Self-awareness is our ability to understand ourselves and gain in-depth insight into what makes us who we are.
When we are self-aware, we know our strengths and weaknesses and what triggers our emotions and reactions. As we change and grow, our self-awareness allows us to meet our evolving needs.
As my self-awareness grew, I became conscious of how my thoughts changed and my body felt during the third week of my menstrual cycle. Like clockwork, my body begins to feel heavy on the third week of my cycle, and my thoughts become self-judgmental.
For years, I took to the mind and body shift like a moth to a flame, and I would respond in similar ways. For decades, I assaulted myself with the same thoughts at the same time each month, driving me to spend thousands of dollars on diet crazes and body-shrinking gimmicks. The pattern’s consistency was mind-blowing. Most astonishing was my unawareness of its repetitive nature and how my cycle unconsciously pulled me into darkness every month.
The shift still occurs every month, but what has changed is my reaction to it. Now when I stand in my closet, I notice my thoughts rejecting my body in every outfit. I observe the judgment and the tension in my body and at once check the calendar. I remind myself that what is happening is a deep pattern rooted in a painful childhood experience. I take a deep breath and redirect my mind to soothing, affirming thoughts. The pattern is there, but my reaction is changing. I release myself from torment and self-sabotage.
Self-awareness helps us reach greater fulfillment in life. When we are self-aware, we have more gratifying relationships and better communication. We make sounder decisions and manage our emotions more efficiently. When we are self-aware, we notice what comes up for us in real-time, so we can take the steps needed to care for ourselves and others.
A self-aware empath is more likely to notice when their body feels stressed and when their thoughts have taken a dark turn.
A self-aware empath can more easily intercede before they crash and burn. In addition, knowing ourselves allows us to course-correct when needed and make or cancel plans to benefit our well-being.
A self-aware empath can differentiate their energy from another.
When self-aware empaths notice outside energy, they will understand how to best care for themselves and set healthy boundaries. Although self-awareness is beneficial to our well-being in many ways, some studies suggest that only 10 to 15 percent of people are self-aware.
What Holds Us Apart from Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness can be difficult for us. Whoever coined the saying “the truth hurts” was not fooling. We are all working on self-acceptance, and sometimes, when self-love is lacking, we can be closed off to constructive feedback.
Self-awareness can be painful for some. We may have a misguided goal of “good vibes only.” It may be surprising to hear, but the bulk of the self-help movement has undermined self-awareness. Instead, self-esteem rather than self-awareness is celebrated, recommending that people ignore negative thoughts and disregard outside feedback. The focus on self-esteem has created a feel-good-only standard. This standard enables narcissistic tendencies, making it challenging to embrace input that does not feel good.
Signs we May Lack Self-Awareness
One sign of low self-awareness is repetitive negative patterns of thought and behavior. I shared how it occurred for me every month without question. The pattern repeated because I was not stepping outside of my experience to witness it happening. The higher our self-awareness, the more likely we see our negative emotional patterns, recognize what creates the patterns, and take steps to heal.
Another sign that we lack self-awareness is our habit of choosing distractions and calling them self-care. Here is an example: I have had a grueling day. I feel tired and a tad anxious, and my patience is gone. I sit on the couch and pick up my phone. I spend the next two hours scrolling through Instagram. Scrolling Instagram is not the issue; the problem is that I tell myself it is self-care. I need a break from my day. If I pay attention, though, I notice that my anxiety has gotten worse, and my patience has taken a hit. Lack of self-awareness will call distractions self-care and cause us to do things that do not make us feel better.
Benefits of Self-Awareness
When our internal and external self-awareness is high and there is a balance between the two, we are more satisfied in life. What are some specific benefits of strong self-awareness?
First, we worry less; therefore, we feel less anxious. Second, when we understand our thoughts, bodily responses, and reactions, we can take proper action to avert burnout, redirect thought patterns, and respond to stimuli in more efficient ways. Third, when we are self-aware, we have enhanced self-confidence. Fourth, when we know what we are great at, we can navigate our lives, focusing on the best of us. Finally, knowing our limits gives us permission to set boundaries and see areas where we can grow.
Self-awareness leads to a deeper connection with ourselves and with others. When we are comfortable with vulnerability and talk to others about who we are, we open space for them to reveal themselves to us. Our willingness to hear others’ perspectives creates less preconception in relationships, and we make a wider communication area.
Growth: when we pay attention to which thoughts serve us and which ones do not, we allow ourselves to create new thoughts. When we are focused on bringing about change and growth, change and development will follow.
Happiness: when we know ourselves, we understand what makes us happy. Knowing what makes us happy creates a drive inside most humans to seek out, change, and rearrange what needs to be done to reach our happiness.
Self-awareness seems like a natural state of being, yet it requires a conscious decision to observe our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors. Nevertheless, there are many advantages to self-awareness.
So, how can we begin to realize the benefits?
Enhancing Our Self-Awareness
Get honest with yourself. Admit you may not be as self-aware as you think you are. There’s no shame here; I am right there with you on this one. Be open to learning by saying to yourself, “I don’t know all that I need to know about myself, and I am willing to learn.” Mind your thoughts. Just like scrolling aimlessly through a social media feed, our thoughts are continuous and automatic.
As does our breathing, our thoughts happen automatically—and most of the time without our direction. Unlike our breathing, which is necessary for our survival, most of our thoughts are unnecessary and not needed for survival. When we commit to improving self-awareness, we must mind the thoughts we choose to click on and follow.
Prioritize introspection. Carve out time each day to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Why is your body responding to a particular situation? What was triggering about that event?
One way I prioritize introspection is by journaling every morning. I created the Empath Morning Ritual Journal to meet this daily need, and I share it with everyone who wants it. You can request it on my website.
Welcome input. Begin the practice of welcoming outside feedback. Ask someone you trust to share how they see you. Be mindful of what feelings come up before asking, while asking, and after you ask. Make this practice a regular occurrence to strengthen your external self-awareness muscle. If this task feels scary to you, start with those you feel safe with and slowly challenge yourself to move outside your comfort zone.
Remember this: you are love. You are worth it. You are whole. Cultivate stillness. Include moments of peace and silence into your day. When we regularly quiet our minds and environments, we develop our ability to quiet our minds throughout the day and during times of stress. When we cultivate quieting our minds, we can notice what thoughts come up in the present moment.
Empathy is a human practice. It hears the suffering in a neighbor’s voice, listens attentively, and offers a supportive “I hear you.”
Reworded, empathy is a human practice. It is hearing the suffering in your inner voice, listening attentively, and offering a supportive “I hear you” and “I will act” for yourself.
Self-awareness is being conscious of what you need and being courageous enough to take action. Self-awareness is one of the most potent allies for our growth and transformation, yet only 10 to 15 percent of us are self-aware. When we lack self-awareness, we struggle in many areas because our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect us and others. When we achieve self-awareness, we know ourselves to the point where we consciously decide what we think, feel, and want to do.
Self-awareness is an essential ingredient for an empath to create a life that serves them; self-awareness empowers empaths to develop a lifestyle on their terms.