Why is self-awareness so important in individual growth and development? What is self-awareness? How can we effectively use it to increase self-knowledge, serenity, balance and personal growth?

Self-awareness is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as the "Conscious knowledge of one's character, feelings, motives and desires".

Self-awareness is the ability to self-reflection on the many levels of consciousness within which we exist. It allows us to reflect and navigate effectively, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms of consciousness by re-enforcing our innate physical biofeedback system that allows us to bring balance, serenity and focus in the midst of chaos and challenge. Self-awareness includes the ability to evaluate the strengths and challenges of our personalities, the ability to understand and recognize our emotions and the impact they have on our equilibrium and the impact that they have on others. It also includes the ability to use gut reactions and intuition to help guide decision-making, building a sense of clarity and self-worth.

We are all born with a level of self-awareness that increases through life experience and the stages of human development that are present at birth. Although there is controversy over the validity of emotional intelligence at this time, most health care and business professionals acknowledge its existence and validity. It still remains as an acceptable model that explains why some of us are more apt to be successful than others. Dr. Goleman in the late 1990s, along with Drs. Mayer and Salovey, discovered certain patterns that indicated an explanation for why some people were more successful than other individuals. In evaluating successful people, they found that these traits could not be solely evaluated by using a IQ index (Intelligence Quotient). Through their research, they discovered another factor that they called EI (Emotional Intelligence). They found that people who used their ability to be self-aware along with three other factors were more capable of leadership and conflict management than others who were unable to manage their emotions and create self-direction and social awareness in their lives.

In his book entitled "Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ", Dr. Goleman noted that the ability to be self-aware increased personal knowledge and ability to influence the world around us. He called this ability "emotional competency". He suggested that there were four emotional competencies: self-awareness, self-management, self-direction and social awareness. It was his theory that ten percent of the population was born with a highly developed ability to innately utilize emotional intelligence. However, he also theorized that through a commitment to self-discovery and growth that these four competencies would automatically increase.

Dr. Goleman's definition of emotional intelligence is "the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships".

Dr. Goleman believed that a conscious commitment to the development of these four emotional competencies accelerated our ability to apply these skills in our everyday life, gaining mastery at different levels of consciousness. For many of us, his definition of emotional intelligence can also be applied to the idea of living a spiritual life. He also believed that the more emotionally intelligent one was, the more successful the individual would be in life and personal relationships. This means that someone who is emotionally intelligent would be self-aware of the impact of their actions, attitudes, thoughts and behaviors within themselves and their personal relationships. Emotionally intelligent individuals would have increased knowledge of mediating internal conflict, managing emotions and developing ability to use intuition and gut reactions for decision-making and innovation. The self-awareness components is one of the key factors in subjective evaluation of one's ability to be creative, intuitive and decisive, while maintaining limits and boundaries with self and others. In other words, by his definition, our ability to perceive our emotions, our physical reactions and thought processes increase the amount of information available for us to empower our lives.

The ability to use emotions effectively is learned through the balancing of right and left brain hemispheres that bring together thought, analysis, executive decision-making, ability to tap into our subconscious, intuitive abilities and gut reaction.

As we commit to becoming more self-aware, the brain begins to integrate to a higher degree, mind, body and spirit. In other words, it allows us to use our brains to reflect and to know ourselves more profoundly. This act of self-reflection allows us to see ourselves as separate beings as well as being a part of the greater whole. Self-awareness allows us to know that we exist and that we are both unique individuals and at the same time possess similar traits as others. It allows us to know that we live and exist in several levels of consciousness. We become capable of seeing ourselves living multi-dimensionally in time and space on the earth plane. Self-awareness then becomes a bridge to our conscious and subconscious mind, our actions, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, body sensations and physical well-being.

On our journey to become self-aware, we may take many twists and turns - sometimes, we may falter or sometimes, we may soar. Through becoming self-aware and emotionally intelligent, we learn that life is a process without being stuck in the suffering that the notions of perfection and failure can create whether in within our lives. The commitment to self-awareness and release of limited thinking can lead to the skill of mindfulness. The state of mindfulness is what Buddhists believe is one of the pathways to enlightenment. Mindfulness can enhance our ability to use compassion and patience in our lives. These states when practiced daily, mindfulness, compassion and patience, will eventually lead to serenity and peacefulness through detachment and the release of expectations that lead to disappointment and hurt when our mental pictures
of people or events don’t fit the reality
of our experiences.

The other three components of emotional intelligence are: self-regulation, self-direction and the ability to feel empathy for ourselves and others offer us direction and structure for spiritual development. I believe self-awareness is the primary building block and cornerstone of acquiring a greater opportunity to balance our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual natures through self-knowledge.

The more self-aware that we become, the more we can step back and reflect on our reactions and choose to be more responsive to life. It allows us to recommit to change without being burdened by the idea of perfection. It also helps us to become more emotionally aware of our needs and desires creating a greater skill in understanding our own nature and limits, as well as, the ability to communicate this information to others. Through this process, we slow down our reactive behaviors, increasing our ability to define our needs and respond to the needs of others. Self-awareness spiritually can help us develop intuitively, increasing our ability to process not only rational cognitive information, but also inner wisdom, intuitive urgings and physical biofeedback or gut reactions that warn us of danger as well as alerting us that we may be exceeding our own personal and physical limits. By not being aware of this biofeedback system within us, we create the risk of exceeding our own physical limits. This can lead to exhaustion and a stressed immune system opening us to unconscious reactive behavior or physical illness.

Self-awareness helps us to create healthy boundaries for in our lives and our relationships with others increasing our ability to create intimacy. Aware of the consequences of our actions, behaviors and thought, we can reduce drama in our lives increasing the amount of time we have to create the future we want. Our thoughts and emotions, adverse and positive, can be viewed objectively through self-awareness increasing our accountability in keeping commitments we make in our lives.. It is then in this state that enlightenment begins the assimilation process leading to a better understanding of the dynamic interplay of mind, body and spirit in our lives. Our personal identities grow as we continue our journey into higher consciousness, as well as, our ability to be altruistic to our fellowman. Self-awareness can fill us with compassion and love through understanding and mindfulness. The understanding of our past and present can empower us to consciously create a different future moment by moment instead of being at the effect of fate. Self-awareness moves us in the direction of personal responsibility and accountability. The decision to be personally responsible opens us to the unlimited power within us through use of the powerful tools of intention, commitment and goal setting to create the reality and future that we believe
we deserve.

If you have any questions or comments, I would be happy to hear
from you. My website: www.drjoannebishop.com; email: crossingbridges@hawaii.rr.com or through my selfgrowth page. Thank you for taking your time to read this article.

Author's Bio: 

Join Jo Anne for a free five-part teleseminar series starting on February 4, 2010 on the Energy of 2012. If you have any questions for Jo Anne or would like to register or hear the audio presentations please contact her at info@livelifetrive.com or visit her websites: www.drjoannebishop.com or www.LiveLifeThrive.com.

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