Caring, the basis of good nursing, depends on you knowing more about who you are. We cannot help others unless we have a clear idea about who we are and what we value. For the nurse to be able to use the self therapeutically, understanding the self is required.
Self-awareness is the ability to, and process of consciously looking at oneself objectively and to identify and process information important to one’s well-being. Development of self is affected by biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors. Awareness of self includes the ability to recognize and evaluate the effects of internal and external stimuli. These stimuli include behavior, needs, motives, attitudes, values, feelings, perceptions, assumptions, thoughts, beliefs, and interactions with one’s environment.
The purpose of engaging in self-awareness is understanding the personal inner world and the interpersonal outer world. The insight and understanding achieved through self-awareness enable management of feelings, thoughts, and actions in order to protect and improve oneself. More succinctly, “Self-awareness is a multidimensional, introspective process used to become aware of, scrutinize, and understand one’s thoughts, feelings, convictions and values on an ongoing basis with the use of this understanding to consciously and authentically guide behavior” (Eckroth-Bucher, 2010).
The ongoing process of self-awareness can be organized as follows:
- Intrapersonal: focuses on exploring the nurses’ personal self and examining personal thoughts
- Relational: allows oneself to analyze oneself in relation to other people and connect personal thoughts and feelings with that of others
- Extra-personal: continuously expands beyond personal self and focuses on the analysis of the environment
- Contextual: focuses on intrapersonal, interpersonal and extra-personal analysis within a given context or situation
- A cognitive activity
Possessing a clear sense of self-awareness will help nurses engage professionally with a diverse patient population and modify behavior as needed. The self-aware nurse is able to:
- Better assess one’s ability to provide care and assess patient needs
- Pivot when needed in evolving situations
- Prevent situations from getting out of control
- Maintain self-esteem and self-efficacy
- Be confident in difficult situations
- Build strong skills in the area of resilience, decision-making, and communication
- Improve interpersonal and professional relationships
Strategies for increasing self-awareness include:
- Reflective journaling (diary)
- Reflective practice
- Using portfolios
- Seeking feedback from others
- Noticing (paying attention to one’s feelings, thoughts, and actions; developing greater understanding of those feelings; seeking feedback and appraisal from others; and then comparing personal beliefs with others)
- Introspection (cognitive exploration of internal self and feedback)
Questions and exercises to consider with classmates and/or colleagues:
- What do you believe are the biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors that influence self-awareness?
- How would you describe the difference between the personal inner world and the interpersonal outer world?
- How might you structure reflective journaling as a means of increasing self-awareness?
- What are some additional strategies for increasing self-awareness?
Increase Your Self Awareness with One Simple Fix
Tasha Eurich, TedTalk
Eckroth-Bucher, M. (2010). Self-awareness: a review and analysis of a basic nursing concept. Advances in Nursing Science, 33(4), 297-309. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e3181fb2e4c.
Han Soolgi, & Kim Sungjae. (2016). An integrative literature review on self-awareness education/training programs in the nursing area. Perspectives in Nursing Science, 13(2), 59.
Rasheed, S. P., Younas, A. A., & Sundus, A. (2018). Self‐awareness in nursing: A scoping review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 28(5-6), 762-774. doi:10.1111/jocn.14708
Rasheed, S. P., Sundus, A., Younas, A., Fakhar, J., & Inayat, S. (2021). Development and testing of a measure of self-awareness among nurses. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 43(1), 36–44.
Younas, A., Rasheed, S.P., Sundus, A. & Inayat, S. (2019). Nurses' perspectives of self-awareness in nursing practice: A descriptive qualitative study. Nursing & Health Sciences, 22(2), 398-405. https://doi.org/10.1111/nhs.12671