Mental wellness is defined by the World Health Organization as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community.” When we feel mentally well, we can take care of ourselves better and better contribute to the world around us. The path to mental wellness is one of many steps. It takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Results don’t always come quickly, and there will possibly be pitfalls along the way that will try to take you off that path. This is why it is so important to understand and achieve self-awareness.
Self-awareness is understanding who you are and how you affect your environment and those around you. Why is this important for mental wellness? Once you understand your place in the world and the ripples you cause, you’ll be able to fully understand how your environment and people in your life affect you back. The following are key traits to achieving self-awareness:
People who are self-aware hold themselves accountable for their actions and the situation they are in. They know that they alone are responsible for themselves and their situation and change it if necessary. A sign of low self-awareness is the constant blame of others for their circumstances. Rather than owning up to their mistakes and fixing their problems, they deflect and pass them on to others. Even if their circumstances directly result from someone else, a self-aware person knows that doing nothing and blaming it all on the other person will not solve their problems.
It is easy to be friendly and polite. It takes self-awareness to be kind and thoughtful. What’s the difference? Think about it this way; you do certain things to those around you without thinking, such as greeting others, holding a door, saying “bless you” when someone sneezes. You know, all the little polite niceties we have had drilled into our brains since childhood. We basically work off reflex. Being thoughtful takes a little more empathy and the ability to consider how their actions affect others. A self-aware person will make more meaningful decisions and leave others with a more lasting impression than simply being polite.
Understanding of Emotions
Emotions are incredibly complex and not easy for everyone to read. A person who does not have much self-awareness will blame their feelings for their actions, often saying things like, “I am acting this way because I am angry.” It is extremely easy to get caught up in emotions, especially extreme emotions like anger. A self-aware person can dig down deep and understand their own feelings and deal with them rather than act upon them. Taking a step to analyze your emotions is a big step to self-awareness. You are allowed to feel angry, happy, or sad, but it is essential to recognize that you control your actions, and your emotions do not have to play a role in that. When you start to recognize a change in your behavior as your feelings change, take a step back and assess where these emotions are coming from and how you can address them without letting them affect your actions (which could affect those around you).
Recognizing Limits and Barriers
There is a big difference between limits and barriers. When you reach a limit, you cannot go any further, but when you get to a barrier, it implies that there may be a way around it (or even through it). Someone who is self-aware is aware of their limits and understands that barriers can be crossed given the right amount of skill and effort. An excellent tool for understanding your own strength and weakness is our COBI (Cognitive Orientation Behavior Inventory) Report. This tool is a valuable resource for getting to know yourself and understanding how you behave and why. The COBI is a great way to find those barriers and use your strengths to work through them.
Putting Yourself First
This does not mean that you should be a selfish person. People who have self-awareness know when it is appropriate to put themselves first. It is vital to have boundaries with those around you and learn how to practice them. You cannot be responsible for everyone, but you cannot be an island, either. Having a good balance between your personal needs and the needs of others is key to being self-aware.
Being self-aware is your first step forward in your journey to mental wellness. The better you know yourself, the better you know how to take care of yourself. Your mental well-being is just as essential as your physical. Check out these resources to learn more about mental wellness and self-awareness.