What is self-awareness and why is it important in life? Self-awareness is the ability to look at our own feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Self-awareness is important for us to understand ourselves, our potential and our relationships. It involves the ability to be aware of, to observe and assess different aspects of your life. As if you were to step out of yourself and look at yourself, observing your feelings, thoughts, behaviours, traits, impulses, strengths and weaknesses, and whether you are realistic enough.
THE BENEFITS OF SELF-AWARENESS
Most of us live without necessarily checking our self-awareness. We keep soldiering on with life, but without self-awareness we cannot improve ourselves, our potential and our relationships.
Having self-awareness will benefit you in your:
1. Personal development
How you feel and what your thoughts are will influence your behaviour and how you communicate with others. Therefore, self-awareness of how you feel, what causes you to feel that way, what your thought processes are, and how it impacts your behaviours, strengths and weaknesses, and whether you are in a good space or facing some challenges, will help you to better yourself. As you better yourself, you will increase your self-confidence.
All of us have made wrong or stupid decisions in life. Part of the reason is that we often rush into making rash decisions without taking time to reflect on what is happening for us first. And yet, some continue to make wrong and stupid decisions. Self-awareness of what you have done wrong will help you to make the right decision. Self-awareness is essential in good decision making, whether on a personal level or a professional level.
Working with couples in 24 years of psychotherapy, I often come across couples who are very good at being aware of their partner’s shortcomings while lacking self-awareness of their own. A big part of the relationship’s problems is in the lack of self-awareness. Therefore, my approach in couple therapy is to help the couple to understand themselves first firstly. By increasing their self-awareness, there is a bigger chance for them to change and repair their relationship.
4. Dealing with past trauma
It is not just the trauma itself but the impact of the trauma that can debilitate the traumatized person and their future. Sadly, many are still living in trauma and trapped in trauma. It is common that traumatized people are unaware of their reactions to certain things or situations, which often impacts their relationships with their partner, children and others, even at work. Although they cannot change their past or trauma, self-awareness will help them to resolve the impact of abuse in their life and to make some changes in how they feel, their thoughts, and allow them to reconstruct their distorted beliefs, which will change their behaviours. As a result, they can find some healing from their trauma, which will change the way they relate to their partner, children and others.
However, on the other hand, some may have too much self-awareness and get stuck in it. For instance, you feel like everyone is watching you and your movements, what you wear, how you look, how you talk, your actions, etc. This intense self-awareness isn’t necessarily healthy and can make you unable to move forward with your life, causing you to suffer anxiety.
HOW TO IMPROVE OUR SELF-AWARENESS
Is it possible to increase self-awareness? Absolutely!
It will require you to be willing to be open and patient because it will take some time for you to increase your self-awareness and to change your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.
Some practical steps that will help you increase your self-awareness include (but are not limited to):
1. Reflection time
Make a habit of giving yourself time to reflect each day. It doesn’t need to be a massive block of time, but you can start with 15 min a day. Ask yourself: How do I feel today? What are my thought processes? How did I behave today? Is there anything I want to change? Is there anything I am not happy with or I am pleased with? These questions will lead you to increase your self-awareness.
Writing your feelings and thoughts of the day will help you to offload, especially when you don’t have anyone that you can talk to. Sometimes expressing your worries, concerns, and struggles can help you feel lighter because you don’t need to carry it within you. It is hard to be reflective while your heart and mind are full. Journalling your failings and successes can be helpful to re-assess what you can do better. You don’t need a particular structure in writing a journal. If writing is not your thing, you can jot it down in bullet points. Writing things in your journal gives you the chance to read and reread them at a later time, allowing you to reflect on them, which will increase your self-awareness. Doing this will help you to see things differently.
Some people don’t feel comfortable writing in a journal for different reasons, such as worry that others may read it. I then often suggest my clients draw their feelings and thought processes and write some words around them. You will be surprised at how drawing can describe more of what is happening for you than writing. You can also draw your reflection upon your picture. Drawing your feelings and thoughts doesn’t need drawing skills because it is not about whether your drawing is correct or good or precise, but more an expression of what you are experiencing. Some people use different colours for different meanings, and others may use a pen to draw. Drawing can increase your self-awareness.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be in the form of meditation or doing yoga—some people listen to music or read quietly or having a Quiet Time. Others even do some hobbies to reflect on what they have done. Having regular mindfulness, whether for the day or for the week, will help you to be more grounded and more self-aware of yourself.
5. Outdoor exercise
If you don’t feel comfortable with journaling or drawing or mindfulness, you can still increase your self-awareness by doing some reflections while you do outdoor exercise. Outdoor exercise can be in the form of taking a walk after work or running or swimming, etc.
6. Talk to someone or a professional person
Talk to someone you trust so that you can be honest with yourself can help you to reflect on your feelings, thoughts and behaviours. To achieve your increased self-awareness, you need someone willing to give you honest feedback. Playing nice for the sake of preserving the friendship or relationship won’t do any good for your self-awareness. Being honest with yourself means that you are ready to be open and to receive feedback. If someone genuinely loves you, they will be frank even though it may cause some uncomfortable discussion.
However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, or perhaps you have complicated past and present issues, seeking professional help who is an expert in your problems will help you work through your problems. The benefit of talking to a professional person is that they are trained and know how to help you increase your self-awareness, and they can give you more objective feedback, while talking to someone you know may risk your relationship with them.
The sooner you attend to your lack of self-awareness, the more you will prevent yourself from getting stuck with your issues, which will impact your growth, your relationships and your future.
If you are not sure whether you need to work on your self-awareness, you can contact us, and we are more than happy to help you.