At the core of self-awareness lies the ability to observe our own nature, genuinely understand it and notice how it influences our interactions with the world around us.
In every situation we can either unconsciously react or mindfully respond. I often ask teachers to imagine a situation that could have had a more positive outcome, had they responded differently. This is one of the first ways we can begin to observe our own nature, our strengths and our weaknesses - by thinking back to how we have behaved in the past.
When we start to develop deeper self-awareness and emotional regulation, we create a space in our lives for stronger, more positive relationships to form, in both our private lives and within our communities. Through our amplified open-mindedness, increased empathy, ability to handle criticism without blame or denial, our improved listening skills and all importantly our capability to recognise and apologise when we are wrong – we are able to continually work to improve internal wellbeing and ultimately support the people around us.
Researchers believe that an area of the brain known as the anterior cingulate, a region of the frontal lobe, plays an important role in the development of self-awareness. Researchers have also used brain imaging to show that this region becomes activated in adults who are self-aware.
How can you tell whether you're a self-aware individual?
SELF-MANAGEMENT – The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviours, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
SOCIAL AWARENESS – You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognise the power dynamics in a group or organisation.
RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.
YOUR PERFORMANCE AT SCHOOL OR WORK - Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to gauging job candidates, many companies now view emotional intelligence as being as important as technical ability and use EQ testing before hiring.
YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH - If you’re unable to manage your emotions, you're probably not managing your stress either. This can lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the ageing process. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn how to relieve stress.
YOUR MENTAL HEALTH - Uncontrolled emotions and stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand, be comfortable with, and manage your emotions, you’ll be at risk of being unable to form strong relationships which can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
YOUR RELATIONSHIPS - By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.