When it comes to personal development and growth, I consider self-awareness the gateway drug. It really is so necessary for all the other work we do in this area. In this week’s episode of the podcast I’m telling you about an experience I had when I lost touch with my sense of self-awareness and how that impacted my mental health.
I’m also sharing some of the self-awareness tools I now use and why it’s important to keep checking in with your core values and beliefs – we’re learning and evolving all the time. I would love to hear if you have any self-awareness tools you swear by, let me know in the comments here of give me a DM on Instagram.
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or listen here.
LINKS AND FURTHER READING:
- Headspace meditation app
- Why you should start tracking your menstrual cycle article
- Claire Baker – women’s coach
- Coaching services
In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking all things self awareness because I honestly believe it’s kind of the gateway drug when it comes to personal development and growth. So I’m going to talk you through an experience I had when I really lost touch with my self awareness and share some tips to help build self awareness. And I quickly want to mention that there are some builders in the building that I’m recording this in, and they’re not being very considerate about the fact that I’m trying to record a podcast, so you might hear the odd door slam and hopefully the drilling has stopped but it might start up again. So hopefully it won’t be too distracting.
Otherwise, let’s get on with the show, shall we?
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of Seedling! Really looking forward to talking about self awareness today. I want to talk about getting to know who you are, recognising your strengths and weaknesses, and everything in between because self awareness is really about understanding your behaviours a little bit better so that you can notice red flags when they come up and generally just be in more touch with how you’re feeling physically and emotionally.
And I know I did mention this briefly in the last episode, I was talking about the mindfulness aspects and how that’s important for self worth, but I really think it deserves its own episode to go into just a bit more detail and to give you some more tips and techniques about how you can build up that self awareness.
Because the thing is, I think it’s really easy for us to lose touch with ourselves. There are so many different things available to us to numb out our emotions. So from things like alcohol and drugs, to perhaps the more everyday tools of distraction like Netflix and social media. I know for me, I love social media and especially Instagram, but on those days where I’m feeling a bit anxious or a little bit worried about something, those are the days that you’ll find me reaching for my phone and scrolling through Stories for hours and hours on end.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one.And in fact, a couple of years ago, I lost touch with myself to such an extreme that I began having really bad physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. I didn’t really realise what was going on because I had lost that sense of self awareness, I just suddenly felt these weird physical symptoms. I was getting chest pain, I was getting palpitations, dizziness, tightness of my throat, and I didn’t know what was going on.
So I ended up going to my doctor and getting referred to have cognitive behavioural therapy, and, through that, I realised just how out of touch I was with my thoughts. One of the things the therapist asked me to do was to keep a thought diary, so to write down and pick out some of my thoughts and feelings, and I found it so, so hard. And that’s when I realised that I really had lost that connection with myself.
Thankfully, through the CBT and more practices, I managed to get back in touch and manage myself and my anxiety a lot better.
The reason that I think self awareness is so important is because when we do have it, we know what we need. We can take better care of ourselves, our relationships even can get improved because we’re being more open and communicative about what we need, and it just helps us understand our energy levels so we can figure out when we work best during the day, when we’re going to need a coffee to see us through, things like that.So now, I really want to start to talk about some of the tools we can use to build our self awareness. There are so many different tools out there. I’m just going to share some of my personal favourites here and I do want to mention that, of course, we are all completely different and unique, so bear that in mind as you listen to my suggestions., What might work for me, might not necessarily work for you. But my hope is that these suggestions will give you some food for thought, and maybe encourage you to think of your own self awareness activities that work for you!
So the first activity I want to discuss is journaling. And I’ve been keeping a diary of some form since I was about 12. So, god, I can’t even do that maths, that’s how long ago it was! But writing down thoughts and feelings onto paper is my way of processing. It’s just how I get things out and it’s now become a daily habit.
So what I use it for is to check in with myself in the morning and in the evening as well. But you don’t have to do this – you don’t have to do it every day! You can maybe do it weekly, or even monthly- whenever feels good to you. But the aim of journaling is to really connect with yourself, check in with yourself, how you’re feeling. Maybe you could even start a mood diary, so when you notice particular changes in mood. For example, if one day you’re feeling particularly angry or stressed or upset, maybe write down what’s happened that day, what have your interactions been with other people, where are you, what’s going on in your life, how much sleep did you have, how much water have you drank today. It may sound simplistic, but sometimes those things really have an effect on our mood.
I know, for me, tracking that when I was going through my CBT and anxiety issues really helped me kind of connect the dots and realise what it was that was triggering my anxiety. And for me, another thing that I’ve been adding to my journaling practice is tracking my cycle as well. And I cannot tell you how insightful that’s been! Especially as someone who does struggle with anxiety, I could notice that my anxiety was peaking at certain times during my cycle according to hormones.
And I will link through to an article I wrote about this and about menstrual cycle and our mental health because they’re a lot more connected than I think people realise. So yeah, I wrote a piece for Happiful magazine and spoke to Claire Baker, who is an absolutely incredible women’s coach, and she has such amazing knowledge on all of this stuff. So yeah, I will link to that in the shownotes!
So other than journaling, another thing that I use, and again I know that I’ve mentioned it before but for me it really has been a game changer, and that’s meditation. It just really helps me to quiet the noise that’s going on in my head and give me a chance to be quiet and check in with myself. I personally use the Headspace app and everytime you start a meditation with the Headspace app, the narrator really encourages you to do a full body scan, check how your body is feeling and just check how you’re feeling as well, emotionally, so, ‘how am I doing today? What’s going on?’
So if I stop right now and think, ‘how am I doing right now?’ so I’m feeling a little bit stressed as I talk on this podcast because I know there are builders around at the moment and I know there’s been door slams and drilling going on, and I’m really aware of how that’s affecting my audio. But I know that this is my Blue Jay day and overall I feel really relaxed and excited about the weekend ahead.
But just taking those two minutes to check in with yourself is something I don’t think we do enough. And meditation can give you the time and space to actually do that. So, as I said, I use Headspace and I do pay for this, but there are lots of free apps available. There are lots of videos on YouTube that you can watch if you want to just delve into it and dip your toe in the meditation world and see how you find it.
And if meditation isn’t for you, and if journaling maybe isn’t right, another place to get some self awareness is just having quiet time. So, this could be going out for a walk, having some time to doodle, maybe if you are creative you could have some time just to draw, just creating some white space in your day at some point can really help you to check in with yourself.
Another thing I would recommend is having some sort of mindful movement practice. For me, it’s yoga. I will try to do it at least once a week and this, as well as obviously being quite a mental practice because it does encourage you to focus on your breath and be really mindful and present, of course it’s a very physical practice as well. And that’s where I can connect with my body and how my body is feeling as well. Am I feeling tension in my shoulders? Have I got a headache? Is there any areas of my body that is feeling painful or unhappy at the moment? If so, why? What movements in my yoga practice can help me stretch them out and feel better?
Yoga all round has been absolutely instrumental in building my self awareness of myself and my body as well, which I think is important to remember because our minds and our bodies are way more linked than we realise. And when we take time to release the tension and stress from our bodies, often our mind can follow.
But, of course, this doesn’t just have to be yoga, if that’s not your thing. There are practices like pilates, Tai Chi, anything that’s kind of mindful, so even running. If you love running, and you find that gives you the space to just be and just be present with the moment, then do that! But whatever it is you do, try to find something that involves a bit of movement and gets you to check in with yourself physically.
And the final thing I want to recommend is really checking in with your core beliefs and values. And I’m not talking about the values and beliefs of your business right now, if you have one! I’m talking about you as a human being. What do you believe about the world? What are your values? What’s important to you? Because, the thing is, we are constantly evolving. We are constantly learning, we’re constantly growing. We’re experiencing new things every day and this all feeds into what we perceive the world to be and what our values are.
So recognising this and knowing that we need to keep working on it, and keep checking in on that is really important. For example, for me, when I first started learning about the body positivity community, I misunderstood it, in all honesty. I started writing about it on my blog. I have #bodypositivity in my social media profiles because I thought, ‘I can talk about this, I’m comfortable with my body, I’m positive about my body.’ But now, of course, I’ve done more and more reading up, I’ve done more learning, and I understand I’m slim, I’m white, I’m cisgendered, I’m able-bodied. I’m not oppressed apart from the fact that I’m a woman, I’m not oppressed in any other way. So therefore, me talking about body positivity and using the hashtag and being somebody people would find when they were searching for it online, it was just not right, it was not appropriate. So I’ve learned that, and I took those things away from my social media profiles. I wrote a new blog post about what I’ve learned about body positivity.
And that’s another thing as well: we have to remember that, on this journey of self awareness and growth, it’s okay if we do mess up. We have to make mistakes sometimes to learn. We have to be called out sometimes to learn. So checking in now and then with what your beliefs are, what your values are, is just really important.
So there we go! I hope those tips were useful and I would love to hear any of your tips about self awareness as well, especially if you have anything slightly unusual or something that other people might not have heard of before. That would be really cool to be able to share. And I hope that, if nothing else, that this podcast helped you understand the importance of self awareness. I know it can seem like it’s something a bit frivolous or something a bit self indulgent, but I promise you, it has such a profound impact on your mental health and wellbeing. I know it has for me.
Those couple of years ago when I wasn’t in touch with myself really led me to struggle a lot with anxiety. And these days, now that I am a bit more in touch with myself, I can recognise when stress is building up and when I’m heading towards an anxiety flare up. It doesn’t necessarily meanIi can stop it every time, but it means I’m aware of it, I can take the actions I need to take care of myself better and just reduce its impact so it doesn’t take over my life as much as it did in the past.
And also, it’s important to recognise that self awareness affects other people as well. I know for me, when it comes to that time in my cycle when I’m a little bit of a bitch, the fact that I’m able to communicate that with Dan and tell him, ‘you know what, I’m on day 23 of my cycle so I might not be the best human to be around for a while,’ it just makes things a little bit easier! So it definitely does have a ripple effect and has an impact on those around you as well. I hope that was useful and I will be back next week with another episode! But until then, I really hope you have a lovely week, and I can’t wait to talk to you again soon!