How do you think other people see you? If you feel able to do so, you might find it helpful to ask one or two friends how they honestly perceive you. Ask them to point out some of your strengths as well as some of your limitations.

Do they see you as warm, friendly and approachable or do you often come across as critical, cross or distant?

If you completed this exercise fully you might have been surprised to find that other people do not see you in quite the same way as you see yourself. This is because there are often parts of ourselves that we are unaware of. We may not realise just what messages we are giving out to people through our body language, facial expression, tone of voice or attitude.

This idea of the self is sometimes represented as a Johari square, as shown below.

Johari Square

As we become more self aware, there is much less in the third and fourth sections of the square, but there will always be more to discover. Many of the exercises you will be completing during the course are designed to help you improve your self awareness. This can be a marvellous journey of self discovery. Be aware, however, that sometimes personal development work of this kind can trigger strong or uncomfortable feelings. This is natural part of your journey and is nothing to worry about, but it is also important that you take care of your own well-being. It may be that you decide some of the issues raised need to be explored further, perhaps through personal therapy or through discussion with work colleagues, friends or family, as appropriate.

Here and Now

[box type=”bio”]Get comfortably settled with a tape recorder or your journal. Record what your life is like at the moment? Describe the positive things as well as the challenging things. Which of these things add stress to your life? Which help you to relax? What would you like to change?

The questions below will help to get you started, although don’t feel you have to follow them slavishly. Let yourself relax into telling your story in your own way.[/box]

What is Actually Happening to You Now?

Keep the answer to this question a specific description of what is happening now, not what you think might be happening. For instance:

‘Life is really good.’
‘Everything seems to be going right.’
‘I lose my temper and say things I regret later.’
‘I hate going to work and feel miserable most of the time.’

What is Not Happening?

This question is useful because problems often revolve more around what is not happening than around what is actually taking place.

‘I’m not standing up for myself.’
‘I’m not seeing my daughter as much as I would like.’

This question can be used to highlight positive things too.

‘I’m not smoking anymore.’

What Are Other People Doing or Not Doing?

This question helps you to separate yourself from the other people involved. You need to take responsibility for what you are doing – not what others are doing.

‘He is being critical of everything I do.’
‘She is supporting my return to college.’

What Are You Thinking?

Distinguishing between thought, feeling and action is an important aspect of self-awareness. When our senses perceive something, we react by thinking; those thoughts create our physical and emotional response. This leads to whatever action we take. While we are experiencing this it all seems to happen at once, but the process can be separated. Changing your perceptions and how you think about a situation will inevitably change how you feel and then what you do in response.

What Are You Feeling?

Your feelings are a product of the way you are thinking. Imagine five mothers faced with a huge telephone bill. The family will need to miss out on trips and treats for a couple of months to pay.

Mother 1 thinks, ‘This always happens to me.’
Mother 2 thinks ‘It’s all my daughter’s fault, she spends hours on the phone. She never considers my feelings.’
Mother 3 thinks ‘Oh my god, what will we do now?’
Mother 4 thinks ‘If we budget carefully this will be fine. I need to talk to my daughter about how much she is using the phone.’
Mother 5 thinks ‘We’ll never find the money for this.’

Each of these mothers is in the same situation and exposed to the same amount of stress, but each of them has a different experience.

Mother 1 feels resignation and sadness.
Mother 2 feels blaming and hurt.
Mother 3 feels fear.
Mother 4 feels calm and composed.
Mother 5 feels hopeless.

Whatever they are thinking and feeling will not change the situation. This is why it is important that we take responsibility for our feelings and thoughts rather than assume that they are cause by someone or something outside of us. It may seem as though someone else is making you feel what you feel, but this is not really so. Although you can, and should, hold others accountable for their behaviour towards you, you cannot blame them for how you are feeling.

What Are You Doing?

You will be reacting in some way to the thoughts and feelings you have described. When you answer this question, try to analyse your actual behaviour, rather than say what you think you ought to be doing.

‘I withdraw from contact with people.’
‘I stay quiet in class.’

What Would You Prefer to be Happening?

This question will help you to clarify any changes you want to make.

‘I want to speak out more at work.’