Self-awareness – is it a way to limit and box yourself in, to use the labels as an excuse to not do hard things, or is it how you can free and empower yourself to live your life to its full potential?
In this episode we look at:
Pressing Pause Podcast episode 69 Can too much self-awareness be a bad thing?
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a coach and writer, and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to overcome your overwhelm so you can feel calm, confident and in control.
Hello and welcome to episode 69.
Before I begin I wanted to let you know that you can get my free guide to helping you with your overwhelm from my website. It’s called the 7 Steps to Overcome Introvert Overwhelm and you can find it at gabrielletreanor.com, I’ll include a link in the show notes. I give you straight forward, practical ideas for what you can do when you’re feeling frazzled and worn out and it’s free so get your guide from gabrielletreanor.com.
Today I want to talk about an aspect of self-awareness and how powerful it can be for helping you to play to your strengths as well as reduce your overwhelm.
Now I know that there’s a school of thought that says when we identify with types or give ourselves labels we’re putting ourselves into boxes. We’re shutting ourselves off from opportunities and limiting the way we live our lives. Because if we’ve discovered that the type, in inverted commas, of person we are means we’re going to find certain situations stressful or certain ways of behaving difficult, we’ll tell ourselves we can’t go there or do the thing. Or that we can use this information as an excuse to get out of doing something that feels challenging.
I understand that way of thinking and yes, of course you can use self-awareness as a reason why you shouldn’t or can’t do something. But I disagree with the idea that it’s inevitable, that understanding yourself better means that you’ll somehow become trapped by your own nature. I believe that having a better understanding of how your brain works, of why you feel the way you do, and having greater self-awareness can be empowering.
Let me share an example with you about how I have come to understand how being an empath, to use a label, has given me greater freedom and empowerment.
So, way back in the day when I was at school studying for my Theatre Studies A Level we examined two leading theatre practitioners – Konstantin Stanislavski who was all about method acting, really living the part, and Bertolt Brecht who was all about breaking the fourth wall and never letting the audience forget that they’re watching a piece of theatre.
And in case you’re wondering I didn’t take this subject because I wanted to be an actor, I was all about being behind the scenes. When most of my classmates were performing monologues for their practical exam, the skill I chose to demonstrate was lighting which meant I got to sit in a dark booth alone – heaven to me!
Now, at age 17 I found Brecht’s approach quite baffling because when I watch a performance I lose myself in it. If I connect with what I’m seeing in front of me I’m not a passive observer, I’m right in there, going through the scene, feeling what the character I feel connected to in that moment is feeling.
When I was younger I thought everyone had the same experience and I found it hard to understand how some people could watch sad or scary movies and come away feeling fine, not as if they’re been through the wringer with the characters.
I thought that I must be weaker than them because I’d be so affected by the story, the characters’ feelings felt so real to me, at times it felt like I was walking in their shoes, and it would stay with me long after I left the cinema or switched off the TV. And I’m talking years, if I think of particular scenes from films I watched decades ago I can physically feel just as I did all those years ago.
So I would either make myself watch movies and TV shows that everyone said I should watch, even though I knew I’d find them overwhelming, or I’d avoid them and feel guilty and pathetic for doing so.
It wasn’t until I learned about how empathy is a scale that it all slotted into place. Someone whose empathy is turned right up is known as an empath. Put very simply someone who is highly empathetic feels the feelings of other people as if they’re experiencing them. Their mirror neurons, which allow us to understand intention behind action and so are linked to empathy, are more active.
So, when younger me was watching a character on TV feel utterly terrified and I felt gripped with fear too, or when I saw an actor crying and devastated and I felt consumed by sadness as well, I wasn’t being weak or gullible, I was simply being my true, empathetic self.
And it works both ways. When watching a movie or TV show where the characters are filled with joy and happiness I would feel a surge of uplifting positivity too! It makes perfect sense that I love Strictly Come Dancing so much because it makes me so feel so incredibly uplifted and happy!
Of course this doesn’t just apply to watching a performance, empaths pick up on the feelings of the people around them to some degree too. That’s a lot of extra processing for a person to do which, unsurprisingly, can feel pretty overwhelming at times.
But simply knowing that as an empath your empathy dial is turned right up, knowing that the overwhelm you’re feeling could, in part, be down to your inbuilt ability to feel the emotions of others, is empowering and this knowledge can help to start bringing down the overwhelm. It’s not because you’re too sensitive or you should have a thicker skin or you’re weak – it’s because part of your nature is to be able to connect deeply with people on an emotional level.
It can feel overwhelming and it can be problematic if you aren’t aware of what’s going on but it can also be your superpower.
When we understand ourselves more we can play to our strengths, we can work with our nature rather than fight with it, deny it or try to force ourselves to be like someone else. This self-knowledge doesn’t have to pigeonhole us and tell us that we can’t be or do what we want because it’s not in our nature.
Quite the opposite in fact.
We can use this awareness and understanding of ourselves to free us to live as we want to by working with our natural qualities. Knowing what will enable us to enjoy how we spend our time, or to connect with the people we care about, or to go for a promotion, or to pursue a dream, makes it far more doable than trying to keep going in the way we think we should do or are expected to but is in conflict with our nature. I see this in the conversations I have with my coaching clients, when they understand themselves better the trust in themselves grows, their self-confidence in speaking up for what they want and need increases, and because they’re not fighting with their own nature they feel calmer, more relaxed and more peaceful.
And here’s the thing, the more we learn to trust ourselves to live with our nature, the more calm, confidence and ease we feel, the more we exude and model that for other people. Which then empowers others to live more in accordance with their nature too.
I’d love to know what’s coming up for you as you’re listening to this episode. Do you feel like your empathy is turned up too? Are you using your self-knowledge to empower you? I’d love to know, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Instagram where I’m @gabrielletreanor. And if you’re interested in finding out more about coaching with me you can message me about that too, or go to gabrielletreanor.com/coaching for more info.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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