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Self-Awareness: The First and Most Important Part of Self-Care

By: Leah Hovey

woman behind white sheet

Self-care is one of the most important, yet one of the most neglected areas of our day-to-day routine. We give and give ourselves to our jobs, families, relationships, hobbies, and societal status. However, the majority of us fail to give that same energy to ourselves. Self-care is the topic of this month and is a technique used to better ourselves so we can excel within the other categories of our lives. Sadly, when looking at self-care, there tends to be a key component we all miss. It is the first step to self-care and one of the most ignored steps. This is self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own motivations, thoughts, actions, and character. Self-awareness was first brought into public discourse and theorized in 1972 when the academic book A Theory of Objective Self Awareness was published by Shelly Duval and Robert A. Wicklund. This paper outlined the importance of self-awareness not only for everyday interactions but as well for those dealing with crippling mental health concerns (Duval & Wicklund, 1972). Regardless of mental illness, anyone who is facing challenges with self-care benefited from taking a step back and looking at one’s own behaviour. How do I impact those around me? Am I benefiting myself with my behaviour or hindering my success? Are my actions alienating those around me or bringing me closer to my peers? These are the questions one must look at when evaluating their own behaviour. Having a deeper understanding helps us think clearly and become consciously aware of who we are. The first step to any sort of change regarding self-care is to look into ourselves objectively and understand the desires and motivations we possess and the behviours we exhibit.

It is apparent that in today's society, social norms and a lack of personal responsibility can teach us to establish a ‘victim mentality.’ It is easier to put the blame on others or focus on how others cause us to react in a certain way. “My boss was the one who was snarky and that is why I acted the way I did towards her at the meeting” can be seen as a prime example of blaming and deflecting responsibility. Instead of having self-awareness, it can be much easier to blame the world, a higher power, or other individuals. It allows us to not have to really see ourselves and can lead to self-defeating actions. Self-awareness helps us avoid these detrimental behaviours and can help individuals understand themselves while starting the process of change and self-care.

For anyone looking to become better aware of themselves, there are five ways to practice self-awareness on a daily basis. Daniel Goleman, another psychologist who researched the benefits of self-awareness for emotional intelligence, outlines steps individuals can take to help with individual healing.

1. Create personal space in order to step back and see things more clearly.

2. Practice mindfulness and objective thinking about one’s own behaviours.

3. Keep a journal to document thoughts.

4. Listen to your inner voice to be honest about yourself.

5. Examine different perspectives on your environment.

It can be hard to really see ourselves. We act unconsciously or out of emotion more often than not. Learning to take a step back and examine ourselves can not only start the process of self care but give us confidence in who we are individually.


Duval, S., & Wicklund, R. A. (1972). A Theory of Objective Self Awareness. Academic Press. Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional intelligence. Bantam.

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