By The Team at Be Your Best Self and Thrive
Conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
- Definition from Oxford Languages
Do you catch yourself going through the motions of your day-to-day life on autopilot? Do you struggle to pay attention to what you are feeling or doing? Maybe notice that you can’t remember your drive home from work? Or perhaps you have trouble recalling what you and your partner discussed over dinner last night? You may be finding yourself so busy between work, family, and other responsibilities that being on autopilot feels like much less effort than being fully present and aware of yourself and what is going on in the world around you. When people stay on autopilot, however, they may start to find that they feel disconnected to both themselves and their relationships.
How, you might be wondering, do you get out of autopilot mode, and start listening to your intuition rather than continue to do the same thing you always have? Start cultivating some self-awareness!
What is Self-Awareness?
When you think about being aware, some words that may come to mind include noticing, alertness, and attention. When you are aware of your surroundings, for example, you notice the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of your environment.
When you are self-aware, you focus your attention within. You notice your emotions, thoughts, actions, breathing, touch of your clothes against your skin, heartbeat, etc. These are all things that you tend to miss or ignore when you’re in autopilot mode. Being self-aware means that you not only notice but also listen to these sensations, emotions, and thoughts within yourself.
True self-awareness can be uncomfortable, because you might notice emotions and thoughts that you don’t like, behaviors that you know you need to change. Maybe you don’t want to be self-aware because you feel guilty about a certain event or behavior in your past. Or maybe self-awareness is uncomfortable for you because you want to see yourself a certain way, minus the flaws (i.e. you want to see yourself as an honest person , but you don’t always tell your friends and family the full truth).
Benefits of Being Self Aware
When you lean in and listen to your discomfort rather than attempting to repress it, you become more comfortable and at ease with yourself and your emotions over time. When you repress uncomfortable emotions over time, they build and grow- like your laundry. For example, if you consistently ignore doing your laundry, the discomfort about doing it doesn’t go away- it grows at the rate of your dirty laundry pile!
Listening to and acknowledging your emotions may be uncomfortable at first, but with dedicated practice it will begin to feel more natural.
3 Benefits of Being Self Aware
1. Improved Relationships
Self-awareness allows you to better understand your own emotions, motivations, and behaviors, which in turn can help you communicate more effectively with others. When you have a deeper understanding of yourself, you can more easily recognize and manage your emotions, which can lead to healthier relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.
2. Personal Growth
Self-awareness also allows you to identify areas of your life where you may want to improve. By being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, you can set goals for personal growth and work towards becoming the best version of yourself. This can lead to greater fulfillment and a sense of purpose in life.
3. Better Decision Making
When you are self aware, you are better able to make decisions that align with your values and goals. You can recognize when your emotions may be clouding your judgment, and take steps to make more rational choices. By making decisions that are in line with your true self, you can feel more confident and satisfied with the outcomes.
3 Strategies To Develop and Expand Self-Awareness
Now that you know what self-awareness is, and understand the benefits of engaging in self-awareness practices, you’re probably curious about how you can develop and strengthen your attention to yourself. So here are 3 straightforward practices that will help you to cultivate more self-awareness:
1. Develop a Meditation Practice
When you meditate, you are working on honing your focus, your awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Meditation involves observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. The more you observe your thoughts and emotions the more you will come to know and understand yourself. When you’re aware of your thoughts and feelings, it’s much easier to respond to them in a way that best serves you, whether that’s by talking to someone about what you’re experiencing or taking a walk to take your mind off of what’s troubling you for a bit.
Another way to practice mindfulness, outside of going for a walk, is to find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. "Box breathing" is a fantastic way to engage the vagus nerve and to calm your nervous system down in order to begin to tap into what you and your body is experiencing. Simply, imagine the outline of a box. On the inhale, to a count of 4, trace the outline of the 4 corners of a box. Hold for a count of 4 while tracing the outline of the box. Exhale on a count of 4 while tracing the outline of a box. Hold, lungs empty, for a count of 4 tracing the outline of the box. Do this for 3-4 rounds and you'll begin to notice how much lighter you feel.
For those of you just beginning to cultivate a meditation practice and the need for structure is helpful, download Insight Timer on your phone's app store. This app allows you to practice guided meditation or meditation with music. You can select guided meditations by length of time or focus (such as breathwork or cultivating self-compassion).
2. Create Something
Do you enjoy writing? Graphic design? Sewing? Singing? Think about what creative activities give you the most joy, and do them. When you allow yourself the space to make something you can become more in touch with your inner talents, desires, and fears. What you create tends to be a reflection of what you are experiencing inside yourself . Sometimes it’s easier to put these emotions onto a canvas or into a song when you are not sure exactly how to put it into words. When you create it may also help you learn things about yourself that you didn’t realize before. For instance, maybe you didn’t realize that you were upset with your partner until you started belting out “So What” by P!nk. Or perhaps your feelings for your partner were rekindled when you listened to “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars.
3. Lean into discomfort
Which emotions are you the least comfortable with? Some common answers I hear from clients include loneliness, uncertainty, anxiety, and shame. Your natural tendency is probably to try to avoid these emotions or push them away. Trying to avoid or “numb out” these emotions will keep you stuck in autopilot mode. You can look at your feelings as messengers- they’re trying to tell you something about yourself and/or the world around you. When you lean into your emotions, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, you have the opportunity to listen to the messages you’re being sent. You can lean into your emotions by noticing where in your body you feel them. You can imagine yourself as a detective- asking yourself questions about your emotions and their accompanying sensations:
Do you experience anxiety as tightness in your chest?
Does your heart start racing uncontrollably?
Once you’ve explored the physical sensations the emotions produce within you, start to notice what is driving the emotion you’re experiencing:
● What’s at the root of your anxiety?
● Are you worried about an upcoming interview?
● Perhaps your anxiety is telling you to practice, or to reach out to a colleague for some support.
When you approach your emotions with a non-judgmental stance, observing them rather than criticizing them, you can begin to accept their presence and become more aware of your needs. You can identify and process these emotions by talking to a trusted friend or family member, journaling, counseling, or through drawing what your emotions look like.
Developing Self-awareness and Intuition
So you know what self-awareness is and how to cultivate it. How does it strengthen your intuition?
Intuition is this feeling you get in your gut about a situation. It’s an internal sensation that guides you to make a decision or take action. You may experience intuition as an emotion, physical sensation, or a thought. Your intuition guides you to make decisions that are aligned with your values and wellbeing.
When you cultivate self-awareness, you strengthen your intuition by:
1. Increasing your awareness of the emotions that may be signaling you to listen to your intuition. If you are in autopilot mode, it will be much more difficult to recognize and respond to your intuition.
2. Becoming more aware of your strengths and limitations, which will help you to identify and go after what you want. If you discover you like to write, perhaps you start a blog.
3. Learning to trust yourself. The more you listen to your emotions the easier it is to respond to them with kindness. As you begin to make more choices that are in line with your values and goals it will become easier for you to trust the decisions you make.
Increasing your awareness of yourself and strengthening your intuition can help you to make decisions that are more in line with your values and allow you to be more present in your day-to-day life. There are many ways you can cultivate self-awareness, including meditation, doing a creative activity, and leaning into discomfort rather than attempting to push it away. Utilizing these skills can be helpful in your journey to listening to and trusting in yourself to improve your wellbeing!
Be Your Best Self + Thrive Counseling uses a holistic, non-judgmental approach in their mental health care practice to help you build an alliance with your mind, body and spirit that work together for your benefit. Book your free consultation to work with the #1 Holistic Mental Health Counselor's in St. Petersburg, Fl