Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.
We have all encountered the patient who is a self-expert and the patient who doesn’t seem to have a clue who they are.
Now, try getting a history from a patient who lacks self-awareness. It’s vague and frequently not very helpful. Working with that patient is more like working with a pediatric patient, which is like working with a veterinary patient.
On the contrary, getting a history from a patient who is self-aware is usually a pleasant and helpful process.
Even though humans share the gift of self-awareness without other animals, other human endowments like imagination, conscience, and free will make the depth and utility of our self-awareness to be superior.
A question that I had recently is: How does one become more self-aware and teach others to do the same?
I summarize my research into four major points below that follow the acronym STAR. I like this acronym as a memory aid because I think each of us is a star.
These are: 1) Self-study, 2) Trying out different things. 3) Advise and feedback from others, and 4) Reflection, meditation, and mindfulness.
There are several ways we can study ourselves to increase our self-awareness.
1) Read books about how others have developed self-awareness. Reading books on what motivates people and how the human being functions can be helpful. While we are each very unique individuals, we are also amazingly similar. The principles and natural laws that guide self-awareness and self-discovery are universal.
We can learn from how others have become more self-aware and discovered their purposes and can apply that knowledge to help us on our own journey of self-discovery. In this day and age, we can listen to podcasts, read blogs, watch youtube videos/vlogs, and listen to audiobooks.
2) Take courses on the subject of self-awareness.
3) Be mentored, coached, or trained by someone who is experienced in the subject.
4) Write and study your history.
5) Observe and physically examine yourself. Study your own history, observe and physically examine yourself. Be your own self-scientist. We do this to patients every day. We can do this to ourselves and teach our patients to do it. We have been endowed with the imagination and ability to study ourselves and understand who we are. The beautiful thing about being your own scientist is that you can hear and examine your own thoughts, something that is difficult for someone else to do. You can feel your own emotions and the rumbling of your stomach in ways no one else can.
6) Take psychometric / Personality tests. E.g. DisC profile, Myers-Briggs, etc.
Trial and Error
You may not know what all your strengths and weaknesses are simply because you have never been given the opportunity to call on these gifts, or have never taken advantage of opportunities provided or ones you could co-create.
Like a sleeping giant, these gifts lie dormant and undiscovered within you. Your ability to discover your gifts is influenced in part by the opportunities that life and you provide for yourself to discover them. The same is true for your areas of weakness.
Experiment with different areas of service. Follow your curiosity or desires and volunteer to serve in different areas. Before you know it, you will connect with something and a fire will be sparked in your life. If you have never been on a boat before, how could you know if you have an aptitude for sailing? If you have never been exposed to flying before, how could you even develop an interest in it or know if you would be a gifted pilot or now? The same goes for medicine—how else would you know whether you’re good or bad at something if you’ve never experienced it?
Seek, create, and take advantage of opportunities to try many different things in life. You never know what you will uncover.
Advice and Feedback from Others
Ask trusted advisors (trusted friends, mentors, and coaches) for advice and feedback. Ask others who know you what gifts and weaknesses they see in you. Frequently, the people around us may notice an aptitude in us even before we do. They can also provide us with both positive and negative feedback that helps us understand ourselves better.
To understand yourself fully, you need to look not only inwardly, but in many different mirrors positioned at different angles to give you a complete 3-D picture. Your trusted friends, mentors, and coaches can be one of these mirrors. The people you work with can also serve this purpose. So, ask for regular feedback at work.
Pay attention to your thoughts. Reflect on our story. Take the time to pray, journal, and reflect on the way you’ve been designed to serve the world. Practice mindfulness. Look for convergence and interrelation of different parts of your design. The way we have been designed tells us about our intended function.
Also, meditate on your life as it is presently unfolding. Author and CEO Anthony Tjan says during his meditations, he asks himself the following questions:
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What am I doing that is working?
- What am I doing that is slowing me down?
- What can I do to change?You can ask yourself similar questions that help you understand yourself better.
Self-awareness is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence. As such, it’s not only helpful in that we get to know ourselves better, but is crucial in building effective relationships as well. Being self-aware is key to discovering our design and calling.
Dr. Kenneth Tembei Acha is a family medicine doctor and a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.
This article originally appeared on KennethMD.com.