YMCA’s Missy Corrigan: Self-awareness can lead to self-improvement


No matter what changes you set out to make in life, psychologists who focus on behavior change suggest it is much easier to reach certain goals by improving your own self-awareness. Self-awareness involves gaining a better understanding of yourself and being aware of your personal traits, behaviors and feelings as well as how they influence yourself and others.

We are not born self-aware, although research does show that it begins to develop during infancy and continues to develop much more throughout the teen years. As we go through adulthood, it is something that must continuously be nurtured and refined.

Research has shown that when we are self-aware, we can clarify our values, thoughts, feelings and behaviors. We are able to recognize our impact on others, consider opposing perspectives, control one’s current emotional state and have a better sense of self-control.

Self-awareness is the interaction between thoughts and feelings. There are two kinds of self-awareness, public and private. In public self-awareness, we are aware that we are being watched or evaluated and may feel pressured to behave a certain way or adopt certain social norms. Having a high public self-awareness trait may lead to someone becoming overly concerned about what others think and seeking approval from others.

Private self-awareness is being able to understand your internal feelings, why you are feeling them and why you may be responding or acting a certain way. People who are high in this particular trait may become hesitant to share certain things about themselves.

Becoming more self-aware can regulate emotions and decrease stress, encourage healthier relationships, improve communications more clearly and effectively, improve self-confidence, influence behaviors and outcomes and contribute to a greater sense of success.

In order to improve your own self-awareness, it is recommended by experts that you approach your feelings and reactions with curiosity and a need for understanding them. Otherwise, the emotions may be internalized, resulting in anger or depression, or externalized, blaming others or dismissing it altogether.

Developing self-awareness can improve all aspects of life from better relationships and decision making to achieving goals and making lasting, positive changes. There are several ways to practice self-awareness: keep a journal to record and process thoughts and feelings; practice listening and observing body language without judging or evaluating others; be mindful of your actions, emotions and choices; create time and space for internal reflections; and engage with a mentor or counselor for feedback and guidance.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at [email protected] or (803) 773-1404.