How to harness self-awareness

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Self-mastery
Self-mastery requires strength, willpower and honesty.

Self-mastery is a challenge for every individual, it is the ultimate test of our character. It requires climbing out of our lives and scaling our own Mount Everests. In its simplest terms, self-mastery is doing those things we should do, and not doing those things we should not do. It requires strength, willpower and honesty.

James E Faust

This month TiH has been sending the tribe mental health challenges to optimise their mental health and wellbeing.  One of those challenges was about creating a to-do list.  In this challenge, I wrote, to-do lists are goals and having goals in life help trigger new behaviours and guide or align your focus to promote a sense of self-mastery.  One tribesmember loved this quote so much and asked me to expand on self-mastery.  I believe self-awareness leads to self-mastery, which is the ability to 1) recognise, 2) understand, and 3) control your physical energy, mental agility, emotional well-being, and spiritual meaning.  This is attained through awareness and understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. 

However, self-awareness is a progressive journey of learning and practising.

Disclaimer: Everything TiH puts out to the world is backed up by research.

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Self-awareness is the ability to pay special attention to and on yourself, your actions, your thoughts, your emotions and how these align with your personal standards and expectations of people.  Being self-aware means objectively evaluating yourself, and those around you; managing your emotions well even when surrounded by gaslighters.  More importantly, it helps you align your reactions and behaviours in line with virtuous values and understand others’ perceptions of you without being too harsh and judgemental. 

Many years ago, I was under the misguided belief that putting myself down while raising others, even when they didn’t deserve it, raised my profile in their eyes.  What I didn’t know then but know now, is that I gave them unlimited power and license to use and abuse me emotionally.  Thankfully through mindfulness, I now know that self-awareness is not conceit or arrogance but a powerful skill that improves every aspect of your life.

To strengthen this skill, you must teach yourself how to analyse your strengths and challenges without feeling self-judgemental. If that’s too hard, or if you can’t be totally honest with yourself, ask a very (extremely) trusted friend to tell you what they think your strengths and challenges are.  A good friend will tell you and be kind and honest about it.  Your job is not to feel hurt because the truth hurts, instead, listen and learn because ultimately the goal is to help improve your relationships with yourself and others, your productivity and basically how you arrive at decisions. Bear in mind, a good friend will not only tell you your challenges but will offer helpful solutions or suggestions.

You cannot learn to be self-aware if you don’t know who you are.  Be honest with yourself.  Put yourself under the microscope.  Be vicious and unrelenting as you brainstorm about yourself – your strengths, your challenges, your pet peeves, your desires, your pervasions, your traits, your habits – good or bad, your likes, your dislikes.  You can do this over a week, months or even years because this is a progressive process.

If you have good friends, really good friends, ask them.  Ask them how they would describe you to someone.  Ask them what they don’t like about you.  What little things irritate them.  Then come up with ways to improve on that or change it.  Once upon a time, a very good friend (RIP) told me I had the tendency to put myself down.  At the time I was hurt and didn’t quite understand what she meant.  As my self-growth and maturity progressed, I saw it.  Even better, I began to see, really see, those around me who took full advantage of this weakness and compounded it to their advantage.  The good news – I saw it, I understood it and did something about it, including eradicating energy vampires.

However, beware of unhelpful criticism – a good friend will criticise and offer helpful solutions or suggestions. A bad friend will compound your weaknesses by inducing fear.

Self-mastery will help you to learn about your personality, how to deal with your achievements, how to harness your interests and how to evaluate your values.

One of the best ways to gain insight into yourself is through journaling – even Oprah does it.  This is the practice of putting thoughts and emotions on paper.  Apart from being therapeutic, it is a natural way of downloading issues that clog your brain, leaving space for growth and maturity.  It is a form of reflection because once things are on paper, it is easier to look at them from a different perspective.

Some people think a journal is just a book to write all your secrets.  As much as that might be true, it is also a place you can write things you learn, or hear and they make an impact, or kindness you’d extend to a stranger on the bus – reflect on it at the end of the day, write it down and learn something about yourself.

Don’t worry about sounding smart or writing perfectly and neatly, just imagine yourself as superfast fibre broadband that can download information at super speeds and put it on paper. This is especially helpful when you want to rant.

Emotions check

Everyone goes through several emotions over several issues.  Some people go over several emotions over one issue and there’s nothing wrong with that.  To be self-aware you need to understand your emotions and how you react to them.  Having emotions is part and parcel of being human, and when you understand your emotions you develop the ability to identify which situations elicit what emotions.

When you understand your emotions, you are not quick to respond or react.  You let the message sink in before responding.  This might not work in flight, fight or freeze situations, e.g. if you came face to face with a hungry lion, because the animal instinct in you will take over.  Identify situations or people that trigger emotional outbursts or premature reactions and deal with how you react to them.

To perform this level of introspection and develop it, is a challenge in itself.  So, start small, practise mindfulness, meditation, and little acts of kindness.

The rewards are far greater than the effort required.

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Photo credit: Darius Bashar – unsplash

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