Self-Awareness Maitén Panella

When we talk about Emotional Intelligence, we also talk about the skills or competencies that can be learnt and improved to help us achieve better performance, reliable results with less strain and, in the end, more satisfaction and happiness.

Self-Awareness is one of the 4 main areas of Emotional Intelligence. Briefly, these are:

? Self-Awareness: recognising our emotions is the first step. If we acknowledge them, we can choose how to control them.

? Self Management: this is the aspect that allows us to master our emotions, to be in control of them and give them better use when necessary

? Social Awareness: recognising emotions in others can help us relate to them better. Happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger and surprise are the six universal emotions that we can identify in any human being.

? Relationship Management: this area is the one that allows us to have an impact on our company, neighbourhood or community, our daily work with others and any social sphere. It relates to the emotions and behaviours of others and how we can be of benefit to them.

Why is Self-Awareness so important?

The importance of recognising our own emotions and feelings when they are happening is crucial. This can make a difference and transform any situation.

Our feelings exist – they affect us and our performance. So, being able to detect and understand what they are and what they mean, opens a new road that leads straight to

 ? an accurate sense of self-confidence

 ? a path of authenticity

 ? real productivity

Being realistic and accepting that our feelings will affect our performance directly, is the magical key that will open the door of improvement and change (when it is needed), clarity and a sense of purpose as well as, a reaffirmation of your true self.

Knowing yourself, your limits and your potential, as well as the impact that your emotions have on everything you do, sets you up for the future.

How do we detect our feelings?

As a psychologist who studied psychoanalysis in depth, I enjoy the Freudian method of paying attention, impartially, to anything that occurs – like a witness, or someone not engaged in the scene.

Yes, it is difficult, but not impossible and like everything, the skill requires practice for it to be mastered.

Monitoring our feelings can help us understand specific reactions, they usually come in patterns. We tend to repeatedly react to certain triggers in the same manner.

So, the effective way to cut the cycle begins with paying attention to the emotion when it arises.

“I prefer the term self-awareness, in the sense of ongoing attention to one’s internal states. In this self-reflexive awareness, mind observes and investigates experience itself, including the emotions.” Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence.

We can learn how to be aware of moods and thoughts too. The neocortex (the area of the brain responsible for functions such as perception cognition and language among others) activates and labels the emotions, so they can be better understood and identified.

The neocortex is the evolutionarily newest portion of the cerebral cortex, and it is where most of the higher brain functions reside.

How do we interpret them?

One tendency we all have is to immediately “judge” the feeling, giving it a positive or negative value and thinking in terms of should or shouldn’t.

For example, if the feeling is considered a negative one (against our principles, not convenient, etc.), our thought might be “I shouldn’t feel this way”.

This is the kind of thought that we need to unlearn, instead of remaining impartial which leads to acceptance and acceptance to self-management.

Tips to improve your Self-Awareness and to increase your EQ

Here are some practical exercises to strengthen Self-awareness:

1) Practising mindfulness: giving yourself some time to explore your present state is the first step. You can ask yourself some questions, such as

 ❓ What am I feeling right now? For example: “I feel tired. I feel anxious. I feel full of hope.”

 ❓ Can I identify the source of that feeling? For example: “I didn’t sleep well last night. I have a deadline. I got promoted”.

 ❓ Does that feeling resonate in a specific part of my body? For example: “My back hurts a little bit. My shoulders are tense. I feel warmth in my chest.”

 ❓ Does it have a certain weight or texture, a colour perhaps, or any attribute at all? For example: “Heavy. Red. Light”.

2) Give your emotions a name: At the moment you’re feeling an intense emotion, try to give it a name that is as accurate as possible: fear, anger, happiness, etc. If you can, write it down and if not, repeat it in your head. Give yourself some time to explore the feeling and, if possible, “be with it”.

3) Keep a journal: This can be helpful, especially if you make notes about the situation that led to that particular emotion and your reaction to it. Research has demonstrated the efficacy of writing and its connection with health.

“Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it’s writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry, or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally,” Dr Matthew Lieberman, psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles

If we look at this now from a leadership perspective (and when I say leadership, I mean any person that has a team, within or outside of the corporate framework), self-assessment turns out to be crucial in clearly identifying both strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as developing Self-Confidence -the sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities.

Naturally, a proper test to measure the EQ would be the right thing to do. But there are other methods that can help too such as feedback which certainly gives a leader useful knowledge.

That feedback, when it comes not only from the managers but also from the teams and employees, results in understanding the others’ perspectives. Remaining open and receptive can make a difference and open numerous opportunities for change and growth.

This post originally appeared on Maiten Panella’s website at