4 MIN READ
In 399 BC Socrates declared that the unexamined life was not worth living. That is, it was better to face death than live a life devoid of philosophical meditation and introspection. While it may be true that the fabric of modern society contrasts starkly to that of the Ancient Greeks, there are important learnings to be taken from these antiquated principles of introspection for our hectic, always-on, technologically-advanced way of living.
Almost a thousand years after these philosophical musings, scientific research proves the remarkable benefits of self-awareness, proving its tantamount importance to human well-being and flourishing. This is why, as advocates of the scientific method, our first pillar of exploration is Self-Awareness.
Unfortunately there has been a lot of negative press about the ‘self’. In the west we live in what sociologists call an individualistic culture, whereby we place more emphasis on the individual over and above the collective. New technologies such as social media which have given rise to things like ‘Selfies’ all play to this kind of individualism and as such many younger generations have been called out for being narcissistic and self-obsessed. While there may be some truth in this, it does not all practices attaining to the self are negative. In fact, as the Greeks taught us and as much scientific evidence shows, self-awareness not only helps the individual flourish but also the collective.
We begin the first three weeks of the Paradym Process focusing on cultivating self-awareness as it is really the foundation of emotional astuteness. But actually throughout the whole programme we aim to foster and utilise self-awareness to support people’s mental health and wellbeing.
When we’re more self aware we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re more fulfilled workers. And we’re more effective leaders.
Self-awareness can loosely be defined as “awareness of self-experienced emotions, cognitions, and behaviors, which involves devoting attention toward, cogitating on, and understanding one’s own thoughts and feelings”. It is about asking yourself questions and attempting to answer them as truthfully as possible to develop the ability to see yourself in a more objective way.
Self-awareness enables both self-insight and self-reflection. Self-insight refers to the lucidity of one’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioral understanding while self-reflection pertains to thinking about the holistic relationship inspecting and evaluating one’s cognitions, emotions, and behaviors.
Research shows positive and negative associations for both self-insight and self-reflection, and while self-reflection may promote, or even be necessary for, self-insight, it seems self-insight has the most positive benefits.
Linked to several positive psychological characteristics, including mindfulness, eudaimonic and hedonic psychological well-being, life satisfaction, and self-esteem, self-insight appears to be the most important for sustaining or improving psychological functioning. So while we encourage you to practice and attend to both, it would be wise to have self-insight as your focal point.
In the absence of emotional insight, change is incredibly difficult. Self-awareness enables us to unpick our behaviours, understanding what it is that we want, need and desire. It is almost impossible to make positive changes without knowing these things.
Self-awareness; self-insight and self-reflection is the recipe for learning. When we begin to understand and explore our full selves – thoughts, emotions and behaviours, we start to unlock valuable insights about ourselves which can help us begin a path to positive behaviour change. This insight enables us to be more discerning and experience every opportunity as a learning opportunity.
While it does require some work – we must be curious, honest and open to change – those who are will reap the rewards. Not only are self-aware people stronger and more deliberate, but they are also more resilient, with a more robust ability to bounce back from setbacks and difficulties, grow quicker and reduce their stress levels.
For the past decade self-awareness has been popularised by the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI), however, research suggests emotional intelligence is less rigorous. Most of the measures of EI are self- reported in nature which means they are not as reliable as evidence-based measurements. What is more, EI may not be universally applicable, that is, these measures may not be applicable across many countries, cultures and communities.
It is for this reason we think about self-awareness at the foundation of understanding our Emotional Identity. Emotional Identity refers to our individual emotional patterns. Our emotional patterns are our emotional response tendencies which are based on our past experiences and implicit beliefs.
Identifying our emotional patterns not only facilitates emotional understanding – our Emotional Identity – but it also enables us to change our behaviour, stopping past negative patterns and beginning more positive patterns for the future. While research shows some emotional patterns are more common than others, our Emotional Identity is unique to us meaning this is a more personalised mechanism to understanding oneself.
As the foundation of the other four Paradym pillars and the broader Paradym journey, we urge you to take some time to begin self-insight and self-reflection in getting to know yourself a little better. In doing so, you could be unlocking the beginning of a whole body (and mind) of insight which will set you on a path to letting go of negative thoughts and behaviours and learning new, healthier emotional patterns enabling you to thrive.