Emotions: why is it important to be self-aware?

Why is it important to be aware of your emotions?

Accurate self-awareness and the ability to manage and control your emotions are emotional intelligence skills that consistently emerge among the top predictors of leadership performance. It is worth spending some time becoming aware of the emotions that underpin your behaviours. Without this awareness, emotions will tend to override your rational thinking and drive your actions.

The emotion of shame 

Shame is one of the main reasons that people avoid doing what they know they should. It is natural to avoid exposure to something you are ashamed about.  However, shame interacts with avoidance to create a vicious cycle. The more we avoid confronting difficult situations, the more ashamed we feel … and the cycle continues.


Avoiding things that make us feel uncomfortable, unfortunately just leads to more shame and more avoidance. This avoidance strategy may work in the very short-term and make you feel less anxious, but the longer it goes on, the more anxious and ashamed you will feel over time. Perfectionism is often a cause of procrastination. You may spend too long on tasks trying to get them ‘just right’, go very slowly to avoid making any mistakes, or avoid the task all together if you think you may do a less-than-perfect job.

High Frustration Tolerance

If you face the task, you will initially feel anxious and maybe a bit frustrated, but if you persevere and build up your tolerance to small amounts of frustration, your overall level of anxiety will steadily decrease over time as you achieve the goals you had been avoiding.

Move out of your comfort zone

Actively make yourself feel discomfort by tackling the things you have been avoiding. Consciously putting yourself in situations where you feel uncomfortable – even a bit distressed and frustrated – will help you to build your tolerance over time. Feeling discomfort and getting through it will help you to be more psychologically prepared to deal with difficult situations as they arise in the future. 

Without trying new things, you will not be able to learn from experience and change. If you procrastinate, not wanting to put yourself in a position where you could make a mistake, you are likely to avoid situations and learning opportunities.

Learning new things can be exhausting, but it will pay off in the longer term

Our brain uses a large amount of our overall energy and this is one of the reasons why we prefer to go into autopilot mode and just keep on repeating ingrained habits. By doing repetitive tasks our brains use up less energy. When we are learning new things or trying to develop new habits, our brains have to work overtime to process all of this new information and this can make us feel exhausted – some neuroscientists even describe this as being ‘painful’ to the brain!

Developing habits and routines

However, if you keep on persevering, eventually your new habits will also just become routine autopilot tasks which don’t require too much thought, so it is important to bear this in mind if you are put off by doing something because it just feels too painful to face up to.

How can I help?

In my Executive Leadership Coaching Programme, I use evidence-based psychological approaches such as cognitive-behavioural coaching techniques to help raise your self-awareness and to recognise the links between your social context, emotions, physiology, thoughts and behaviours. Becoming aware of unhelpful thinking patterns that may be driving ingrained behaviours and contributing to feelings of distress, and being open to seeing things from different perspectives, are the first steps you can take towards making positive changes in your life.

To find out more, please visit where you can also request a programme brochure, book a discovery call and subscribe to my mailing list. 

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