The topic of self-awareness doesn’t often come up when talking about healing from childhood abuse. But learning self-awareness benefits and strategies can be very beneficial. It can even be argued that self-awareness IS essential for healing.
Self-awareness is a relevant topic because being self-aware means that you are aware of the parts of you that need attention and care. It also means being aware of your emotions and thinking patterns. And when you’re more aware of your feelings and thoughts, you can get better at managing them, thus leading to a healthier and happier you.
Also, being more self-aware can keep you from continuing your parents’ abusive cycle. You can be aware of what tendencies or behaviors you might have picked up from them and learn healthy ways to cope. This can ensure that you won’t become abusive and be able to create healthy relationships with others.
What is Self-Awareness?
Merriam-Webster defines self-awareness as “an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality”. Wikipedia defines it as “how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires”.
In a nutshell, self-awareness is the ability to clearly and objectively see yourself and everything that makes you who you are, and how all of them fit into your current life. In other words, self-awareness can be seen as mindfulness towards yourself.
The Benefits of Self-Awareness for Healing
Wanting to become more self-aware means paying attention and trying to learn more about yourself. There are many reasons why and how self-awareness is essential not just for healing, but for living a more fulfilling life. Here are a few of them.
Self-Discovery & Growth
Self-awareness allows us to get get to know our likes and dislikes, strengths and flaws, values and beliefs, and so on. It allows us to better learn about ourselves while we’re still living.
And once we discover things about ourselves, we can work to pursue and embrace those things and use it to improve our life. We get the opportunity to make needed changes to not just heal, but continue to grow.
Emotion Regulation & Self-Control
People who are more self-aware are also typically more emotionally intelligent. Self-awareness allows you to be aware of your emotions, thus allowing you to better regulate those emotions.
You would know what you are feeling when you are feeling it, and what caused you to feel that way. In terms of healing, you know what your triggers are and how to cope with them. And being more familiar with your emotions helps you learn about your thinking patterns.
And better emotion regulation leads to clearer thinking, better decision-making, and overall more self-control.
Voicing & Meeting Needs
Having a clearer sense of what you believe and what you want makes it easier to identify, voice, and meet your needs. And being able to meet those needs shows that you are practicing self-care, which is crucial for healing.
Being more self-aware allows you to see things from the perspective of others. You will be able to notice how your words and actions can affect other people and whether your behavior is pushing people away.
Self-awareness allows you to become a better observer of yourself, as well as a better observer and listener for others. When you can detect and understand how other people see you, you will be able to create stronger and more authentic relationships.
A Healthier & More Fulfilling Life
Self-awareness is correlated with higher levels of overall happiness. Being more self-aware means you are more mindful of your decisions, thoughts, and actions.
Your clearer thinking, improved emotion regulation, better communication, ability to form meaningful relationships, and awareness of yourself, your environment, and your life can decrease your overall stress levels.
Self-awareness provides you with a general increase in confidence and self-esteem. You can seek out your true desires to increase your motivation and enjoyment in life. You can align your thoughts and actions with your desires, passions, and goals.
Being self-aware can help get what you think, say, and do all in agreement. Overall, self-awareness can help you strive for a life that you find meaningful and fulfilling.
Self-Awareness vs. Self-Consciousness
Sometimes, it is possible to be so self-aware that it becomes self-consciousness.
Extremely self-conscious individuals are very aware of their actions, feelings, and thoughts. As a result, they often suffer from increased stress and anxiety.
Also, while they may be very aware of what they’re thinking and feeling, they might struggle with knowing what they truly want or how they should go about it.
So self-awareness, in a general sense, is typically healthy. Self-consciousness, on the other hand, not so much. The key is to find the middle ground to reap the most benefits.
Be self-aware enough so you can take care of yourself physically and emotionally. But not so much that it starts affecting you negatively.
How to Be More Self-Aware: Self-Awareness Strategies for Healing
Self-reflection, also known as introspection, is observing and evaluating your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and desires.
You can see where you’re headed, if you’re happy with that direction, and what changes need to be made. Or you can analyze your responses to certain events that happen in your everyday life.
Try to give yourself enough time and space each day to self-reflect. Find some activities that you can do alone to connect with yourself and free your mind. This is also a good time to destress from your day-to-day life.
Write about yourself
One often recommended and effective way to self-reflect and to heal is writing.
Writing helps you become more aware and intentional, allowing you to identify, clarify, and accept your thoughts and feelings. It helps you discover what you want, what you value, and what works for you or the opposite.
You can write about:
- Things you are good at and things you can improve on
- Accomplishments you are proud of
- What makes you happy and what makes you tick
- Your beliefs and values
- What’s most important to you right now
- Your passions and desires
- Your goals
- What you want in life
How you want to write to be more self-aware is up to you. It can be free-flowing entries, bullet lists, journals, guided journals, or poetry.
Check out The Hopeful Planner designed for healing, self-care, and more!
Identify your triggers
Whenever you’re feeling an unpleasant emotion, check in with yourself.
Be present enough to notice your thoughts, feelings, and emotions so you can better recognize them in the future. Try not to push away your feelings.
Avoid going to self-destructing lengths to avoid feeling. Instead, listen to what your mind is trying to tell you. Understand where it came from. Then, try to establish some healthy ways to cope.
Identify inaccurate thinking & self-talk
A major source of a lack of self-awareness is the inaccurate mental processes that many people engage in. It’s important to identify these inaccurate thoughts and self-talk because they warp how you see yourself and the world.
Try to see things with an open mind in a new perspective.
Ask “what” instead of “why”
To be more self-aware, you should focus on asking yourself the right questions. However, asking “why” might not always be effective since many of our internal processes remain shrouded in our subconscious or unconscious minds. So instead, ask “what”.
For example, instead of asking “Why do I keep failing?” at something, ask “What are the circumstances causing me to fail?” and “What can I do to change them?”. This method can aid you in improving your self-awareness and aligning your standards on certain activities.
Reflect on your values
Think about your values, opinions, beliefs, desires, and goals. Are they your own? Or are they influenced by other people?
I grew up in a family where bad behaviors were tolerated and enabled just because of shared DNA. But biology means nothing if it’s used to justify hurting me and others.
Now, I truly value my chosen family. They mean everything because of the love we share. Blood is irrelevant. It’s the relationship between us that matters. That is my value and what’s important to me.
What about you?
Do you truly believe what you think you believe? Think about where your values or beliefs originated from. Abandon those that were forced upon you and replace them with the ones you truly value.
This can be difficult if you grew up around certain things that were a significant part of your life. You might accept it as truth and live by it. But try to think for yourself. Forget about what your parents, friends, or spouse value. What do you value?
Reflect on your past
Who we are today is strongly determined by our past experiences whether we like it or not. And it’s unfortunate for those of us with abusive parents. But it’s something we have to face.
Think about how your past shaped who you are and what you want today. Think about how it shaped the way you think and view the world and yourself.
Accept that the past influenced who you are. But recognize that you can change things about yourself that you want to change.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Meditation is often used to improve your mindful awareness – being present at the moment and focusing on yourself and your surroundings rather than getting lost in thought.
There are many different types of meditation. It can be a good way to learn more about how your thinking process works. It’s a good way to identify your thoughts and feelings and learning to sit with them without judgment or reaction.
View yourself from another perspective
Viewing yourself from a bird’s-eye view or another person’s perspective can help you gain some insight into how you interact with the world around you that you may not realize.
View yourself from different people’s perspectives. Try to do it with a variety of people since how we talk and act varies around different people in different settings.
Write down how you think different people might see you. Think about how you act differently around different people and why.
Take personality and psychometric tests
Personality tests can help you understand what type of traits or characteristics you have. A popular one is the Myers-Briggs test.
However, many aspects of you cannot be determined by one or even a hundred tests. So while the results of these tests could shed some light on who you are, remember that they’re not meant to represent you as a whole.
Ask others for feedback
Write down some subjective words you would use to describe yourself like kind, sensitive, insecure, and resilient. Try to avoid using objective terms like parent, student, or Asian.
Then, ask someone you trust whether your description of yourself is accurate. Are you seeing yourself too positively or negatively? Ask if there’s anything that doesn’t fit you or anything they’d like to add.
If you don’t want to describe yourself first, you can also ask people to give you an open, honest, and objective view of yourself.
Try to focus on asking people whose opinion you would trust. For example, your abusive parent’s view of you is very likely negative. So stick with your support network when doing this.
Asking for feedback is useless if you don’t listen to it. Learn how to listen to others as they speak. It will give you a sense of what they are feeling and how they perceive you. This can also help you become more empathetic and understanding of others.
Are they able to open up to you? This shows that they can trust you.
Also, learn to listen to yourself. Whenever you’re feeling a certain way, your mind is trying to get your attention. Instead of pushing the feeling away, listen to it and address it. It will only get worse if you ignore it.
Get out of your comfort zone
Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to be more aware of your actions and perhaps thoughts and feelings. Try something new. Visit a new place. Broaden your horizons!
We tend to stick to our same old routines because we are comfortable with the familiar. Most of us dislike change and transitions which is completely normal.
But while structure and routine are important, being stuck in the same old same old can create a narrow mindset. So it’s important to be open to new experiences.
Trying new things increases your mental flexibility. Visiting new places and unfamiliar settings forces you to be more self-aware. Doing things you don’t usually do makes you more resilient.
Getting out of your comfort zone in whatever way you prefer can give you a new perspective. It forces you to think and act differently than what you’re used to so you could adapt to the changes.
You will notice how things are different than what you’re familiar with. This helps you learn about yourself and how they are influenced by your upbringing, culture, and current environment.
Being self-aware means being aware of who you are and what motivates your actions, thoughts, feelings, and passions. Utilizing the various self-awareness strategies in this post can help you learn to be more self-aware and mindful of yourself and how you live.
And as you try to be more self-aware, you’ll discover new things about yourself. Use this as an opportunity to dig deeper and find yourself under all the effects of abuse that may have manifested. Use it as a way to heal.
As you progress on your healing journey, please note that the journey is non-linear. Please also remember that there is no such thing as 100% in terms of healing. It’s impossible to be 100% self-aware or 100% “fixed”.
Just take it slowly and recognize your progress along the way.
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