A Coaching Power Tool Created by Corina Pall
(Transformational Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. Carl R. Rogers
Humans are more than just conscious they are self-aware. Consciousness is awareness of one’s body and one’s environment; self-awareness is recognition of that consciousness – not only understanding that one exists, but further understanding that one is aware of one’s existence. Another way of thinking about it is: to be conscious is to think; to be self-aware is to realize that you are a thinking being and to think about your thoughts. Infants are conscious – they respond to people and things around them – but they are not self-aware. During the first years of their life, they develop a sense of self, learn to recognize themselves in the mirror and to distinguish their own point of view from the other people’s perspectives. Only later on in life, around the age of 3 or 4 they become self-aware of their reactions.
When you are self-conscious, it feels like you are on stage and every movement and every step it’s been scrutinized by the audience. Imagine being out with your mates and enjoying a day out happily chatting and having fun. All of a sudden, one of the people from the group is asking you a question: How do you do that? You are pretty good at it!
For a split second, your brain is bombarded with an overdose of adrenaline and ceases functioning in a way that allows you to focus on the question. It’s as if a spotlight has been turned on you and the rest of the room lights dimmed. Your cheerful and easy-going nature of 10 seconds ago has vanished. In those moments, the only thing you can think about is: What if you are going to say something stupid? What will your mates believe about you? Whereas the reality is completely different. They are more interested in hearing you share your knowledge and experience with them and they are hardly paying attention to your internal dialogue. Of course, they can’t hear it!
Basically, what happened in those moments was, that your focus of attention that was on the group has shifted to yourself, in other words, you became self-conscious of your every step, words and actions.
A self-conscious person is someone who is consumed with thoughts of self, who in the presents of other people constantly wondering what the other person is thinking or commenting about her. At one level is completely appropriate to be aware of your attire when you go out. People who are privately self-conscious have a higher level of private self-awareness, which can be both a good and bad thing. These people tend to be more aware of their feelings and beliefs, and are therefore more likely to stick to their personal values. However, they are also more likely to suffer from negative health consequences such as increased stress and anxiety. They sometimes tend to ruminate on events and feelings and may experience more depression.
For a person who is self-conscious, the focus of attention gets “stuck” on herself, i.e. self-consciousness mode; in those moments you want to be able to pay attention to the topic and be completely involved in the conversation, instead you are detached from yourself by being too locked up “in your head”. Unlike most other people, who’s focus is outward, for the self-conscious person, their focus is inward. Everybody else lives their lives almost unconsciously and with ease, but for the person who struggles with inferiority, it isn’t that way. Everything in their lives revolves around them because that is where their focus is.
One of the outward manifestations of self-consciousness is blushing. The more you blush, the more self-conscious you become and you worry about blushing, in turn, increases your tendency to blush. Because it is a habit, a learned behaviour, it can be unlearned. By eliminating any underlying reasons for your blushing behaviour such as an old embarrassing incident and building self-confidence and inner belief you can leave your blushes behind you.
Self-consciousness is often associated with shyness and embarrassment, in which case a lack of pride and low-esteem can result. Self- consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people are constantly self – monitoring, while others are completely oblivious about themselves.
Self –awareness keeps us grounded, attuned and focused. Sherrie Campbell
The person who is self-aware possesses a fairly good understanding of how her mind works. She has learned the reasons why she thinks, feels and behaves the way she does. Another term for this is mindfulness. This does not mean the self-aware person has necessarily done away with all her own personal issues and baggage, but she is at the point where they are not running her life. Here is an example: Karen would become really flushed and flustered, whenever she was meeting someone unexpectedly on the streets, or when she had been put on a spot. For a long time, Karen did this with barely an inkling of the reasons why, but eventually she embarked on a journey of self-discovery, and the reasons become apparent. Karen grew up in a household where neither the parents or siblings showed much interest in her or her passions. She learned how to get along by focusing and concentrating much of her attention on herself. Karen wanted very much to feel loved and accepted by her family, but no matter how hard she tried, this proved to be an unachievable task. Eventually, Karen learned to believe that she wasn’t a good enough kid. As a result of this, Karen accumulated a great deal of emotional pain, in the form of shame which leads to a lack of confidence. Fortunately, however, with the help of her coach Karen was able to learn the reasons why. She discovered the reasons why certain things triggered strong emotional responses, and she learned different methods on how to focus her attention. In other words, she became increasingly self-aware.
Sometimes people can become overly self-aware and veer into what is known as self-consciousness. Have you ever felt like everyone was watching you, judging your actions, and wanting to see what you do next? The heightened state of self-awareness can leave you feeling awkward and nervous in some instances. In a lot of cases, these feelings of self-consciousness are only temporary and arise in situations when we are “ in the spotlight”. For some people, however, self –consciousness is more serious.
People who are privately self-conscious have a higher level of private self-awareness, which can be both a good and bad thing. These people tend to be more aware of their feelings and beliefs, and are therefore more likely to stick to their personal values. However, they are also more likely to suffer from negative health consequences such as increased stress and anxiety.
Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. Self-awareness is the first step in creating what you want, where you focus your attention, your emotions, reactions, personality and behaviour determine where you go in life.
How to become more Self-aware
Learning to be aware of yourself isn’t always easy, but mastering this skill is a great asset, one that will help you to enjoy your life more. So, how can you detach yourself from being less in your head and more present with yourself? First of all, you need to explore the underlying beliefs that caused you to be overly self-conscious. Once you figured the cause, there are a few relaxation skills that you could practice so that you can use them in a stressful situation:
- Control your breathing – when you are placing your attention on yourself you become really stressed out and forget to breath. Taking deep breaths can help switch the focus of your attention, by focusing less on yourself on more on your breathing.
- Relax your muscles – practicing meditation can calm you down and help you think more clearly in stressful situations.
- Relax mentally – hasn’t your mother told you that, if don’t have anything nice to say that don’t say anything at all! The same formula applies when you are talking to yourself. Be kind and loving towards yourself, this will help you to feel more in control of your mind and your feelings ( especially when negative thoughts start creeping in).
Being relaxed it’s not enough when you are in the spotlight. However, here are a few tips on how to become more self-aware:
- Find what triggers to be self-conscious. Once you identified exactly why you feel self-conscious, start challenging your thoughts. Self-consciousness often stems from feeling unworthy and insecure, and constantly worrying what other people think about you.
- Realize that as much as you believe that everyone is focusing their attention on you, they all more preoccupied with their own lives, hardly noticing or thinking about you.
- Learn how to be more confident. Visualize yourself in a situation where your felt confident and loved and not worried about what the “world” might say about you – just enjoying the moment!
- Use fun as a way to detach yourself from the outcome. Learn how to laugh at yourself in a humble and witty way and acknowledge that you are not perfect and that’s okay too!
Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is. Anne Frank
How would you support a client to become more self-aware? The journey from self-consciousness to self-awareness is entirely in the client’s hands. As a coach, you can support the client to embark on a self-discovery journey, by exploring why their focus is on themselves. Once the reasons are exposed, they can then work at resolving those reasons and turn their focus outward and live a more stress- free life.
By supporting the client becoming aware of what is showing up for them at the moment, the client begins to understand and respond to those circumstances in a more natural way. Encouraging clients to achieve a permanent state of self-acceptance, could be challenging, but really rewarding in the long term.
A coach can support clients develop self-awareness by summarizing, paraphrasing, reiterating and mirroring back what the client has said. Often, is crucial for the clients to have their story heard in a non-judgemental way as a first step to self-awareness. When the clients have reached the self-awareness state, that’s when they begin to catch themselves whenever they begin to drift to destructive ways of thinking and then consciously choose healthy ways. By doing this, they will no longer be in the control of automatic negative reactions, that has always been their way of living. The new self-aware person begins to take control of their own reactions and think and act in a more relaxed way that allows more freedom around them. Will this new state of self-awareness be easy to achieve? Of course not. Over time, these new reactions will become habits and will no longer need to be consciously done because they become automatic.
- What are the thoughts that are going through your mind when you are self-conscious?
- What are you most worried about when you are self-conscious?
- How can a coach support a client to increase his levels of self-awareness?
- What tools might you use to support clients in accepting who they are?
- What are the questions that allow the clients to explore a heightened state of self-awareness?
- What is awareness itself, and what does it actually mean to be self-aware?
If you want to explore self-awareness and self-consciousness some more and pro-actively design your life and learn some coaching skills along the way, then enrol in our Life Design short course.