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The Three Areas of Self-Awareness: What On Earth Are You Thinking?

What On Earth Are You Thinking?

What is External Self-Awareness?

Most people think about self-awareness the same way they do sex. They believe they’re great at it when, in reality, no-one knows where on God’s green earth the G spot is (or that there even is one).

One of the major components for building self-awareness is understanding what other people honestly think about us (including our ability to have sex). 

This is what’s known as external self-awareness. Researchers have concluded it’s every bit as important as internal self-awareness (how well we know ourselves).

Here’s a pretty little table outlining the 4 major Self-Awareness Archetypes:

Why We Suck at Giving and Receiving (Feedback)

Now, the major issue we have with external self-awareness is ascertaining honest feedback from others. This is a major issue for two obvious reasons.

  1. First, people usually avoid telling us what they really think. In fact, most people fake certain feedback making us think we’re much better than we really are!
  2. Second, we avoid asking for feedback in the first place. We’d rather remain under the covers than be told about our own, um, shortcomings…

This a brutal truth to remember during your never-ending self-awareness journey: Not only do you not want to tell people the truth, you don’t want to know the truth yourself.

But of course, knowing the truth is the only way we can become slightly less terrible human beings. So, a crucial life skill at home, work, or in the bedroom is learning to both give and receive (feedback).

The question, as always, is how?

How to Both Give and Receive (Feedback)

The first thing to remember is that you’re a human aeroplane. One that is governed by all sorts of internal biases/faulty mechanisms. 

For example:

What I’m trying to say is we’re all a bunch of stupid apes who think way too highly of ourselves. You know what? 

That’s OK. 

The point of becoming aware of our flaws is to gain some control over them. But this doesn’t work if we don’t learn to accept those flaws at the same time.  

So, here are a few ideas.

1. Hold weak opinions.

Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. They also tend to stink up the room.

It’s worth remembering you’re the only person who loves the smell of your farts. That’s not to say you shouldn’t. But when you do fart, don’t take it so seriously.


Thoughts are simply echoes of all the crap you’ve been fed. (Helpful tip: eat a wholesome diet of long-from content such as books or documentaries.)

Here’s a thought to chew on? Are your opinions really your own? Think about that for a second.

2. Consider you’re wrong.

Something you can do before you open that smelly mouth of yours is tell yourself the following: “I might be wrong about this.”

This immediately places you in a state of openness and curiosity. When you do this, your thoughts aren’t shared to be validated but discussed. This is a better position for everyone.

Just ask your spouse! 

3. Laugh at yourself.

All your thoughts and behaviours are simply reactions to your emotions. As you should know by now, your feelings be crazy. You shouldn’t take them so seriously.

Something you can do is openly mock yourself for all your shortcomings. This has the paradoxical effect of making you more endearing in the eyes of others.

4. Remember your strengths.

All of us have this thing called a negativity bias. It’s worth being aware of. This is why we tend to fixate on and obsess over all our flaws.

What we fail to realise is that our weaknesses are often intimately linked to our strengths. For example, I’m not the grittiest person in the world. I’m easily distracted. I frequently have my head stuck in the clouds.

But you know what?

I’m also incredibly thoughtful, creative, silly, and funny. These qualities aren’t separate. By reminding myself of my strengths, and seeing how they’re related to my weakness, I’m more accepting of my flaws.

I’m better able to work on them as a result.

5. Start with the positives.

Criticism hurts like your first time! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of us aren’t terribly receptive to it.

The danger is we shut down. This is especially so if we receive feedback that confirms a negative view we already have about ourselves. 

That’s why it’s a wise strategy to start with the positives. Talk about what went well before you mention the negatives. 

You can think of it as feedback foreplay. It helps to soften everything up! 

6. Learn your patterns. 

Learn to recognise all the ways you’re a deeply flawed human being.

Recognise how you’re not a morning person. Recognise how you’re quick to anger when you’re tired or when your children start to open their mouths.

Learn to recognise what your triggers are. What sends you down the emotional rabbit hole? At what times? With who? What causes you to reach for the phone or the bottle?

This will help you recognise which emotions you’re avoiding that need to be acknowledged and surrendered.

7. Practise with a trusted co-pilot.

Both my wife and I avoid confrontation. This is because we are both very agreeable by nature. This a big problem mainly because I’m a massive idiot. I need my wife to confront me. 

To ensure this happens we make a point of talking to each other every evening without fail. We have a series of questions we ask:

  • What are you grateful for today? What are you proud of? What went well?
  • What didn’t go well? What could you do better?
  • What do you want me to know? What can I do better?
  • Finally, what can we do better? How can we improve as a couple/parents? 

This is what I suggest you do as a final point.

Find a trusted copilot you can confide in. Make a habit of talking to that trusted copilot every day. Make a habit of telling them something difficult – of being vulnerable.

Make a point of asking for feedback and giving some advice in return. Put your phone away and really listen.

What you might find is, it ends in sex. There will be no need to fake anything.


  • One of the major components for building self-awareness is understanding what other people honestly think about us. This is what’s known as external self-awareness.
  • Most of us avoid giving people honest feedback. Most of us avoid asking for it too.
  • To help give and receive honest feedback it’s useful to:
    • hold weak opinions/consider the possibility we’re wrong
    • remember our strengths when we receive feedback
    • start with the positives when we give feedback
    • practise asking for and giving feedback with someone we trust

This is part 4 of a series of posts on the topic of Self-Awareness:

Part 1: The Automation Paradox

Part 2: The Three Areas of Self-Awareness: What on Earth Am I Doing?

Part 3: The Three Areas of Self-Awareness: What on Earth Am I Feeling?

Part 4: The Three Areas of Self-Awareness: What On Earth Are You Thinking?


For a weekly collection of tips and tricks designed to help you navigate your fears and take command of life – join my Stuck in the Clouds newsletter here. 

13 thoughts on “The Three Areas of Self-Awareness: What On Earth Are You Thinking?

  1. Brilliant, AP2. I laughed and nodded at a lot including this: “This a brutal truth to remember during your never-ending self-awareness journey: Not only do you not want to tell people the truth, you don’t want to know the truth yourself.”

    And your ideas are great. Consider you’re wrong, laugh at yourself, find your patterns – great suggestions. Wonderful post!

  2. I love this post and agree with almost everything! I have a difficult time accepting the part about making fun of our shortcomings. I know you said it has the effect of makin us more endearing in the eyes of others, but I know when I was still a raw, unhealed person who feared being seen as a monster if I revealed my shortcomings, making fun of myself would send me spiraling down a rabbit-hole of more and harsher thoughts of myself, until I had beaten myself up into a pulp.

    I agree with so many points you brought up, that creating self-awareness is a key step to growth.

    As part of my self-awareness growth, I learned that I had internalized all the negative comments thrown at me, that I had come to believe I WAS some kind of monster, otherwise why would my abusers treat me the way they did?

    What I learned was they were projecting all their own inner negative thoughts onto me, and then acting as though they were mine. A lesson of how unhealed hurts and pains get transmitted generationally.

    As we work on healing ourselves, we’re also disconnecting the old generational pains that were passed down to us. This is powerful! I used to laugh at this concept, until I saw it unfold within my own family.

    1. I believe Carl Jung was right when he said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I suspect many of us project our own negativity on to others instead of looking inward and dealing with it ourselves. Certainly our neurosis get passed from generation to generation. I’m sorry for what you have been through Tamara. My suggestions certainly aren’t one size fits all. I can see how laughing at oneself isn’t always appropriate! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙏

  3. I like the evening ritual you set up with your wife, I think it’s powerful and I should try it with my husband. Thank you for this inspiring post David!

    1. Glad you liked it Cristiana. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that habit has changed our relationship for the better in a big way. It’s really brought us closer together. Thank you Cristiana. Wishing you well 🙏

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