“I struggled a lot with derealization and depersonalization in my teenage years,” says 21-year-old Lisa-Sophie Berthold, an architecture student from Munich, Germany. “Since then, whenever my head starts feeling cloudy, I make a conscious effort for more self-awareness and evaluate what I can do to feel more like I actually belong to the world instead of just walking on it.”
Self-awareness is defined as the ability to examine oneself with objectivity. Having a high level of self-awareness allows people to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and make better decisions in life based on self-knowledge.
Berthold says that going to the gym has been a beneficial practice for her. “Whenever I work out I feel way more connected with my body. I feel like my body works a lot better, my mind is a lot clearer, it feels way less foggy than when I don’t work out frequently.”
But there is not just one way to achieve self-awareness. Some ways to cultivate more self-awareness are by going to therapy, reading books, listening to podcasts, talking with friends, trying new activities and practicing mindfulness in daily life. Olga Ajirevitch, a registered social worker and counsellor at Hard Feelings in Toronto, suggests engaging in the act of self-reflection by writing in a journal.
Being more self-aware does not only offer personal benefits, but it can actually contribute to better interactions with the world and increase one’s ability to understand others.
“The more self-awareness you have, the more empathetic you are going to be towards other people because empathy is being able to relate. And empathy makes a better world,” says Ajirevitch.
Ajirevitch highlights the importance of using the information collected through self-awareness practices to take action towards personal goals. “Sometimes people will spend five years in therapy trying to understand their certain behaviours,” she says.
Although having a high amount of self-awareness can be beneficial, it is how people choose to change their behaviour in everyday life that makes the most difference. “A person who suffers with an addiction might have an incredible amount of self-awareness and know more about addiction than I do. But the self-awareness itself is not getting them anywhere closer to quitting,” Ajirevitch says. “They know what to do, they just don’t want to do it.”
Berthold says it is important to balance self-awareness and mental health in general. “Sometimes the scale tips and I actually drive myself a little mad by overanalyzing all of my actions, feelings and thoughts,” she says. “Not everything needs to be a deep dive into my personality.”
When it comes to dating and romantic relationships, Ajirevitch says that it is a myth that you need to fix yourself first before you can get into a good relationship. “We learn to love and respect ourselves through interactions with other people,” she says.
Research shows that self-awareness can increase one’s confidence and strengthen their interpersonal skills, which are important aspects of sustaining a healthy relationship. However, it is important to note that there is not a level of self-awareness that one must reach in order to begin a new relationship. Rather, one should look at self-awareness as a lifelong process and opportunity for growth.
“Sometimes you don’t have to wait until you have all your ducks in a row. You just grab them and run across the street,” says Ajirevitch. “If you wait for all your ducks to be in a row then you are never going to get anywhere.”
About the author
Amy is a former reporter for Youth Mind. She is passionate about oat milk lattes, any film featuring Adam Driver, and tending to her tiny indoor Basil garden.