Life is tough. Many of us have several responsibilities that we must tend to on a daily basis: work, children, household chores, elderly parents, etc. With life being so busy, and sometimes stressful, some of us tend to coast through it without stopping to reflect on our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. These are essential sources of information that can help guide us in the right direction. They help us better understand ourselves and the world we live in. They also help us effectively communicate with those around us.
Self-awareness is having a better understanding of who you are. It involves reflecting on your values, your strengths, your goals, how your past experiences have shaped you, and how you impact those around you.
As we tend to our many responsibilities we are in constant contact with the people around us: colleagues, family members, grocery store clerks, etc. We are social beings, as such it is important for us to have strong, meaningful connections with the people around us. These connections define who we are. Having self-awareness allows you the ability to reflect on your actions and how they may impact others. For instance, a self-aware individual may be able to empathize with the people he communicates with, and filter what he does and says so as not to cause undue harm. A self-aware individual, having reflected on the impact of discrimination, is able to think twice before making a harmless joke that may hurt someone’s feelings. A self-aware individual, having a better understanding on his feelings, is able to communicate these feelings with his partner. The ability to reflect on oneself and really know who you are helps you build stronger relationships.
The human mind is complex. At any given point in our lives, we are impacted by past experiences, present circumstances, and future goals. Due to the complexity on our being, making sound decisions is challenging.
Here is a scenario:
Jamie, a parent for 3 children, has been working at a company for 3 years. Jamie is offered a promotion, which means a significant raise, additional responsibilities, and a few extra hours at work.
If Jamie grew up in poverty with parents who weren’t always around because they were working to make ends meet, Jamie may be confused about what decision to make. This promotion may mean that Jamie is more financially stable, which is important considering past experiences of poverty. However, it also might mean spending even less time with the children, similar to how it was when Jamie was a lonely, neglected child. If Jamie was able to reflect on all aspects on this decision, i.e. the past, the present, future hopes and wishes, as well as important values, Jamie may be able to make a better decision.
If one doesn’t quite have a clear sense of what is important to them, given their life’s experiences, they may not know what steps to take. Therefore, decisions are easier to make when you understand the inner workings of your mind and the values through which you live your life.
A self-aware person is also able to recognize when life conditions are not ideal. They are able to make a change when one is necessary, rather than continuing to live a life lacking meaning, purpose, joy, and fulfillment. Considering the above example again, if Jamie was unhappy at this company, this promotion would mean going even deeper into something that isn’t ideal, even though it might pay more. Because of how stressful life can be, sometimes we continue to do things that aren’t necessarily good for us. There have been several times when clients have come into counselling struggling with anxiety and depression. More often than not their struggles are contributed by something significant in their life that they are deeply unhappy with. Two of the most common factors are work and relationships. Being aware of you how to feel in certain circumstances can help you understand the cause of your unhappiness and help you identify what changes you need to make in order to live a better life.
One of the reasons people find counselling to be helpful is because it helps you learn more about yourself. Therapists help you introspect on the meaning behind your thoughts, emotions and behaviours, thus, assisting you in your journey through being your best-self. If you’re feeling a little disconnected with yourself and would like to learn more about you, it may be worthwhile to speak to a therapist
Shezlina Haji, MA, has extensive experience in the area of emotional regulation, personal growth, plus many more. For more information on Shezlina and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.