“…Practice the pause…”

This week, our #WellnessWednesday slot comes from our Counselling Psychologist, Mrs Teresa Yell. In her piece this week she delves into what it means to be self-aware and how we can become more self-aware of our actions and their consequences.

My children used to fight when they were younger and they often expected me to manage the conflict by choosing sides.

I, rather unsuccessfully, played referee in many an altercation between them having not borne witness to the cause of their conflict. Almost every time it ended as a “he said she said” situation. I decided this was a perfect teaching moment.  The conversation I had with each child after each fight went along the lines of:

“…You can’t change the other person; you can only change yourself. If you change how you react and what you do, then the other person will have to do things differently too…”

This was the first of many lessons about self-awareness. Self-awareness is a very important part of developing resilience. Self-awareness “allows us to be more in control of our emotions and behaviours…and more in control of how we react to things” (Glover, 2011).

If we want healthy relationships (sibling, friend, work related, romantic etc), we need to have a better understanding of ourselves.  Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee) was far more eloquent when he said:” before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself”. Quite simply, understanding yourself better, leads to the better understanding of others.

According to research self-awareness encourages us to examine and change faulty core beliefs. It also helps to assuage the voices in our heads. We are also likely to be less reactive because our responses are less emotional. The voice of reason is more likely to prevail and it “puts communication and respect at the top of your relationship priority list” (Glover, 2011). In this way the things we say and do are less hurtful and destructive.

So how do we become more socially aware?

Well, the first step to being self-aware is self-reflection. Self-reflection means we become introspective so as to learn more about ourselves – what makes us tick? We learn from our successes as well as our mistakes. Its about being honest with yourself and according to research, it means you have to ask yourself some really tough questions (Daum, accessed 2020). Questions like:

  1. What fundamental values do I hold dear and am I living up to them? If not, in what way and how far have I strayed from them?
  2. Am I worthy of respect from others? What message does my behaviour convey about me and my values to others?
  3. Am I leading by example? In other words, am I doing unto others as I would have them do unto me? Here it is also important to avoid leading others astray. Daum suggests we “under promise and over deliver”.
  4. Am I engaging in something meaningful?
  5. Would my contribution, no matter how small, have a positive impact on my world and the world around me?
  6. What is my locus of control? It is never a good idea to allow matters beyond our control to overwhelm us (Akeridge, 2019).
  7. What matters most to me?
  8. Am I becoming the person I hoped I would be? Steven Covey (1989), suggested you begin with the end in mind which is another way of asking: “how would I like to be known and remembered?”

Self-awareness allows us to recognise our role in any specific experience giving us a clearer “understanding of what happened, consequences intended and unintended and why they occurred” (Passfield). We gain valuable insight into what we can do differently next time to bring about a better outcome.

By contextualising our own behaviour, we are reminded to contextualise the behaviour of others. In this way we can hopefully be kinder and more nurturing towards each other.  My children fight less and while this may be because they have grown up, hopefully it is also because they have learned through reflection and become more self-aware.


  • Covey S. 1989. The 7 habits of highly effective people. Free Press: USA
  • Daum, K. The power of self-reflection. https://inc.com (accessed October 2020)
  • Glover, T. 2011. The art of self-awareness and self-reflection. https://theravive.com (accessed October 2020)
  • https://wwww.sparkpotes.com To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  • Passfield, R. Mindfulness,  Action in learning and reflection – Grow Mindfulness. https://growmindfulness.com (accessed October 2020).
  • Pope, L. 2016. The Power of reflection. https://nexusmotivations.com (accessed October 2020)