Self awareness is a crucial part of a healthy relationship. If you are not aware of your own strengths and shortcomings, you will find it difficult to share these parts of yourself with another person. Self awareness can be extremely beneficial to our mental health and overall wellbeing, but it takes practice to get into the habit of consistent reflection and evaluation.
What is Self Awareness?
People with self awareness are mostly able to see themselves clearly and objectively. They can recognise their own strengths, faults and personality quirks through a process called introspection, or looking at the self.
No one has perfect consciousness of self. We are always going to have blind spots when it comes to ourselves, but having a high level of self awareness can be beneficial to your mental health and your relationships.
Self Awareness Theory
The area of psychology that considers self awareness is called self awareness theory. It’s based on the idea that you are not your thoughts; rather, you are a separate entity observing your thoughts. This theory fits well with Gestalt psychotherapy, as Gestalt psychotherapy encourages curious questions and this helps you to become aware of how you make meaning of things and how you see yourself in the world and in your relationships.
In 1972, Duval and Wicklund termed the phrase ‘self evaluation’ to refer to focusing on the inner self, or thinking about our own thoughts and feelings rather than just experiencing them.
Self evaluation means considering our thoughts, feelings and actions against our overarching values or a standard of behaviour which we think is good. We use these standards to judge the correctness of our behaviour and to practice self control.
In practice, this means recognising that the comment you just made to your friend about their weight gain doesn’t meet your expectations of what a kind and compassionate friend should be. When we are aware of this failure on our part to meet our own personal standards, we are more likely to try to make amends.
Benefits of Self Awareness
Self awareness can be very beneficial, leading to not only stronger inter-personal relationships but also a better relationship with yourself. Practicing self awareness encourages us to be more proactive in becoming the best version of ourselves. It boosts our decision making skills, communication skills, and self confidence. Self awareness also improves compassion, allowing us to more clearly see things from the perspective of other people.
Why is Self Awareness Important in a Relationship?
Developing better self awareness is an important step in cultivating healthier relationships. People will strong self awareness experience happier and longer relationships than others.
Firstly, and most importantly self awareness improves your happiness within yourself, which is the key to a strong partnership. Focusing on your own thoughts and behaviour, rather than those of your partner, creates more personal growth and allows you to feel responsible for your own wellbeing.
Secondly, self awareness allows you to recognise patterns and cycles. Many people will continuously make the same mistakes in their relationships, never recognising that this negative behaviour is contributing to problems. Self awareness allows you to reflect on your own actions and decide how to approach a situation differently to achieve a better outcome.
And finally, when you are more self aware you are also more aware of the thoughts and feelings of others, and how your actions may impact these. This higher level of compassion allows you to communicate more clearly with your partner, establish clearer boundaries, and be more open and loving.
How to be More Self Aware in a Relationship
If you want to improve your self awareness and benefit from the advantages this can have for your personal relationships, try these tips to be more self aware.
- Don’t overestimate yourself. We can criticise others for lacking self awareness and don’t recognise this in ourselves. By reflecting on your feelings and responses in different situations you can become more aware of how you have contributed to event/issue. Make a conscious effort to assess your own levels of self awareness – they may be lower than you think.
- Encourage communication. No one likes their partner to be ritical of them and, it’s important that they feel comfortable telling you when your behaviour has impacted them.Encourage open and honest communication that is also respectful and compassionate.
- Attend counselling. If you blame everyone else and have difficulty seeing our part in things working with an experienced psychotherapist can help. Examining past experiences, thoughts and feelings fosters self awareness and can help you integrate reflection into your daily life and relationships.
- Discuss self awareness. Talking about what it is you want to improve can helps it to become reality. Share this with your partner and let them know you want to try to become more self aware and seek their support and feedback.
What to do if Your Partner is not Self Aware
If your partner is not a self aware person, it can be challenging to be in a relationship with them. A person who lacks self awareness can find it difficult to see how they spoke or responded may have contributed to your feelings or to the direction a situation takes. They may find it more difficult to empathise with your thoughts and feelings, and can often be less able to openly share emotions.
However, you can support your partner to develop better self awareness. Asking probing questions can prompt self evaluation; for example, “What was happening for you that y did you responded in that way?” or “What do you know about your thinking on this issue? Asking questions with curiosity not judgement will enable your partner to start to reflect and become more self aware. We are not always able to do this as we can have strong emotional responses, so it is best to always have these types of conversations after the event and when both of you are calm enough and available for this to happen.