Why Self-Awareness is Crucial to Parenting

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Why Self-Awareness is Crucial to Parenting

“Your kids don’t want a perfect mom; they want a happy one.”—Unknown.

Self-awareness helps parents make intentional choices.  The more self-aware we are, the more likely we are to behave in ways that are congruent with who we want to be and how we want to interact with the people in our lives.  When parents lack self-awareness, they might get caught up in their emotions instead of being present with their children.  Parents also might not recognize that they’re unconsciously repeating the patterns of their own childhoods in their parenting today.

According to Brené Brown, we cannot be connected to other people if we are not connected to ourselves.  If we don’t understand our emotional landscape and what is driving our thinking and behavior, then how might we understand what is driving someone else’s emotions, thinking, and behavior.  Brown stated that connection is when your child comes home and says they got into trouble in school for talking and your response is “tell me what happened.” However, your connection shifts to control when you tell your child, “get your ass over there and email that teacher to apologize for being disrespectful.” We begin to control situations when we move from being other-focused to being self-focused.  Self-focused is when situations becomes about you, your feelings, and your wants.

Self-awareness is the ability to objectively interpret your actions, feelings, and thoughts.  Self-awareness is critical to relationships, career success, happiness, and better communication, leading to a more fulfilling life.  According to Forbes, Tasha Eurich, Organizational Psychologist and author of Insight, reports that only 15% of people are self-aware.  This means that most of us have a lot of room to grow regarding self-awareness, especially in parenting.  Eurich further noted that we operate on autopilot; therefore, we are unaware of how we behave.  She said many of us spiral into emotionally driven interpretations of our situation.

Self-awareness is the ability to see ourselves with clarity, to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world.  Most parents learned their parenting style from their parents or guardians.  They swore they would avoid making the same mistakes their parents made.  Why?  Because we don’t have the tools to prevent the same mistakes from reoccurring effectively.  The lack of self-awareness impacts our ability to connect and effectively communicate with our children.  As parents, we can’t give our children something we don’t have or know.

The Collaboration for Academic and Social Emotional Learning defines self-awareness as “the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.” “The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a growth mindset.”

“Self-awareness allows you to self-correct.”—Bill Hybels.

When we lack self-awareness, we have a more challenging time understanding and improving our reactions, undermining our self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.  Emily Kaiser says, “The first step as an educator or parent is to establish the importance of acknowledging our emotions, even if it is after they have already occurred.” As a child, I wasn’t allowed to express my feelings, which often left me feeling angry.  I became drawn to writing to release my emotions in my late teen years.  In my family, I was threatened or sometimes hit if I expressed anger or an attitude.  As a teen and through adulthood, I would become easily frustrated or overwhelmed.  I remember yelling at my son because he said he didn’t understand his homework.  I also remember yelling at my son because he spilled milk all over the floor.  Yes, because he spilled milk.  I am so embarrassed today about that.  These are a few examples of my inability to control my emotions due to my lack of self-awareness then.

In an article published by “Tracking Happiness,” self-serving biases are the reason for the lack of self-awareness.  Here is a list of self-serving biases contributing to the lack of self-awareness.

~ Playing the victim by blaming others and circumstances—Start looking at your role in the situation instead of blaming everyone else or the circumstances.

~ There is always drama when you are with others.  You are the common denominator if you find yourself surrounded by drama.  It’s time to reflect to see your participation in the drama.

~ You find it hard to say, “I don’t know.” This quote sums it up.  “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”—Aristotle.  This is true for all of the folks that know it all.

~ You have a compulsive need to control everything.  The only person you control is you—stop spending all your energy on people and things you can’t do anything about.

~ Most of the things that you say are negative or criticizing.  We will not be able to eliminate negativity entirely, but our dominant characteristic shouldn’t be negativity by nature.  Sadly, some people are unaware of their negativity—this is called negativity bias.  Are you a glass-is-half-empty type of person?  If so, you lack self-awareness.  These folks can only see negativity in a situation.

~ Your emotional reaction doesn’t match the situation.  Suppose you had a meltdown or flew off the handle about something trivial.  In that case, your response doesn’t fit the problem— your extreme emotions were triggered by something much more deeply rooted than the current event.

~ You get defensive when receiving feedback.  As humans, we want to protect our pride and ego.  In receiving this feedback, all we hear is the negativity of it all.  This could feel like we are not enough.  We switch to defense mode when told something about us that we don’t already know.  This defensiveness may manifest into excuses, lashing out, passive-aggressiveness, or trying to control others.

~ The things you do to make yourself feel better “don’t” actually make you feel better.  You are only causing yourself more emotional distress when you engage in things like binge-watching TV, drinking alcohol, working excessive hours, or whatever actions you are taking to numb your emotions.  You can’t avoid, distract, or run from your emotions; they will eventually come out somehow.

~ You crave attention.  Attention seekers are insecure and spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of them.

~ You don’t have any goals in life.  What are you striving for in life if you don’t have any plans— without goals, you have no idea of what the future holds because you don’t know what you truly want in life.  You are allowing life to happen to you vs. designing your life.

~ You find it hard to forgive yourself.  You are struggling with letting go of past mistakes instead of focusing on the present.

~ You are constantly comparing yourself to others.  Comparing yourself to others leads to feelings of inferiority, which causes feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, and failure.  If you are too focused on others, you are not focusing on yourself.

“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.”—Thales.

Here are 3-ways you can begin to improve your self-awareness:

1) Engage in new experiences: learn something new—immerse yourself in a new culture, learn a new language, dance or play an instrument.  Hopefully, this experience will help you to learn more about yourself.

2) Identify the triggers of your negative emotions.  Suppose you are caught in a cycle of reactivity due to negative emotions.  In that case, it is time to find out what triggers these feelings.  Start by asking: what is really bothering me?  What do you feel about this situation (under-appreciated, unworthy, rejected, etc.)?  What do you think or believe about the problem (someone should have helped you do something, or whatever belief you have about a situation)?

3) Get some feedback: obviously, you can’t get feedback from anyone.  However, select someone you know will be honest, not hold back the hard truth, and have your best interest at heart.  You only need to listen and reflect—no need for an explanation or trying to defend yourself.