Self-awareness, self-awareness, self-awareness! In my very first graduate school class, the professor advised us that if we remembered nothing else, we needed to remember the importance of self-awareness. That was several years ago, and that lesson has always stuck with me. It has become even more relevant to me today.
When I begin work with my clients, we often talk about self-awareness early in the process. We discuss why self-awareness is important and how to increase it. Increasing self-awareness brings our attention to the fact that something is happening. Once we know that something is happening, we can then take steps to do something about it! Sounds simple, right? It’s actually quite meaty and if we’re not careful, this can be fraught with a lot of emotional landmines. Despite the risks, if we hope to take any steps toward meaningful change, we must be willing to move forward. Are you up for the challenge?
Check-In With Yourself
The process of increasing our self-awareness starts with making a conscious decision to slow down. Our society has a way of making us feel that everything is urgent and needs to get done immediately. However, to increase our self-awareness, we have to go against this idea just a little! So I suggest you create some space in which to do this. Take just a few minutes throughout the day to “check-in” with yourself.
To begin, allow yourself to notice what is going on in your external environment (i.e. utilize all of your senses to observe in that moment: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell). Also allow yourself to notice what’s happening in your internal environment (i.e. any feelings of pain or discomfort anywhere in your body, your mood, emotions, and thoughts). While you’re in the process of noticing, try and do this without becoming judgmental of your observations or yourself. This is that “meaty” part I mentioned earlier.
While you are in this experience, your inner-dialogue could look something like mine: “I’m noticing several items on my desk—some books, papers and my water bottle. I’m noticing the letters showing up on the screen as I’m typing this. I’m noticing some tension in my shoulders …” You get the idea. When I did this exercise, I allowed myself to just notice what is in my external and internal environments without judgment or corrective action. This can be super tough because my internal critic was tempted to jump in and tell me what I should do to help the tension and that I should tidy-up my workspace. At this point, we can manage this “emotional invader” just by “noticing” it too! We might say, “I’m noticing some judgmental feelings right now.”
That’s it! The beginning of the process that I use to increase self-awareness. Did you try it? If so, how did you do? What did you notice? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below. Also if you have a different process, please share that too!
“The art of listening needs its highest development in listening to oneself; our most important task is to develop an ear that can really hear what we’re saying.” —Sydney J. Harris