The Importance of Self-Awareness
The 4 self-skills of self-awareness, self-care, self-compassion, and self-actualization were defined in a previous post. This post focuses on three reasons self-awareness is important.
To review: Self-awareness is about knowing yourself- your thoughts, emotions, values, beliefs, and bodily sensations. If you are self-aware, you know what’s important to you. You know what you want. You know how you feel and what you believe.
Three Reasons Self-awareness is Important
1. Self-Awareness Keeps You from Getting Taken Over by Emotions
When you can recognize your thoughts and sense your different emotions and their intensity, you are able to make effective choices about how to proceed. Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean:
Caro’s boss made a brief comment about the color of Caro’s outfit right before they went in to give a presentation. Caro was able to sense a clenching in their gut and the accompanying thoughts, “She doesn’t like my outfit. She thinks it’s not professional. No one is going to take me seriously.” Caro recognized that their boss’s comment had touched on one of Caro’s fears: not being taken seriously. Caro was able to tell themselves that they were interpreting their boss’s comment as something bad, when what she had said was, “That shirt is as bright as the sun!” Noticing the interpretation helped to soften their gut. Deep breaths helped Caro calm all the way down. Caro aced their part of the presentation.
Caro was aware of their thoughts and feelings and managed them before being hijacked. Had Caro not been aware of their reaction to a comment, they might have been overtaken by their anxiety. They might have developed resentment for their boss. They likely would not have done so well in the presentation.
2. Self-Awareness Keeps You from Getting Taken Over by Others
In Lindsay Gibson’s book, Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents:Practical Tools to Establish Boundaries and Reclaim Your Emotional Autonomy, she describes how a person can “take over” another by inducing fear, guilt, shame, or self-doubt. When someone is taken over, they are easier to control.
Here’s an example: You reschedule your lunch date with your mother because that’s the only time the dentist has available to fix your crown. Later your mother tells you that she sobbed all afternoon from loneliness and that you are inconsiderate for abandoning her.
When you're self-aware, you can observe this situation objectively. Your mother is trying to control your behavior by making you feel bad. She’d like you to make a big fuss and manage her emotions for her. You can resist the guilt that she is trying to give you. You can be confident that it is ok to make decisions to meet your needs.
3. Self-Awareness Keeps You on Course
When you are self-aware, you know what is important to you. You are aware of your thoughts and emotions, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and limitations, your needs and wants. You are familiar with your body signals and what they mean, whether it’s anxiety tightening your stomach, confidence pulling your shoulders back, or grief collapsing your body.
Self-awareness allows you to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions and determine if they are moving you in the direction you want to go. Being self-aware, you can preserve relationships by taking a break when you notice you are becoming irritable. You can apologize when you realize you hurt someone’s feelings. You can stay out of danger by listening to your gut. You can accept the job that is most in line with your value of being mentally challenged. You can set boundaries with loved ones. You can make choices that are right for you.
More to come on ways to build the important skill of self-awareness.