• Sue Doo

What? instead of Why?

Updated: May 19

The Self-Awareness puzzle

Image by Laurenz Kleinheider at Unsplash

When we start to unpick how we can help our mental wellbeing we very quickly come across the words “self-awareness”.

What does it mean to be self-aware to have self-awareness?

Psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund provide this definition:

"Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don't align with your internal standards. If you're highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behaviour with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you."

So, people who are self-aware can understand and objectively, reflect on their actions, thoughts, or feelings. Although, Tasha Eurich has said we need to watch the language that we use. Asking the question 'what?' instead of 'why?' will help us to move forward. Otherwise we can end up getting stuck in a self-analysing trap.

How does self-awareness help us in our daily life?

· It helps us have greater self-control and leads to better decision making

· We develop a greater sense of self-confidence

· We can communicate better

· It gives us greater empathy

· Being more analytical we are proactive in achieving our goals

Self-awareness is a great skill as it allows us at any time or place to check in and evaluate ourselves. By reviewing our emotions and physical reactions we can see whether we are living up to our values and beliefs.

It gives us that opportunity for change, to make things better or just different. Being able to recognise that there are some things we can’t change and that’s ok – then we don’t continually hit our heads against the proverbial brick wall!

We will all get stuck at times in a cycle of negativity or behave in a set manner that can be self-destructive and often hurtful to ourselves.

By taking control of ourselves and deciding to brush up on our self-awareness skills we can begin to recognise where we can make small changes.

"Self-awareness involves deep personal honesty.
It comes from asking and answering hard questions."
Stephen R Covey

An example of a recent time when I have used self-awareness to reflect on my life.

Over the last 20 months it’s been a challenging time raising our beautiful pup Fin. Many times, I've had to sit down with myself and reflect on how things were going.

I had begun to doubt myself, “you're so silly”, “you can’t do anything right” and so on went the negative chatter in my head. I got snappy with my family, ate far too much chocolate (hmmm, it’s possible!!) and generally loathed myself.

This is when I knew I needed to do some serious self-analysis and do be more self-aware by reflecting and take stock of where I was and make some changes.

My pup was very scared of people and could get quite shouty with other pups or dogs that sneaked up on him. I would get scared, uncertain, and unsure.

So, I did what I often do when I don’t have the answers and I’m feeling out of sorts. I sat and thought about what I wanted for him, and how I could provide that. Walking 24/7 wasn’t an option, and no number of hours out would be enough – so what else?

I recognised I needed to do something to:

A – Build his confidence, (and mine)

B – Wear him out a bit more

C – Rest my foot as I now have planter fasciitis (foot pain due to too much walking!! Who knew?)

I am passionate about getting 'it' right, learning and understanding. Whether that's how to write a blog, start a business, bring up my children or in this instance train my dog.

So, armed with this self-reflection and awareness I set out and arranged some agility sessions, which he loves, and I am getting better at!! I was given some new tools to help support Fin and myself. I stopped with the negative chatter and focused on the positive action I was taking, and recognised that just like Fin, I was learning some new skills.

We get to practice the skills in our garden, and this entertains his brain. 30 minutes of a new agility skill wipes him out for the day!

He’s also done a spot of swimming at a dog rehab centre where he gets to go in with the physio. Great for me, as I get to watch, and rest my foot, and great for him as it is another way of stimulating his brain, and exercising him. He is learning that other people are fun too. 30 minutes swimming for a dog is equivalent to 1 hour and 30 minute walk!!!

By being self-aware I have been able to recognise when I needed some help. I saw that changing some of what we did was the answer, and I was able to confidently reach out and find some activities for my pup.

I can honestly say that over the 6 months that we have been doing these new activities he is a far more confident pup, I am more confident, and I have a cache of tools and games for those times when he needs a bit more stimulation than a long walk.

Self-awareness is crucial in building that picture towards a more positive mental health, and when we begin to reflect on our,

· Thoughts – Noticing they are negative, I’m so stupid, I’m a loser, everything always goes wrong for me.

· Emotions – feeling sad, low, unhappy, angry

· Behaviours – isolating ourselves from our friends, not wanting to achieve our goals.

· And feelings in our bodies – this could present as a great hunger or loss of appetite, tiredness, headache, or stomach pain.

We practice our self-awareness, we build our confidence, and we begin to build a picture of what helps us and what doesn’t.

Questions to ask yourself,

What am I feeling? (Emotion)

What is that making me think? (thoughts)

What do I want to be doing? (Behaviour)

Where do I /Can I feel this in my body?

You can answer these questions in many different ways from journaling, where you sit with a book or blank piece of paper and let your mind wander while allowing your hand to write whatever comes to mind.

No judgement or recriminations, just write!

Or you can do a mind map with lovely colours and images, or reflect on the questions and let your mind have time to think, maybe while out for a walk.

What's most important is to recognise that there is no right. or wrong way to develop your self-awareness. Find a way you enjoy and relax into it.

We all have ups and downs and self-awareness is when we can start to recognising that things aren’t going so well.


What can I do?

What's important to me?

What difference does this make?

What do I want instead?

Become inquisitive, curious and have compassion, build on your skills of self-reflection.

Because self-awareness leads to us building a healthy sense of self-acceptance, where being happy with who we are, what we do, and being proud of ourselves is at the heart of it all.

Becoming more self-aware helps us to make the small changes we want to see and often has a knock-on effect to those around us. I always tell my clients you can only change yourself, but often in doing so things around us also change. Maybe because we are approaching things differently or we have different expectations, whatever it is it’s wonderful to see how one small change can have such a huge impact.

"When things change inside you,
Things change around you."

If you would like to have a chat about self-awareness or you want some support then send me an email and we will arrange a time for a call.

I provide FREE 30 minute calls to help you get back on track, unload & refocus.

A TedTalk from Tasha Eurich explaining Self-awareness
and the simple change we can all make.

A short YouTube Video that explains Self-awareness in a beautifully simple way

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