots of assumptions about things, about someone’s choices and values that differ from yours and “Whenever I hear him say that I just have to roll my eyes.”Like bloody hell you “have to.” It says everything about you that you need to know…You choose to roll your eyes.More: If I’m in Cameroon or Uzbekistan and this guy’s 25 bucks has a profound impact on my life, you can bet that he is an angel to me.You’re so much cooler than he is. You deserve an organic, gluten-free cookie made with fair-trade grain and fruit, loving baked and sold by people who get great wages and benefits, can identify portabella mushrooms on sight.

    You see, that’s me being snarky at how you come across in that example.

    The second example comes across as one that’s more likely to get a better reaction, speaks to a healthier… call it what you will… mindset, energy, outlook, vibe, tone, attitude.

  • Answer: The best way to find out how other people view you is to ask them. How much that is going to be welcome is going to be up to you. For example, going by your first example above, I’d say you were quite critical about things that don’t really concern you. The guy has the right to spend his money on what he wants to. His life experience and choice is very different from yours. He behaves differently way than you. It’s none of your business what he does with his money.Your second example makes you sound arrogant. You do come across judgmental. Again, different people & different families = different life plans, choices and experiences.I’m mentioning this to get it across that what others see you as isn’t what you are. I’m just looking at a few lines of text on a computer screen, and making a snap judgement.It isn’t “true”, as such. It’s just an opinion, and an opinion that is quite probably wrong. Maybe you aren’t like that at all. Perhaps you’re quite angelic. But you come across as a bitch. Are you a bitch? If no, my opinion doesn’t matter. How you see yourself is what is important.My point is that if someone else’s opinion of you is wrong, why does it matter to you?But is there some way of thinking about this that can help me give myself a reality check about my own perceptions of myself vs. how I present myself to the world?

    Make a video of yourself going through your daily routines, and watch the video at the end. Or you could ask yourself What Would Jesus Do (or whoever you respect…) and filter your thoughts and behaviors through that. Or you could just pretend to be someone you aren’t, based on who is in the room with you. Been there, done that. And I can assure you that that kind of life gets old very quickly.

  • Answer: Here’s a couple things to help:#1: listen to yourself talk. Feeling like you might be saying less than stellar things? Assume you are, and knock it off. If you weren’t, it won’t make much difference (nobody ever got in trouble for not opening their mouth!) and if you were, you just changed yourself for the better.#2: ask at a low level to figure things out at a high level. Afraid you’re looking scraggly and awful, but nobody will say so to your face? Ask about your hair: “I’m really getting sick of this haircut; do you think I should change it, or am I better off sticking with it?” Ask about your shirt (when wearing a “typical” one for you.) Ask about your makeup. Phrase it so that people have every reason to tell you to change, and have to be pushy to tell you to stay the same. This works for non-physical stuff, too; just make sure you’re asking for validation that you should go through with a change you’ve already decided to make, not asking “should I change?”, to get an honest answer.#3: pay attention to people you admire. Do you talk like they do? Do you act like they do? Do you live like they do? Why not? You admire them; you should take steps to emulate the things about them that you admire (and what fits into your worldview) so that you can admire yourself as well.#4: don’t sweat it too much. Everyone is loved by someone, and everyone is hated by someone. Most people are indifferent to, or at worst, annoyed by some other people they know. It’s okay, we marry the ones that don’t bother us at all, and all those annoying people are our friends and relatives. They’re not judging you that harshly, just like you’re not judging them harshly. Oh, wait, you ARE? Well, that doesn’t mean THEY are — it just means you should stop.Hope that helps.
  • Answer: Whose opinion is right? You may be both helpful and annoying at the same time. Your friend is both dependent on his parents and kind and forward-thinking to lend his small amount of money as he does. Roll your eyes, or enjoy the view.I’m an eye-roller from way back. There’s almost no one who “deserves” respect or admiration, unless you believe in some kind of divine caste system, or have a morality that’s more inflexible than I’d like. I don’t believe in such a divine caste system. But you know what? People’s conceptions of themselves are what keeps them going, and I may go in for a little self-delusion/re-framing myself.
  • Answer: You need some friends who you are close enough with and who will call you on your bullshit and make fun of you when you do something deserving ridicule or scorn. That’s how you keep yourself in check.
  • Answer: What other people think of you is none of your business.
  • Answer: Be sensitive to other people’s reactions to whatever you say. They won’t necessarily tell you, “I regard you as the fount of all wisdom, so please continue” or “you’re being a pompous wind bag”. Watch for facial expressions and verbal cues. Try not to interrupt anyone. Make sure you understand where they are coming from when they say something to you. And if in doubt, ask them what they’d like from you in terms of response to them.
  • Answer: What others think is unimportant. What you want is to not be an idiot. Focus on that by asking yourself if the attitudes you hold about yourself are true.
  • Answer: if you REALLY want to know what your loved ones think of you and how they see you, there is this really great interview you can do. You have to be COMPLETELY OPEN AND WILLING to hear their honest responses.You ask them these 5 questions and let them know they can be totally honest and promise them that you won’t freak out or get defensive. You have to listen actively but without reacting. Take notes. It is easier to make them talk if they see you taking notes:Here are the magical five questions:1. what do you like about me?
    2. what don’t you like about me?
    3. what do you see as my strengths?
    4. what do you see as my weaknesses?
    5. is there anything else you’ve ever wanted to say to me and haven’t?if you are up for it, it can be a pretty AMAZING experience. very enlightening.
  • Answer: For another data point, you might try recording yourself interacting with a group of people. Once you get over how weird your voice sounds (this takes about 20 minutes for most people) you might see some patterns in the group dynamics that you weren’t aware of.
  • Answer: Get to the point where you don’t care what others think – that will free you to be yourself all the time.Also, guessing what others think, guessing their motives and neuroses etc. will only lead to disappointment.So just be you, and f*** everyone else!
  • Answer: What others think is immaterial.Get to the point where you don’t care what others thinkI strongly disagree. if everyone thinks you’re an asshole and you want to be liked, then it does matter what they think. maybe you are acting in a way that offends people without knowing it. I used to be extremely opinionated and judgmental and I never realized it bothered anyone. Once I expressed an opinion about my little sister’s taste in music and she got so upset with me, I realized how my opinions and judgments could be belittling to people I cared about. I made a real effort to change my ways because I didn’t want to make people feel bad.
  • Answer: My opinion of what other people think of me is based on the things they expect me to do, ask me to do, seemed surprised if I claim I can’t do…When I was a kid, if the riding instructor said, you go ride Hell Beast, then I believed that the instructor either wanted me dead or thought I could handle Hell Beast.This would be a clue that you give good advice: If, for instance, you show up at the park, and one of the moms says, “Great, we were hoping you would show up today. We were discussing this other mom’s problem and wondering what advice you would have.”If that kind of thing doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean no one values your counsel. I’m just saying that’s a strong indication.
  • Answer: The fact that you roll your eyes at people with different values from your own is at the heart of the problem.Why do you care, for example, that your friend lives with his parents and doesn’t handle his money as you would like him to? That, more than the anecdote about parenting, is what makes you come across as judgmental… at least to me.Just to get into this a bit more, you say of this friend: “he’s not even living life as a financially independent adult.” So… what? From the tone of your description, it sounds like you think that he ought to not be living with his parents, and that he ought to have a retirement account and more savings. Why? It doesn’t effect you. What if he likes living with his parents, or one or both of his parents like him living with them? It’s not unheard of. And scores of people don’t have any savings or spend their money on things you’d think are stupid. Do you judge all of them like this?Furthermore, why is money so important to you — and other people’s money, at that — that you would let yourself become that kind of person over it? Money is completely unimportant to some people, and they purposely only pursue as much as is necessary to sustain themselves. You act as if your friend is doing something wrong, but why should he move out and get his own place and put his money in things he clearly doesn’t care about? To make people like you happy? When he moves into his own place, which he may not even want, what is he supposed to get out of it? “Whew, I’m doing what everyone else wants me to do, and maybe now X can rest easy that I’m living my life the way she wants me to.”It really does seem to be one of those judgments that says more about you than about your friend.I will say this: in my observations, it is usually judgmental people who worry the most about being judged, because they know how they think about other people and do not wish people to think about them that way. Your question seems to mirror this: you don’t want to be the person that everyone judges and doesn’t realize it, because you know that you judge people who don’t realize it.

    For everyone else, being judged seems to be more of a nuisance — you have to deal with people telling you what they think when you don’t actually care.

    Being self-aware is a commendable thing to strive for, in my opinion. But life is a lot easier, at least in my experience, when you remove yourself from the whole judging arena altogether. If you make a conscious effort to be less judgmental, I’m willing to bet you’ll realize how silly it was to begin with. And once you do that, you’ll be able to worry less about being judged: you’ll have been in that mindset before, and you’ll know that their judgment says little about you and more about them.

    If you’re trying to be a better person, you can do better than avoiding things that people will judge you for. That won’t make you a better person so much as a stereotype of what society finds valuable: you might have a decent amount of savings and not live with your parents, for example, but that doesn’t say a whole lot about you as a person.

    What I have found helpful is trying to be more self-aware and admit my faults. Knowing that I’ll admit my faults is what gives me the confidence to make decisions and move forward. That way, when other people want to judge me, I either feel too secure about myself to conform to whatever they want me to be, or I’m able to admit when they have a point and learn from it. But any way you put it, your self-esteem has to come from within and can’t be based on what other people think of you.

  • Answer: Well, to be frank, you don’t come off in these examples as a person who is particularly overflowing with empathy, which might make it difficult for you to gauge how others read and react to you.Regarding the first example, it’s really important to understand the actions of others in the context of their own character and circumstances. As others have mentioned above, it is extremely human to relieve anxieties we have about our lives by gently (and typically harmlessly) constructing other narratives to lessen those aspects urgency or weight. It’s not that you’re expected to not notice these inconsistencies or small edits or whatever they are, it’s that–legitimately–why do you care?Until someone else’s emotions negatively impact you personally (in what degree and in what way is obviously for you to decide), rolling your eyes at someone else’s personal failings, small or large as they may be, implicitly suggests that you might be unable to recognize your own irritating qualities, qualities that others regularly forgive.For example, my good friend is dating another friend of mine who is interested in a similar academic field as I am; sometimes if he and I get going on an issue, she feels uncomfortable that she doesn’t know the subject matter as intimately as we do, and will then get a little condescending if we stumble upon something that she does feel more at ease talking about. I could get all, WTF on her, but uh, why? Who cares? I understand why she’s doing it, it’s not an attack on me.In the second instance, I think is really a problem of language. I tend to have really passionate, intense opinions/feelings on things, and I know I can come off as intimidating in conversation, especially since I delight in arguing/debate. I don’t take it very personally. When I was younger, this same style became often alienating.I learned to phrase things I believed or wanted to discuss in “I” statements, rather than making sweeping declarations about everybody’s “universal” experiences, like an Oracle, like a pronouncement. Instead of saying “TV rots the brains of all children,” you can talk about your own specific experiences, and what you observed within your own family that brought you to whatever decision you made. That’s all you can really offer, and that perhaps other people you know have found similar dynamics happening in their families. Otherwise you probably sound superior and pedantic, and people tend to perceive that kind of speech as invasive.

    Just be careful, attentive, and willing to apologize if you see somebody withdrawing from you in conversation. Just by reaching out to someone you notice in retreat, you immediately soften yourself and affirm their space within the discussion as well.

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Author: Sophie Benshitta Maven

True empath, award winning architect, magazine publisher, transformational and spiritual coach and teacher, self declared Avatar

4 thoughts on “Self-awareness… what is it and why is it crucial to have it?”

  1. Ok, I’m guessing the 40 year old guy is “helpful” and the lady asking the question is “bossy’. I see myself in the latter.

  2. After reading the two examples, I also thought the man had the helpful racket, and the woman was running the bossy racket.

    I think of myself running the helpless racket and wanting the “good” strokes, but I’m a Playground participant so between bratty and bossy I think I fall in the bratty racket. I never thought of myself as wanting “bad” strokes. How can I look at that to increase my self-awareness?

  3. good question, Ronda.

    Muscle test says you are running a bratty racket. Your raucous laugh, I love by the way, also says that. There is a raucous person living inside you… lol. And you get noticed (to your satisfaction) only when you are contrary. Your sparring partner is your daughter with the exact same racket… it seems.

    Start noticing two things: when you don’t get noticed and by who… Your first partner was “bossy”… that gave you no chance to be noticed or stroked…

    I blast you… I give you strokes

    So pay attention who gives you strokes (a stroke is an experience, not an action) and in what circumstance. And who doesn’t… and how you EXTORT strokes by being angry, furious, and alternately depressed.

    Will increase your self awareness a lot.

    I told you it was a good question.

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