I used to have the emotional self-awareness of a faulty kettle.
In my late teens and early twenties, I was a slave to BPD’s unstable, impulsive emotions. I succumbed to the anxiety and believed every word it said, my panic attacks capable of overwhelming me in an instant. I would also ruminate for hours on end, thinking myself into deep depressive episodes with zero restraint.
Because I wasn’t emotionally self-aware, my emotions kind of just happened to me and I would react to them with intensity.
When you lack self-awareness, you lack the ability to identify things like triggers and bad habits. You struggle with emotional control and find yourself depressed, anxious or angry without really understanding why. You also lack a stable sense of self, resulting in self-identity issues that can dangerously aggravate disorders like BPD or depression.
Being emotionally self-aware is fundamental to your mental wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that emotional intelligence is linked to happiness! This is because self-awareness encourages us to have a more accepting view of ourselves and, in turn, a much more positive outlook on life.
As someone who suffers from multiple mental illnesses, becoming more emotionally self-aware has been life-changing. My turbulent emotions are much calmer and easier to manage now that I’m not so confused and scared by them.
The Benefits of Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the act of being sharply conscious of everything that makes you into the beautifully unique individual that you are. It involves developing a deeper understanding of your character traits, behaviours, weaknesses, strengths, habits, values and so much more.
Being more self-aware encourages personal growth and development in many aspects of our lives. Here are just some of the benefits to practising emotional self-awareness:
It teaches you to react better to stressful situations
As someone who used to be prone to overreacting over the trivial stuff, learning how to become more emotionally self-aware has been amazing for my stress levels!
When you lack emotional control, your reactions to negative emotions or situations tend to be unhealthy or counterproductive. Without self-awareness, these negative reactions often get repeated over and over again, constantly wreaking havoc on your mental health. By practising self-awareness, you can identify the emotions that trigger negative responses and find alternative ways of reacting.
It improves your emotional control and regulation
As someone who suffers from depression, anxiety and BPD, I know all about scary, uncontrollable emotions! My BPD makes it especially hard for me to regulate mood swings.
Learning to become emotionally self-aware gave me the knowledge to identify triggers, patterns and any other add quirks, making my emotions a lot less scary and ‘out of the blue’.
It instils a growth mindset
Practising self-awareness is a great learning exercise that drives you to become the best version of yourself. The happiest people have a growth mentality and thrive off self-improvement, a healthy habit that improves mental health.
There are professional benefits
Having a strong sense of emotional self-awareness is particularly beneficial to your professional life, especially if you work closely with people in caring, supportive or advisory roles. Roles in healthcare, education, social work and therapy are among some of the professions where emotional self-awareness is vital for crisis situations as well as general competence.
There are social benefits too!
Learning how to become more emotionally self-aware is extremely beneficial if you suffer from social anxiety, shyness or low self-esteem.
We often allow our negative emotions to drive us in social situations. This can cause us to spiral, becoming overwhelmed by negative thought-loops and controlled by anxiety and fear. By being more emotionally self-aware, we can stop these negative spirals from happening and adjust our counterproductive reactions.
How To Be More Emotionally Self-Aware
1 – Keep a mood journal
This is particularly good for depression as it can enlighten you to mood patterns that you never even knew existed. For example, you may discover that you feel worse in the morning and get gradually better throughout the day, or maybe your mood progressively gets worse or better as the week goes on. This simple bit of self-awareness can work wonders for your mental health because once you’re on to it, you can put steps in place to change it.
2 – Practise meditation/mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness can help you to become more emotionally self-aware by encouraging you to look at your thoughts in an objective and accepting way. It enlightens you to your thoughts patterns: what pops into your head and when, what triggers certain thoughts and what your immediate emotional response is.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be done during everyday activities like cooking, gardening, or even while brushing your teeth!
3 – Identify your bad habits
The journey to becoming more emotionally self-aware can sometimes be a painful process. Many people discover bad habits or negative character traits – maybe you notice that you have a low patience threshold or can’t take criticism very well. It’s good for us to acknowledge these traits because it allows us to fix them!
Working on these habits can be great for people with low self-confidence or self-worth. If we believe ourselves to be good people, we are much more likely to love ourselves!
4 – Also identify your positive traits
In the same vein, we often overlook our good qualities because we are too busy focusing on our negative qualities. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the small acts of kindness that we do everyday. By being more self-aware, you can learn to gift more of your attention to your positive characteristics.
5 – Add daily self-reflection to your self-care routine
Take some time out every night to reflect on your daily emotions. For example, were they justified? Irrational? How did you react and could you have done anything differently? Self-reflection helps you to become emotionally self-aware because it encourages us to learn from our mistakes.
6 – Ask friends what they think of you
This one is probably the hardest, especially if you don’t respond well to criticism (or if you’re like me and think every nice thing said about you is a sympathetic lie!)
Asking friends for their opinion of you a really effective way of gaining insight into how other people perceive you. It can enlighten you to positive traits that you’ve never fully appreciated while also making you aware of any negative traits
Make sure you provide a safe space for your friends to be open and honest with you. Emphasise that you want their truthful opinion for self-improvement purposes, whether it be good or bad. Being able to take constructive criticism is an emotionally-strengthening character trait!
7 – Take a personality test
Personality tests are great self-awareness tools because they give us greater insight into our behavioural patterns and character traits. They can help us to identify subconscious traits that we may not be aware of and they offer a deeper understanding of our relationship with the world around us.
I would personally recommend the 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire. I got the mediator personality type and I have to say, it was pretty damn accurate! It even opened my eyes to some things that I wasn’t even consciously aware I did!
You can take the test here. Let me know what personality type you are in the comments down below!