The vital link between self-awareness, mental health, and wellbeing

What is self-awareness? Aside from being another one of those terms widely thrown about and seemingly one of the latest buzzwords in business, self-awareness can be broadly defined as the conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.

To go a level deeper, more detailed definitions explain self-awareness to be ‘the experience of one’s own personality or individuality’, ‘the accurate appraisal and understanding of your abilities and preferences and their implications for your behaviour and their impact on others’ or ‘the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or do not align with your own standards’… to name a few!

An endless series of meanings exist, and various attempts have been made to define the term most accurately. But, without a single unified and agreed-upon definition of self-awareness, how can we be expected to cultivate it and use it to our advantage? Research by Dr. Tasha Eurich has helped us to make more sense of this topic over the years. So, let’s break it down a bit more.

Eurich published a thought-provoking piece on self-awareness in the Harvard Business Review back in 2018. She distinguishes self-awareness into two separate categories:

  1. Internal self-awareness – ‘how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions and impact on others’
  2. External self-awareness – ‘understanding how other people view us, in terms of the factors listed above’

The first of the two is positively associated with satisfaction, control and happiness and negatively associated with anxiety, stress and depression.

With this knowledge, how can we develop a higher degree of self-awareness to aid our general feelings of wellbeing and better manage our mental health?

  1. Check-in with yourself regularly – start small with activities such as journaling or mindful breathing, and spend a few minutes reflecting on the following:
  • What am I feeling in my body right now?
  • What thoughts are running through my mind?
  • What emotions am I observing?
  • What am I doing right now? And what do I want to be doing based on how I’m thinking and feeling at the moment?

You can incorporate the above into a daily practice or set aside a little time for a weekly review.

  1. Talking – Sounds simple enough, right? But, asking a trusted friend for clarity on your strengths and weaknesses and seeking regular feedback through conversations at work, for example, are powerful ways to grow and improve ourselves.
  2. Engage in personal development – making a commitment to continuous learning and putting this into practice is one of, if not THE best way to educate yourself on all things self-awareness. If you love to read then Eurich’s book, Insight’, is a fantastic starting point in this realm. If you are more of a visual or auditory learner, then some great TedTalks and Podcasts also exist.

Here’s a bonus tip (just for those of you reading to the end): let us not forget the vital interplay between self-awareness and the therapeutic process. There is real value in receiving objective observations by a qualified clinician; backed by research, this kind of impartial feedback can take you a long way on your journey of self-awareness.

For more information on the therapeutic process overall and how it could help you, click here.

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