Two Types of Self-Awareness and Tips to Be More Self-Aware
By Kara McDuffee

The benefits of self-awareness are endless. Studies have proven that self-awareness leads to more success, stronger relationships, and better decision-making. Being self-aware also allows us to manage our emotions better, achieving a more positive mood overall.

Being self-aware is crucial for life success and happiness. Unfortunately, many of us don’t understand what self-awareness fully encompasses or looks like in everyday life ( We think of the “self” and little more.

In doing so, we fail to realize that there are two types of self-awareness, and we need both types to achieve all the benefits.

Two Types of Self-Awareness

The first type of self-awareness is internal self-awareness

Internal self-awareness is what many of us think of when we hear the term “self-aware.” It is our ability to identify and monitor our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Additionally, it entails understanding who we are, what we stand for, and what we want.

While these aspects of self-knowledge may seem straightforward, they’re far more complicated than we give them credit. Our emotions and biases play a significant role in distorting our self-perception. Furthermore, our culture gets in our heads and affects our thinking.

For example, identifying our values is a crucial element of internal self-awareness. Values are the principles in life that help give us direction, and we often fall into conflict when our lives don’t align with our values. If we have internal self-awareness, we can recognize the values - such as family and creativity - that make us feel purposeful.

However, society likes to tell us that things like money, status, and power are more important. On top of that, our evolutionary wiring supports these false values because we tend to compare ourselves to others. If we’re not internally self-aware, we’ll find ourselves listening to external messages instead of our own needs.

Internal self-awareness is challenging because of how much it encompasses. That said, the tips at the end of this post can help shape our practice.

The second type of self-awareness is external self-awareness.

External self-awareness is often overlooked in the self-awareness discussion, but it’s equally important. External self-awareness is our ability to identify and monitor the impact we have on other people. In simple terms, we recognize what other people think of us and our actions.

This external self-awareness significantly benefits our relationships and interactions with others. We can forge stronger connections both personally and professionally. Not surprisingly, this leads to greater success at work and more positive emotions throughout our daily lives.

It may seem impossible to know how we impact others. After all, we’re not mindreaders.

Fortunately, there are many ways to develop external self-awareness. The most direct way is to ask for feedback. Whether it’s through a survey, informal conversation, or group discussion, we can ask questions to seek the answers that we’re looking for. If we aren’t able to engage in these conversations, we can gain input by observing body language, reactions, and recurring patterns.

For example, one of your coworkers may not realize how short he comes across. While he thinks he is efficient, everyone else thinks he’s rude. If he develops his external self-awareness through feedback, he can realize what impact he’s actually having on other people.

Learning new information about your impact on others is not the end of your journey. Once you’re externally self-aware, you must turn back to your internal self-awareness. How can your behaviors be changed? What changes, if any, do you want to make?

Internal and external self-awareness are entirely separate skills.

It seems logical that if you’re good at one type of self-awareness, you’d naturally be good at the other one as well. This isn’t the case.

Someone can be extremely aware of their values and habits but not have the slightest clue about how others perceive them. In contrast, someone can manipulate their behaviors to meet other people’s expectations without a strong sense of self.

Humans are wired to lack self-awareness. This makes both types of self-awareness challenging to achieve. Fortunately, you can take a self-awareness test ( or learn to recognize the signs that you may lack self-awareness.

Self-awareness is a never-ending process, but there are tips you can follow to lead a more self-aware life.

Three Tips to Be More Self-Aware

1. Be curious and ask questions.

Curiosity can be one of our greatest strengths - if we use it correctly. Most people who lack self-awareness tend to avoid asking questions; they already believe they know everything about themselves. By leading with curiosity, we stay open to new information about ourselves and others. Asking questions also open ourselves up to change. We’re continually evolving, and greeting these changes with curiosity rather than narrowmindedness will help us develop both types of self-awareness.

2. Summon the courage to be vulnerable

Another significant barrier to developing our self-awareness is our fear of vulnerability. Our culture often misrepresents vulnerability as a weakness, even though this couldn’t be further from the truth. Being vulnerable requires an enormous amount of courage. Self-awareness requires us to be vulnerable. Why? We must ask ourselves the tough questions and face the truth, even if it’s not the prettiest. Furthermore, especially with external self-awareness, we have to face the reality of others. All self-growth requires us to be vulnerable, but self-awareness, in particular, depends on it.

3. Make reflection a part of your routine.

A straightforward strategy for improving self-awareness is to make reflection a part of your routine. When we reflect on our thoughts and actions, we allow our brains to process our experiences better. This “thinking about our thinking” is when we learn the most about ourselves. It also helps us practice identifying our emotions and behaviors at the moment. Reflection can come in many forms; it might be a daily check-in, a weekly writing, or a regular conversation with someone else. Regardless of which form you choose, one principle stands: the more reflection, the better. Just make sure that your reflection avoids over-analysis and instead focuses on reframing your experiences as learning opportunities.


Self-awareness has a multitude of benefits, yet the majority of people lack self-awareness. Humans are wired with biases, emotions, and faulty tendencies that make it difficult to understand ourselves.

The two types of self-awareness: internal and external - depend on our ability to remain curious, be vulnerable, and regularly reflect.

Author's Bio: 

Kara McDuffee is the creator of, a blog that gives you the questions you need to live a more self-aware and vulnerable life. She uses her background in teaching to reach her readers in a relatable, understandable way. Check out her blog to start your own self-discovery journey and find your purpose.

Her blog:
Her easy-to-follow course that will give you everything you're missing on how to be more self-aware: