Do You Even Flex That Self-Awareness Muscle?

So, I spend a lot of time talking about self awareness and how that directly ties into and relates with self-care. If you have no idea what is going on in your mind or your body (i.e self-awareness), it make it really hard for you to the do the things you need to do or take the steps towards your self-care. As I have also mentioned before, self-care should not be a cookie cutter approach. What works for one influencer or celebrity may not work for you and that is okay, we are all unique with our own needs and desires and we should not feel compelled to have them be aligned with that of a celebrity.

So, what exactly is self-awareness? How can you cultivate it? Why is it so important…can’t you just drink that smoothie you saw advertised and hope that it helps you slim your gut? Can’t you just tell yourself that you are happy and have that work magically? There were a lot of really great definitions out there, but this one from really resonated with me:

self-a·ware·ness/ˈˌself əˈwernəs/:

characteristic of knowing yourself, understanding your decisions and being conscious of how you behave

An example that is given is how one behaves in a certain situation or under certain circumstances. I would take that definition and expand it to include how one is routinely and consciously aware of how one responds to what they ingest (environmentally, emotionally, nutritionally, physically).

Take my example yesterday evening. I was in the car with my daughter as we were heading to a concert at the beach, traffic was of course heavy because it was rush hour and as I headed into the town, there was more traffic and I knew it would be tough to get a parking spot. I got to the venue and as I passed by the parking area, where I knew and predetermined that I would find a parking spot, I doubted myself and ended up going on a long goose chase trying to find a spot. I started getting frustrated, I couldn’t do a U-turn where I was, my daughter could sense my agitation and started asking me all these questions and that just pushed me over the edge even more, all for just wanting to find a parking spot that would not be too far so I wouldn’t have to carry the heavy cooler a long distance. As I got to a stop sign figuring out where I could make an illegal U-turn, I stopped myself and said aloud, “You are starting to get frustrated”. I just stated the obvious out loud and when I did that, I felt like I could breathe again. I was able to reorganize again and made a new plan to go back to my original plan of going by the parking lot and lo and behold, there was a spot that was perfect for me and my small car. I tell you this story, because there are many instances in my life, and I am sure in yours, where we lack that self awareness and until we can stop, take a breathe and realize how we let our emotions carry us away, we realize that we do have some control over what we think, feel and ingest and that we have the ability to change it, if we want to.

So, I present 3 ways that you can cultivate more self awareness in your life:

  1. Be aware of the shift. As I mentioned in the story, as things became more dire and I had a harder time finding a parking spot, frustration, impatience and even agitation began to sit in my body. When I was able to physically stop and realize what was going on in my body and my head, I was able to notice that shift and realize that this was not what I wanted or how I wanted to carry my body into the rest of the evening or even for that moment while in the car with my daughter.

  2. Note any physiological changes. While driving and desperately searching for a parking spot, my body started to change; I wasn’t breathing normally, my body started to inch away from the backseat of my car and I was on edge literally and figuratively. I didn’t like the changes in my body, I was starting to get stressed out and it was changing my body. How often do we experience something as minute as this or even more cataclysmic where that stress can change how we breath, how we sit, how we hold ourselves in our body. That cortisol is no joke!

  3. Ask yourself, is this something that I can change. I think that sometimes, we sit in an emotion and allow it to stir in our bodies and fester and it can sit there for a few minutes or even a few days. How does that festering anger, guilt or sadness change us? I am not saying that it is easy to change nor am I saying that it is as easy as just saying to yourself, “I am happy now”. Ask anyone who has suffered any form of depression or loss that it is not so easy. However, even just asking yourself that question is huge. Even if the answer is no, at least your mind and body are acknowledging the no, the realization that this emotion or state of being is something that you cannot change at the moment or just yet, but that it can eventually change.

I believe that is the gift of self-awareness, the ability to take a step back and evaluate a situation and see what effect it is having on you, the big step then is knowing what to do next. If you haven’t cultivated or worked this muscle out very much, try this with something easy, like what you eat or how you eat. After indulging on a food, notice how it makes you feel, be aware of any negative shifts (i.e. heaviness, lightness, sickness, etc.), next, note the physiological changes (i.e. gas, bloating, sleepiness, burst of energy) and finally ask yourself if this is something that you can change. Maybe you can’t change it at the moment other than than taking an antacid or drinking some mint or ginger tea, but what about it can you change for the next time that you eat that food, maybe avoid it or eat less of it?

Do you practice self-awareness in your life? Is it something you need more practice with?