7 Tiny Signs Someone Has Shockingly Low Self-Awareness

Photo: Dean Drobot | Canva
Unaware girl scrunching face

In every area of life — from business to dating to politics — the ability to assess someone’s level of self-awareness is crucial. Because without self-awareness, it’s unlikely that a person will have much emotional maturity. And the dangers of getting involved with someone who lacks emotional maturity should be obvious enough. If you want to develop an eye for spotting low self-awareness, train yourself to look for these seven signs.

Here are 7 tiny signs someone has low self-awareness:

1. Not admitting mistakes

The unwillingness to admit mistakes is often a sign of deep insecurity. When someone can’t acknowledge even small mistakes, it suggests that they feel tremendous fear and inadequacy. Unfortunately, the same fear of external inspection also makes them afraid of self-reflection. It’s hard to be self-aware if you’re unwilling to be vulnerable.

On the other hand, the willingness to admit to mistakes suggests mental toughness and emotional maturity. It suggests that you have the insight to understand that while mistakes are part of us, they don’t define us.

To become more self-aware, then, requires the courage to be vulnerable on purpose. After all, how can you see within if you’re not willing to open up?

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” ― Rita Mae Brown

RELATED: 7 Toxic Reasons People Can't Admit They're Wrong, According To Experts

2. Criticizing others

Here’s the thing about criticizing other people: It feels good. At least in the moment:

  • When someone criticizes someone else for saying something dumb, they’re implying that they’re smart. Which feels good.
  • When they criticize someone’s taste in style or aesthetics, they’re implying that they’re sophisticated. Which feels good.

But what does it say about someone if they have such a strong need to feel better about themselves that they have to criticize other people to do it? When you’re constantly trying to feel good about yourself there’s no time left to learn about yourself. But the real tragedy of hypercriticalness is its opportunity cost: All that time and energy spent trying to boost self-esteem often comes at the cost of being able to do the hard work of learning more about oneself and self-reflecting.

“Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation. We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked.” ― Fulton J. Sheen

3. Avoiding hard decisions

Being chronically indecisive usually means a lack of confidence and fear of being judged or making a mistake. But how does that relate to self-awareness exactly? Well, self-aware people tend to do a lot of psychological experimenting. Instead of just blindly accepting the thought that others will think I’m foolish if I speak up and voice my opinion, they test it out. Self-aware people use data, not theories, to choose their actions.

On the other hand, when people lack self-awareness it often means that they simply accept whatever their mind tells them:

  • He’ll get angry if you suggest a rom-com… Better just go with his suggestion for a movie.
  • I just don’t feel very motivated. I’ll work on it tomorrow.

When people chronically avoid hard decisions by being passive or procrastinating, for example, it’s often a sign that they aren’t willing to look at their minds objectively. And if they can’t do that, they become a slave to whatever passing thought or feeling happens to be present.

“You may delay, but time will not.” ― Benjamin Franklin

RELATED: The 5 Most Difficult Decisions You'll Ever Make, According To Experts

4. Being vague about their feelings

It may seem like a small thing, but the habit of describing feelings in overly vague or intellectual ways is often a subtle avoidance mechanism:

  • Saying I’m just upset feels less scary than saying I feel sad.
  • Saying I’m just stressed feels easier than saying I’m really angry right now.

But here’s the thing — When you avoid expressing your feelings, you teach your mind that they are dangerous. If someone is constantly running away from something, even their feelings, it shouldn’t be surprising when their mind interprets that thing as dangerous. On the other hand, self-aware people understand that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad. This means they’re much more likely to use plain language rather than overly intellectual or vague terms to describe how they feel.

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ― William Faulkner

5. Worrying about the future

Worry is problem-solving that’s applied to something in the future that either isn’t a problem or is a problem that can’t be solved by you at the moment. In other words, worry is unproductive thinking about the future. The problem with unproductive thinking is that it leads to all side effects and no benefit. Worrying generates loads of anxiety and stress but never actually solves anything. So why do so many people do it chronically? Why worry when the cost is so great and the benefit so small?

In short, because people lack self-awareness. They likely haven’t taken the time to genuinely reflect on what worry is and how it works (or doesn’t work) in our lives. Their mind just starts worrying and they go along with it, without pausing to investigate it and look at it questioningly and curiously. Easier said than done, of course. But the more willing someone is to look at and learn about their worry, the more likely they will be to let it go.

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” ― Marcus Aurelius

RELATED: 9 Ways To Stop Catastrophic Thinking When You Always Expect The Worst

6. Ruminating on the past

Just like worry is unproductive thinking about the future, rumination is unproductive thinking about the past.



When people spend too much time ruminating and dwelling on past mistakes, losses, or failures, it can lead to tremendous emotional suffering with no upside at all. Without a high degree of self-awareness, it’s easy to fall into spirals of rumination, though, because, at the moment, it feels good. Thinking gives the illusions of control. And when people don’t have the self-awareness and emotional maturity to face up to the uncontrollability of the past, ruminating on it makes them feel — temporarily — like they do have some control.

When people lack self-awareness about their tendency to want to control things even when it’s impossible, it frequently leads to the habit of rumination and all the emotional side effects that go with it — excessive shame, guilt, sadness, self-criticalness, and regret. Reflect on past mistakes and losses. Accept them. But don’t ruminate on them.

“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.” ― Roy T. Bennett

7. Only noticing loud emotions

While it’s very common to experience more than one emotion at a time, people with low self-awareness tend to only notice the biggest, loudest emotion happening. For example, after getting cut off suddenly on the road while driving, they describe feeling mad but aren’t aware that they’re also feeling afraid or guilty. People with high self-awareness can see all their emotions, even the quiet ones.

RELATED: 4 Tiny Habits That Will Make You More Self-Aware Than 99% Of People

Nick Wignall is a psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being. He is the founder of The Friendly Minds newsletter.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.