When I first began my mental health healing journey, I had an extremely rough time. The many therapists I went to would always repeat the same thing. “You are so self-aware, not many people are!” as if that was a good thing. However, to me, it felt like being trapped in a prison. I know when I am not thinking rationally, but it doesn’t stop those thoughts. I was often dismissed and turned away when I sought out help. To this day, I don’t really take being called “self-aware” as a compliment. I really do see it as a curse. But, it’s a curse I am learning to monitor and live with.
There is a blurry line between self-awareness and anxiety. One can be too self-aware to the point they cannot live their daily life without worrying how they are perceived at every moment (I’m talking past, present, AND future). This type of thinking does not serve anyone as it clearly manifests as anxiety. Not being able to do anything without worrying about what others believe. But on the other hand, being healthily self-aware helps us as people function better in social settings, helps us understand ourselves more, and also can help us practice empathy towards others. It is all about balance and mastering how to healthily practice self-awareness.
From self-awareness to anxiety
So how can someone spot the moment they veer off into the deep end of anxiety. I have a personal trick that helps me point out the difference and puts me back on the right track. I think that being overly self-aware is mostly mental, centered around external forces and not based on the present.
For example, imagine you are at a party. At the party you begin to worry about what you are wearing, if you’re dancing weird, what all of the people (external forces) are thinking about you. That’s when the spiral begins.
Healthy self-awareness is mental as well but is centered around internal forces and are based on the present.
For example, imagine you are back at that party. As your mind spirals you remind yourself that everyone is at this party having a good time minding their business. No one is judging you and you are making yourself anxious with your own thoughts.
Do you see the difference? Self-awareness is introspective, coming back to our center. This is not guaranteed to make the anxiety vanish into thin air, but it can help to get back into a mindset to be more aware and grounded. Self-awareness gives a sense of control, anxiety gives a sense of no control.
Ways to healthily practice self-awareness
Now, here are some tips and tricks that I use to healthily practice self-awareness:
- Grounding exercises! Go earthing, do some yoga, anything that reminds you that you are in your body.
- Practice mindfulness, this is a very popular way of staying present. Check out my blog post Living with Anxiety through Mindfulness, Kindness, and Patience for some mindfulness tips!
- Challenge your thoughts
- Meditation reminds me to breathe and be in the moment and I am always clearheaded afterwards.
- Reconnect to your inner child! Remember when you were a kid and was fearless and did what you wanted just because? Tap back in with them, they are there to guide you through your hyper self-awareness
Part of a bigger problem
Overall, this is part of a bigger problem. In our society, it is praised to be self-aware, intuitive, and empathic. These are all beautiful things but that does not equate to not holding others accountable. Often, people who are labeled or self-identified as such carry the burden of believing they have to fix everything, mindread daily, and just know. This way of thinking can lead to extreme anxiety. Even if you are gifted with such beautiful insight, remember, that it is not your job to know what others are thinking. Even if you sense it, even if you’re worried about it. At the end of the day, we all have a voice and others have to speak up to be heard.
So go out and live and be healthily self-aware. Reclaim your mind and live and love free. Also, I made a TikTok that inspired this blog post so be sure to watch for a laugh.