Starting from Scratch: Emotional Self-Awareness

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Self awareness

Emotional Intelligence (EI) are the emotional capabilities, studied and described by Daniel Goleman as the capacity we all have to lead our relationships and ourselves. EI consists of four essential capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills.

Self-awareness is the art of going deep inside of yourself to get to know your own desires and motivations. It is composed of emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence.

What is Emotional Self-Awareness?

Emotional self-awareness, as Goleman explains it, is the ability to understand your own emotions and their effects on your performance. However, I want to take a step back on his definition, to emphasize that first, we need to identify our emotions.

From my experience, what I have seen is that for many people it is difficult to identify what they are feeling… Is it fear? Is it anguish? Is it anger? In addition, we are so used to reacting and executing, that we do not invest time to reflect upon our choices and responses in life.

It is hard to speak about feelings and emotions, because we want to avoid labels or show “weakness” at the workplace. However, people that deal with emotions in a positive way, exploring instead of ignoring them, are the ones able to build a successful career.

In this scenario, where people do not feel safe to bring their whole selves to work, all feelings and emotions end up translated as “stress” or “burnout”, the only words that seem allowed at work. Bear in mind that these are consequences of not handling well your emotions, in other words, it is the result of poor emotional self-awareness.

The problem is that if you are not able to identify or speak about your own emotions, how could you understand them and their effects in your life?

Once you are able to identify and understand your emotions, you will be able to detect their impact on your performance, distinguishing which are your strengths and which are the areas you need to improve or develop.

Why is Emotional Self-Awareness so Important?

The author John Donne once said “No man is an island…” which means no one is self-sufficient, we all rely on others from the day we are born until the end. In this sense, living in society, the way we behave and react influence not only our lives, but also the people around us and our environment.  

The purpose of developing emotional self-awareness is that it allows us to understand how we could regulate or control our emotions, preventing impulsivity, which could damage our image and relationships. Impulsive behavior is the process of acting without reflecting upon the consequences and being emotionally driven.

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In addition, our emotions bring different corporeal sensations which, depending of the intensity, could also affect our health. As an example, in situations when we feel too much pressure, we could have adrenaline and cortisol discharge. Both hormones, when in excess, increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure and increase sugars in the blood.

On the other hand, positive emotions can affect our lives in a good way, having an influence on the survival of the human species.

Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human emotions. Its main object of interest is the so-called positive emotions, such as happiness, joy, optimism, hope, among others, instead of focusing on human diseases.

Barbara Fredrickson, through her studies and research at the University of Michigan, found that positive emotions have a greater purpose than just well-being. They strengthen our intellectual, physical and social resources that are used when an opportunity or threat is presented to us.

In the same way, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed works on creativity, happiness and created the concept of "flow", where he describes the phenomenon of intrinsic motivation. The "flow" state causes the individual to be completely involved in the activity they are exercising, reaching a highly focused mental state.

The strengthening of positive emotions promotes and increase mental expansion, tolerance and creativity, which stimulates new ideas and experiences.

How Do You Develop Emotional Self-Awareness?

The process of developing emotional self-awareness is sometimes challenging and painful, but it is also extremely necessary. Nevertheless, you can develop it anytime in life, it just requires will power, perseverance and commitment.

Be attentive and take care of your emotions along your life. When you realize that you are becoming emotionally driven, start questioning yourself in the following way: 

  • What is the emotion that I am feeling now?
  • What happened that makes me feel this way?
  • Is this emotion helping me to solve my problem or is it making my problem even worse?
  • Take a moment and take a deep breath.
  • Try to calm yourself down.

Take into consideration that you do not have to be alone on this journey. Learn to ask for help, when needed. It is also important to understand that this is a process that we will all go through sooner or later in our lives.

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