Self-awareness is an important skill for overcoming addiction and staying in recovery. Without some level of self-awareness, no personal growth is possible, especially when it comes to addiction.
Self-awareness is also very difficult. Almost everyone who knows us well, knows us better than we know ourselves, but we assume we are the foremost experts on ourselves. We think we know what we’re good at and what we’re bad at. We think we know how others perceive us. This confidence can actually keep us from figuring out what’s really going on. If you can accept that you don’t actually know yourself very well, here are some strategies you can use to know yourself better.
Listen to your friends and family.
We often dismiss what our friends and family say about us because we assume we know better, but that’s often not true. Not everything they say will accurate, especially if they tend to be overly critical or overly polite, but they’ll usually give you a kernel of truth. If a couple of people you know suggest that maybe you drink too much, you probably drink too much. If you catch a hint like this, try following up.
Ask for honest feedback.
If, for example, someone makes a remark about how you drink too much, when you get a chance, ask if he really thinks that’s true. You might want to ask some other people you trust and see if they agree. The normal thing is to dismiss it because of course you don’t have a problem, but maybe check around just to be sure.
Asking for feedback can be hard, especially if you are asking open-ended questions like, “What am I really bad at?” People usually don’t want to offend you or get into an argument. Sometimes it’s better to ask people who don’t have as much incentive to be overly polite–former bosses, former colleagues, exes, if you’re brave. A good therapist can be especially helpful in this regard, since you pay her for her expert opinion and not to be your friend. A good therapist can also be honest without being harsh.
Groups can also be a good source of feedback, whether it’s group therapy or 12 Step meetings. These are generally places where people are supportive but not too worried about being honest. And since they have been through a lot of the same things, they may be more attuned to how you’re deceiving yourself.
Keep a journal.
Writing down what’s going on in your life and how you feel about it can give you some insights into your own behaviour. The thing is that you have to be honest, which can be hard. If you keep digging into why you do what you do, and try to be as specific as possible you can often learn a lot about yourself. At the very least, it can be a place to start when you seek feedback from others.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig provides consulting psychiatrists who diagnose associated mental illnesses like anxiety states, depression, ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, and compulsive relationships. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020