10 reasons why self-awareness is important in mental health

Being self-aware means being in control of your thoughts and emotions…

…And knowing yourself!

It’s essential to be self-aware if you want to feel in control of your life, and to have successful relationships with others

Without self-awareness, you might often feel like you don’t understand why you feel certain ways.

Simply put, self-awareness is essential when it comes to regulating your mental health and it empowers you to understand your emotions.

Let’s take a closer look at why self-awareness is so important in mental health.

1) You’ll understand yourself better

Us humans spend a lot of time getting to know other people

…Be it going for coffee with people or checking out someone else’s social media account…

Yet we don’t spend enough time getting to know ourselves.

What I mean by this is: we don’t take the time to really get to know ourselves the best we can.

In other words, we don’t give ourselves the time we deserve!

Naturally, we all have blindspots… 

Yet we can still do our best to understand ourselves through self-awareness. 

You see, if you’re without self-awareness then you won’t have a full picture of yourself…

…It’s as though you’ll be missing a bit of the puzzle.

But as you piece the puzzle together through self-awareness, you’ll become more aware of who you are.

As a result, you can make better sense of yourself!

2) You can manage your emotions 

Now, if we don’t learn to manage our emotions, our emotions rule us!

In our fast-paced, busy world, we can become quite out of balance quickly and find ourselves feeling stressed and overwhelmed… 

…Without really knowing why.

In my experience, there have been so many occasions when I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed without a clear explanation. 

This was before I understood self-awareness.

In the past, I used to experience high bouts of anxiety and feel ‘out of sorts’… But I could just never understand why.

This would make me feel even more overwhelmed, as I couldn’t understand what was going on.

On the other hand, having cultivated self-awareness I now have a greater understanding about why I feel the way I do in different moments…

…And what different feelings suggest.

For example, if I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I take a moment to journal my thoughts so I can connect with how I’m feeling.

In other words, self-awareness allows me to join up the dots!

3) It gives you insight into your what drives your beliefs 

We all go through life with a set of beliefs.

Some of the beliefs we hold are more conscious than others…

…Some of them are more positive than negative.

Some we just accept because they’re the shared beliefs among the people around us, and that’s all we’ve ever known.

They might be religious or political beliefs. 

Simply put, we all have various beliefs that we’ve had since childhood and we go through life picking new ones up… Which affects how we experience the world around us.

But more often than not, people don’t inquire into their beliefs. 

In fact, it’s rare that we actually take the time to think about where our beliefs come from and why we choose to hang on to them.

Being self-aware encourages exactly this. 

You see, it encourages us to get clear on why we believe certain things and that can allow us to feel more in control!

Not only that, it allows for space to make any changes…

For example, if you realize that you have a negative bias, you can make a conscious decision to work on letting it go.

4) It will increase your empathy 

Self-awareness has a direct effect on your empathy.

Not only does it help you to understand where your beliefs come from and why you think a certain way, but you’ll become more empathetic towards others.

You see, self-awareness has a way of helping you become more intuitive and aware of where people are coming from.

Even though you might not fully understand why someone behaves in the way they do and believes the things they do, you’ll have more empathy towards them.

Simply put, you’ll become more understanding.

You’ll be aware that the things they believe are a result of the experiences they’ve had… 

In other words, it will make you more accepting of different people’s stances even if you’ve not experienced them.

5) It allows you to improve your critical thinking

Have you ever found yourself responding in a way that’s felt too emotional?

You’re only human, so of course you have!

Maybe you got visibly angry at work and told your boss to stuff the job.

It’s also very natural that we look back at things and think ‘why did I do that?’…

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, after all!

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve found yourself being too emotional in the past… 

… But just know that by being self-aware, you can control your emotional response.

You see, by being self-aware, it will allow you to not attach to your feelings or opinions too much.

You’ll be able to see them through more of a subjective light, and respond from more of an objective place. 

In other words, you’ll be able to analyze and respond objectively without the emotion taking control.

For example, instead of shouting at your boss and telling them you’ve had it, when you’re self-aware you’ll instead pause, breathe and recognize that you’re upset by the situation…

…And when you respond, you’ll stay objective and keep the emotion separate.

6) You’ll become more aware of your strengths 

It’s a fact that we all have strengths and weaknesses… Even if we don’t like to admit it!

Truth is, we’re better at some things than other things.

Again, that’s just part of being human.

But when you’re not self-aware, you might not be that aware about what your strengths and weaknesses actually are.

Instead, you might find yourself getting frustrated easily when you find something difficult or do a bad job of something. 

I’ve been there!

Before I started working on my self-awareness, I used to get really annoyed at myself at not finding certain tasks easy.

I used to call myself stupid for struggling, before I was honest with myself about what I was good at and what I, well, wasn’t so good at. 

You see, I made a list of the things I considered strengths and vice versa and I got comfortable with accepting what these were.

As a result, I started playing into my strengths and not focusing on my weaknesses. 

7) It will provide clarity about your values

Self-awareness promotes clarity in so many areas of your life.

Alongside your beliefs and strengths, it will also shed light on your value system.

This is something that we often also don’t inquire into enough…

I’ll be honest: I had never even seen a values checklist until I discovered this free checklist by Jeanette Brown.

I couldn’t believe I’d made it this far without sitting down and thinking about my values clearly.

You see, understanding your values helps you understand your ‘why’ and what is in true alignment with you.

This was the case for me!

I got clear on the different things I care about through working with the checklist.

Not only does it help you understand yourself but it can help guide the sort of relationships you have, the professional work you do and the hobbies you pick up.

Truth is, your values can be wide-ranging and include everything from adventure and courage to charity or creativity.

What’s more, there doesn’t have to be a theme with the values you pick or a limit to your list.

In other words, there’s no rulebook!

Avoid putting yourself in a box and allow yourself to pick whatever feels true for you… That way, you’ll be able to get clearer than ever on what values really matter to you.

8) It helps you with decision-making

Decision-making is hard work when your mental health isn’t in check.

It can feel like it’s basically impossible to make sense of things when you can’t think clearly, and your emotions are in the driver’s seat.

In my experience, I used to really struggle with making decisions…

…Both big and small.

I used to look to my friends and family for the answers that they just didn’t have.

Rather than checking in with what I really wanted, I would regularly try to seek guidance from other people.

It was super common for me to find myself saying: “I just don’t know what to do”.

For instance, when my ex and I weren’t working out, I asked other people if I should separate with him or stay… 

…Of course, they couldn’t help me make the decision. 

On the other hand, being self-aware is focused on checking in with your emotions and what it is that you really want.

What’s more, the more you get in the habit of asking yourself this, the more trust you’ll build with yourself.

Over time, you’ll find that you never outsource the answers that only you have.

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9) You’ll become a better listener 

There are many people who aren’t active listeners.

What I mean by active listening is being fully present in a conversation and listening to what the other person is saying, as opposed to thinking about a response. 

I’ve been the person who’s half-listened and just focused on what I wanted to say.

I’ll admit it: I’ve been this person so many times.

You’ve likely been the same… 

You know what I’m going to say next: we’re only human.

However, since building up my self-awareness, I’ve become a better listener. 

These days, as I’m able to listen to myself and what I need, I’m able to listen to other people fully. 

If someone is talking about a topic, I’m present with them and listening. 

What’s more, when I respond, I focus on asking them a question about what they’ve said and I don’t make it about me. 

If this sounds like it would be an impossible task for you at the moment, just try and remind yourself to be as active as you can when you remember…

…And it will become a new habit over time!

10) You’ll become aware of your triggers

It’s common for people to say that something has ‘triggered’ them these days.

In all honesty, I probably say it a little too much.

It means that something another person has said or does has caused me to feel uneasy, upset or stressed.

Sometimes it can be something minor or other times it can be something pretty significant.

Healthline defines a trigger as:

“something that affects your emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme overwhelm or distress. A trigger affects your ability to remain present in the moment. It may bring up specific thought patterns or influence your behavior.”

So, do you know what your triggers really are?

If you wouldn’t be able to write them down as it stands, it’s time to introduce a self-awareness practice.

Through becoming self-aware, you’ll be able to understand why you react to things in a certain way and why things upset you so much. 

Simply put, you’ll start looking at where they come from and why you have them.

Journaling is a great tool to help with clarity, as is seeking out professional help to support you through looking at the past in a healthy way.

The good news? 

There are so many actionable steps you can take to increase your self-awareness that will support your mental health and well-being.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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