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Know Yourself, Be Well. Cultivating Self-Awareness for Improved Mental Health

Introduction

In our hectic lives, we often overlook the importance of self-awareness. We take it for granted that we are self-aware. Truly, we all take self-awareness for granted. It is quite natural. How can people say that they are not self-aware? We never think that it is so rare to possess it. It is a valuable attribute. We need to realize its critical role in our lives.

This article explores what self-awareness is. How can we cultivate it in us? Also, cultivating self-awareness can lead to improved mental health.

Understanding Self-Awareness

Self-Awareness:

What is it? Being conscious of oneself. It means being able to comprehend one’s feelings, ideas, and actions. It further comes down to being aware of our emotional triggers. Self-awareness is of two types. The first part comprises our thoughts, feelings, and other sensations. This is our internal awareness. The second one is outer or external awareness. What others think about us. Many a time, we are unaware of this external awareness.

Only 10% to 15% of people genuinely possess self-awareness, according to organizational psychologist and researcher Dr. Tasha Eurich. This is even though 95% of people claim to be self-aware. This indicates that almost 80% of people are not aware of “being aware’.

In other words, they deceive themselves. We have varying degrees of self-awareness. It ranges from complete ignorance to some sort of self-awareness.

Many times, a person’s knowledge of himself is less than that of others. These people are the least self-aware. They have a poor understanding of who they are. They are preoccupied with themselves and their own ‘mind’. Most of us do not know what self-awareness is. Why is it so crucial to our success in life?

The capacity to focus on oneself and how one’s thoughts and behaviour affect ourselves and those around us is known as self-awareness.

We should be fully aware of not just who we are but also how other people see us. It is about understanding our behaviour in various situations.

How do we feel, behave, and respond in different life situations? What kind of thoughts and emotions do we have regularly? We are aware of all these aspects if we are self-conscious. We always think we know everything about ourselves. Sadly, that is not the case.

There are many things about ourselves of which we are not fully aware. Like, there is a hidden part of ‘self’ where our deeply embedded emotions lie. That is part of our unconscious mind. Likewise, what others think about us, we may not know. It is a public ‘self’ not known to us.

The Connection Between Mental Health and Self-Awareness

Let us examine the impact of a lack of self-awareness on our lives. We often fail to recognize and value subtle changes in ourselves. As a result, those changes are exacerbated. Then they may lead to a variety of mental and physical issues.

Many mental health problems originate from our inability to control our thoughts and feelings. Are we not truly self-aware of our thought patterns when we are deeply caught in a distressing and negative thinking loop? In fact, we become a part of our own thoughts when we worry, ruminate, or overthink. Identification with our thoughts is generally strong. We become an integral part of our minds. That is why a lack of self-awareness makes us vulnerable to mental health issues.

A Foundation for Mental Well-Being:

When we are self-aware, we can recognize the onset of stress or negative emotions. Awareness allows us to address these feelings before they escalate. In this way, our self-awareness is linked to our mental health. More awareness better would be for our mental health. Therefore, being self-aware is the very foundation of our mental health.

Steps to Cultivate Self-Awareness


Mindfulness Practices:

When we are present in the moments at hand, that is called mindfulness. To be attentive in the present. Also, we should be aware in a ‘non-judgemental’ manner. We need to accept things as they are. Simple practices like meditation or mindful breathing can enhance our self-awareness. When we practice meditation, our capacity to focus or be attentive for a longer time is improved.

The more we practice mindfulness, the more self-aware and mindful we become.

There are many ways to practice meditation. The studies have shown that mindfulness-based meditation has shown more credible results compared to other types of meditation. In it, we observe breathing—inhale and exhale air through the nostril when our eyes are closed. Or we recite a single-word mantra silently in our minds. Mantra-based meditation is also known as transcendental meditation. It is commonly known as TM.

Self-Awareness in Everyday Life

Applying Self-Awareness: We need to use our self-awareness in our daily interactions and decisions. This practice can lead to more thoughtful responses. We must try to be mindful. It means we are conscious of what is happening inside and outside of us. Otherwise, we may be mindless when we are unaware of what is going on around us.

The benefits of self-awareness

Emotional Resilience: Firstly, self-awareness empowers us to take charge of our emotions. Recognizing negative thought patterns allows us to break free from their grip. We can identify stress triggers and implement coping mechanisms. This will keep stress and anxiety under control. We can easily manage the negativity of our thoughts and emotions. This awareness also gives us

  • The power to choose healthier responses to challenging situations,
  • Building resilience and
  • Emotional agility.

Improved Relationships: By understanding ourselves better, we can communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships. Self-awareness bridges the gap in relationships. We need to recognize how our behaviours and communication styles impact others. This enables us to be more empathetic and understanding. Improved communication strengthens support networks. It contributes to a sense of belonging, which is a crucial part of our mental health.

Decision-Making Gets Better: Self-awareness leads to clearer thinking. It helps us make decisions that align with our values and goals. Our decision-making in general gets better with self-awareness. We experience promptness in deciding contentious issues.

Conclusion

It is quite surprising when the study by Dr. Tash Eurich says that most of us are not self-aware. Though we are always confident in being self-aware, it is a critical part of our ‘self.’ Cultivating self-awareness is a powerful tool for improving mental health and moving toward enlightenment. It is a journey to understand yourself. Self-awareness helps us manage our emotions and make conscious choices for a healthier life. We need to embrace this path of self-discovery for a fulfilling and enlightened life.

The writer is an author, life coach, the founder of Mind Therapy and a ret. bureaucrat.