Adulting in Singapore

The Importance of Looking Inward

By Uncle Anonymous

Before we proceed, I want to tell you something very serious.

You don’t really know much about yourself, and what you believe about yourself might be completely wrong.

“That’s not right”, you might say, “I’ve lived with myself for so long – of course I know!”

Say no more.

The case study of a "very stable genius"

I mean obviously this is an extreme case study of what I think to be a severe lack of internal self-awareness, but I sure hope it drove to point home. 

How can we not know about ourselves? That’s who we’re living with all this time! How am I supposed to know myself if I haven’t been able to all these years?

Before going to any of that, let’s set the foundation with a few definitions.


Based on There are actually two types of self-awareness – internal self-awareness and external self-awareness. It’s all summarized beautifully by Dr. Tasha Eurich:

Do you see where you are on this table? Which archetype do you belong to?

Dr. Tasha Eurich herself actually has a quiz published that could help you to identify your archetype, so definitely give it a try here.

In general, however, people generally don’t know enough about themselves, or how other people see them.

Regarding internal self-awareness, a Harvard Business Review study found that most people believe that they are self-aware, but only 10-15% of the people studied actually fit the criteria. The gap in what we think, versus reality, is bigger than we think.

For external self-awareness, sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people in the workplace have shown that your coworkers are more likely to be better than you are at recognizing how your personality will affect your job performance. Your own ratings of your personality traits only correlate at around .40 with the impressions of other people (who know you well).

In short, how you see yourself and how other people see you are not very strongly correlated. 

While both types of self-awareness are important and need to be addressed, this article will focus on how to cultivate internal self-awareness. External self-awareness is addressed here!

Here are a few ways you can begin to look inwards, and hopefully find yourself!

Most people believe that they are self-aware, but only 10-15% of the people studied actually fit the criteria for self-awareness.

Harvard business review

1: Check out your VITALS

A handy overview can be found here, but this is definitely a mnemonic worth remembering. Try asking yourself some of the questions that we have prepared below. Please be honest to yourself and be open to whatever answers you might find!


What are my values?
What do I believe is worth fighting for?


What do I pay attention to?
What am I curious about?


Am I logical or emotional?
Do I plan? Or do I go with the flow?


Am I a morning or a night person?
What habits make me feel good?

Life goals

What have been the most meaningful events of your life?


What am I truly good at?
Which are my best character traits?

It would be helpful to write all of this down, even if you already know the answers by heart!

Also, other things such as Life goals could be difficult to pinpoint at this moment. That’s fine. At least from now on you’ll be keeping it in mind, and that’s all that matters.

Remember, the journey to find yourself is a long one, and there are no hard and fast answers so do not worry if you’re unable to answer a couple of questions. 

You’ll find them eventually!


2: Journal

We all have kept a diary or a journal at some point in our lives. I found my secondary school journal recently and it was such an enlightening (and embarrassing) experience seeing the world from the perspective of the 14-year old me!

It isn’t just interesting though – the reason you feel that you’re reading someone else’s writing (even though it’s your own) is because that’s exactly it. You’ve changed and are now a different person! The biggest thing I realized from reading my old diary was just how different I was from 14-year old me, and it led me to think back and reflect on the steps that I have taken, big or small, to get to where I am today.

Keeping a gratitude journal could work wonders for your life

Most importantly, by making journaling a habit and if you write (or draw, whatever works!) in your journal often, self-reflection becomes a default! Over time, you will start to learn more about yourself and your underlying needs and wants. Keep it going and you will be more attuned to your inner voice, and understand yourself more in this world where millions of voices compete for your attention.

3: Question your automatic thoughts

Not just your thoughts, but also your reactions to things and situations that happen around you.

Many of us have a tendency to react to situations with pessimistic, self-undermining and irrational thoughts. If you still don’t know yourself very well, there is a possibility that you end up believing in these negative thoughts and end up making them come true! Even if these things don’t come true, you’d probably end up feeling horrible about yourself.

Learn to “catch” these negative thoughts as they appear, and redirect your mind to more realistic thoughts. Never shortchange yourself! You should always give yourself credit where it’s due. Mistakes are to be expected in life, so also be wary of over-punishing yourself – especially for little things!

Whenever you notice yourself making negative assumptions or discounting positive feedback, “catch” yourself! Take a breath and challenge these thoughts.

I think you’ll find that over time, many of the flaws that you thought to be true was actually just in your imagination! 

Most Important: Be kind to yourself!

Everything starts from knowing yourself and being self-aware! While you learn to grow your internal self-awareness, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, just as you would be kind to others. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made, and congratulate yourself for every little success.

Before long, you will find that you are very much in tune with yourself, and I believe that at this point, you would change for the better.

Michael Jackson definitely made a point with “Man in the Mirror” – 

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Sorry, wrong generation. But ya I made my point. I mean, MJ made me help him make his point.


Stay awesome auncles!

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