Why is self-awareness so important in individual growth and development? What is self-awareness? How can we effectively use it to increase self-knowledge, serenity, balance and personal growth?
Self-awareness is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as the “Conscious knowledge of one’s character, feelings, motives and desires”.
Self-awareness is the ability to self-reflect the many levels of consciousness within which we exist. It allows us to reflect and navigate effectively, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms of consciousness by re-enforcing our innate physical biofeedback system that allows us to bring balance, serenity and focus in the midst of chaos and challenge. Self-awareness includes the ability to evaluate the strengths and challenges of our personalities, the ability to understand and recognize our emotions and the impact they have on our equilibrium and the impact that they have on others. It also includes the ability to use gut reactions and intuition to help guide decision-making, building a sense of clarity and self-worth.
We are all born with a level of self-awareness that increases through life experience and the stages of human development that are present at birth. Although there is controversy over the validity of emotional intelligence at this time, most health care and business professionals acknowledge its existence and validity. It still remains as an acceptable model that explains why some of us are more apt to be successful than others. Dr. Goleman in the late 1990s, along with Drs. Mayer and Salovey, discovered certain patterns that indicated an explanation for why some people were more successful than other individuals. In evaluating successful people, they found that these traits could not be solely evaluated by using a IQ index (Intelligence Quotient). Through their research, they discovered another factor that they called EI (Emotional Intelligence). They found that people who used their ability to be self-aware along with three other factors were more capable of leadership and conflict management than others who were unable to manage their emotions and create self-direction and social awareness in their lives.
In his book entitled “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, Dr. Goleman noted that the ability to be self-aware increased personal knowledge and ability to influence the world around us. He called this ability “emotional competency”. He suggested that there were four emotional competencies: self-awareness, self-management, self-direction and social awareness. It was his theory that ten percent of the population was born with a highly developed ability to innately utilize emotional intelligence. However, he also theorized that through a commitment to self-discovery and growth that these four competencies would automatically increase.
Dr. Goleman’s definition of emotional intelligence is “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”.
Dr. Goleman believed that a conscious commitment to the development of these four emotional competencies accelerated our ability to apply these skills in our everyday life, gaining mastery at different levels of consciousness. For many of us, his definition of emotional intelligence can also be applied to the idea of living a spiritual life. He also believed that the more emotionally intelligent one was, the more successful the individual would be in life and personal relationships. This means that someone who is emotionally intelligent would be self-aware of the impact of their actions, attitudes, thoughts and behaviors within themselves and their personal relationships. Emotionally intelligent individuals would have increased knowledge of mediating internal conflict, managing emotions and developing ability to use intuition and gut reactions for decision-making and innovation. The self-awareness components is one of the key factors in subjective evaluation of one’s ability to be creative, intuitive and decisive, while maintaining limits and boundaries with self and others. In other words, by his definition, our ability to perceive our emotions, our physical reactions and thought processes increase the amount of information available for us to empower our lives.
The ability to use emotions effectively is learned through the balancing of right and left brain hemispheres that bring together thought, analysis, executive decision-making, ability to tap into our subconscious, intuitive abilities and gut reaction.