Self Awareness for Good Health
Subhangini Tiwari (she/her)

Subhangini Tiwari (she/her)

Apr 28Mental health

Self Awareness for Good Health

This blog has been compiled by Komal Adhlaka, a content writer for Proactive For Her. 

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is an ability to understand, have the knowledge and reflect upon one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. A key to aligning with one’s inner and outer worlds. It specifies upon the capacity of becoming the object of one’s attention (Duval & Wicklund, 1972). In this state of self awareness, one actively processes, identifies, and stores information about the various aspects of oneself. Here an important distinction exists between self-consciousness and self-awareness. In the former, we process and perceive the information of the environment; for example: eating food, watching a movie. Whereas in the latter, we reflect upon one’s lived-experiences of perceived information; for example: “I am eating food and it tastes good” and “I am watching a movie and it is emotionally provoking”.

The key components of self-awareness are intrapersonal as well as interpersonal in nature. The intrapersonal aspect centers on an awareness of one’s own internal resources and frame of mind, by focusing upon one’s own way of thinking and understanding the ways in which one interprets the self and world. Whereas the interpersonal aspect focuses on an awareness of one’s impact on others, by recognising the feelings of others. Further, there are several elements which play a vital role in interpersonal awareness:

  1. Beliefs and values, which are a person’s most central ideas and judgements about themselves, others, and the world. These beliefs act like a lens through which every situation and life experience is seen and interpreted. This is the reason why people with different beliefs and values might be in the same situation, but think, feel, and behave very differently. They also become the drivers of our emotions and behaviors. Therefore, it becomes important for us to reflect upon those beliefs and values which operate our everyday functioning.
  2. Thoughts and emotions, which are an amalgamation of a person’s mental representations. In this aspect, self-awareness aims at being mindful and attentive to one’s content of thought as well as identifying, labelling and understanding the functions of emotions experienced.
  3. Physical body sensations, which are referred to as physiological or motor changes in the body, such as increased heart rate, changes in breathing pattern, fluctuations in body temperature, trembling in hands and legs, fidgeting or motor restlessness.
  4. Personality traits, which are persistent over time and pervasive across situations. Those distinct attitudes and behaviour patterns that help people describe who they are.

 Furthermore, the elements that play a significant role in interpersonal self-awareness are:

  1. Behaviors, which are actions displayed externally which are viewed by other people. They have an impact on interpersonal relations.
  2. Others’ perceptions of oneself, which are received through feedback and remarks of people.

Why is self-awareness important?

  1. High self-awareness is claimed to lead to better decision making, is linked to team performance (Dierdorff & Rubin, 2015) and authentic leadership (Eriksen, 2009).
  2. The purpose of self-awareness in the context of development is to enhance effectiveness at work and relationship.
  3. Self-awareness also enables individuals to best serve others and take care of themselves (Pompeo & Levitt, 2014), along with an appreciation of what one is like.
  4. It increases the ability to reflect on self which represents a genuine curiosity about oneself, where the person is intrigued and interested in learning more about his/her/their emotions, values, thought processes, attitudes and more. This type of introspection mostly leads to healthy consequences associated with good mental health, such as self-knowledge and self-regulation.
  5. One major adaptive function of self-awareness is self-regulation, which includes altering one’s behavior, resisting temptation, making efforts to change one’s mood, selecting a healthier response from various options, and filtering irrelevant information (Baumeister & Vohs, 2003).
  6. A lack of self-awareness leads to non-understanding of one's emotions and feelings, and as an escape from those overwhelming emotions one may engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, excessive eating and more.
  7. Self-awareness increases emotional intelligence which is the highest ability to understand, reflect, mindfully display, and manage one’s own emotions in healthy ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and manage conflicts. It also helps us to build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve our career and personal goals.

How is self-awareness related to good health?

Self-awareness contributes to a healthier functioning of our physical and mental health as it increases our mindfulness for both:

  1. It helps us to identify and attend to our physical and psychological needs in time, which further motivates us to create action plans accordingly to fulfil those essential needs. Unmet physical needs lead to medical issues or deficiencies, and unattended psychological needs lead to emotional reactivity or erratic mood.
  2. It also contributes to self-management of health. Learning self-awareness allows us to play the biggest role in managing health conditions such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, chronic joint and muscle pain, poor sleeping habits, digestive issues, and other chronic illnesses.
  3. It teaches us to take charge of our health by taking mindful and active care such as seeking mental health therapy, going for regular check-ups, joining fitness.
  4. Self-awareness holds the ability to bring long-term lifestyle changes. It increases the ability to think about one’s lifestyle objectively. Having self-awareness allows us to be attuned to our mind and body, be perceptive to our habitual patterns, value your strengths, and respect our weaknesses.
  5. Those with self-awareness are best able to find the confidence, determination and perseverance to overcome obstacles to a healthy way of living.

How do we achieve self-awareness?

This theme revolves around “how to be self-aware” and consists of three factors which help in this process: mindful attention, self-evaluation, and journey of psychotherapy.

  1. Mindful Attention: Take some time out to sit with yourself and ask, “How I am feeling at this moment”, “What am I experiencing in my respective situations of life”. Making self-awareness a point of attention is part of that effort. Indeed, S. Duval and Wicklund (1972) would argue that the first stage of gaining self-awareness is to initiate self-focus, and this is supported by Laske (2006) who points out that we cannot develop self-awareness without initiating some personal self-questioning. This leads us to propose that to be ‘self-aware’, one must first focus on it with attention, and then the development of it occurs through an ongoing process.
  2. Self-Evaluation: Internal self-evaluation and external self-evaluation. The former is achieved by sitting with oneself, journaling one’s thoughts-emotions-behaviors, reflecting upon as well as assessing those to understand their underlying functioning. Further, curating effective plans to enhance the way of thinking, feeling and behaving. The latter is achieved through seeking constructive feedback from trusted people. Pompeo and Levitt (2014) agree and propose that self-reflection is at the heart of development. Sutton et al. (2015) also support the role of self-reflection in developing self-awareness and highlight being able to name thoughts, feelings, and understanding motives and actions, which is aligned to the theme of the components of self-awareness.
  3. A Process to Discover in Psychotherapy : Fenigstein et al. (1975), Rasheed (2015), Ashley and Reiter-Palmon (2012), and Rasheed et al. (2019) refer to self-awareness as a process. Therefore, by using the space of mental health therapy, one can make sense of the lived experiences, understand the manifestations of behaviors, one’s way of holding onto some beliefs that help us operate in this world, identify emotions and their respective functions as well as everyday triggers, and most importantly, enhance the journey of self-exploration and betterment.


Awareness of various aspects of self is the first step to change and growth. After all, we cannot change what we do not know about. All of us hold the dynamic capability to refine ourselves with time and situations, as life in itself is ever-evolving in nature. McCarthy and Garavan (1999) suggested that a starting point to developing self-awareness is realising one’s potential for continuous growth and individual development. The chance to continue on a path of learning opens up when the mind is clear, conscious and mindfully focused.

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realising you are not the voice of your mind– you are the one who hears it”. Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul.