Examples of Emotional Self-Awareness And Why You Need It

Updated 14 August 2019

hugo huyer author of tracking happiness small

by Hugo: Founder of Tracking Happiness, marathon runner, data junkie and happiness tracker for almost 6 years.

Nearly eight decades ago, US President Franklin Roosevelt stated that people are “prisoners of their own minds” and have the power to “become free” at any time. This issue is bigger than ever when rage and rants are a major part of our everyday lives. This article is all about emotional self-awareness and filled with numerous examples of how you can train emotional self-awareness in order to grow as a person.

What is emotional self-awareness? It’s the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions. People with this skill can identify small differences in their emotions and are aware of how their emotions impact their behavior, performance, and decisions.

If you're looking to learn more about examples of emotional self-awareness and methods to recognize, learn and develop this skill: you've come to the right place!

franklin roosevelt emotional self awareness
"Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Table of contents

What is emotional self-awareness exactly?

Let’s start with the million-dollar question:

What is emotional self-awareness?

It’s the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions. People with this skill can identify small differences in their emotions and are aware of how their emotions impact their behavior, performance, and decisions.

Can you see why it’s important to develop this skill yet?

No? Then let’s dive deeper.

You can only change things that are happening in your mind if you’re aware of them. Emotional self-awareness provides insights into your world so you can benefit from the changes you make.

For example, you can benefit from learning who you are and how your buttons are pushed by different things.

Furthermore, emotional self-awareness allows you to recognize situations when emotions like fear, frustration, and anger start to control you. These emotions are obviously negative for your happiness.

Therefore, it’s critical to understand how your emotions will likely react to negative events. You then will know what exactly triggers your emotional reactions.

Not yet impressed?

Let’s go over some examples of emotional self-awareness.

Examples of emotional self-awareness

If the concept of emotional self-awareness is still a little vague for you, then let me help you. These are some rather common examples of emotional self-awareness, and I bet you'll be able to recognize a few of them!

Example 1: a manager that lacks emotional self-awareness

Let’s say there’s a manager working at a tech company who’s a bully but isn’t aware of it. He’s very competent at his job but lacks social skills. The manager doesn’t listen to his team members and gives special treatment to only people he likes.

Then, one day, some people confront this person about these issues. The tech manager then blames another person and gets angry at the accuser. In some situations, he even blames the person for being the problem.

This is an example of a clear lack of emotional self-awareness. The bully manager is not aware of how his emotions are affecting his behavior and performance. That, in turn, is having a negative impact on his interactions with coworkers.

This not only negatively affects the happiness of the manager himself, but also his coworkers. Just because someone pointed out a minor point of improvement.

This example makes me think of Michael Scott from the Office. As funny as this show is, it still makes a great example for a manager that completely lacks emotional self-awareness.

michael scott emotional self awareness
Michael Scott could have really benefited from a little more emotional self-awareness!

Example 2: losing a job promotion

You and your best friend have been competing at work to receive a job promotion. Your best friend ended up getting the promotion. You worked hard, but management made the executive decision your friend should get the promotion.

Your first thought is you’re disappointed you didn’t get the job. However, then you realize your best friend is happy about the promotion. So you decide that you’re also happy for him. You also realize that it’s for the better that your friend got the job instead of someone else.

You could have decided to be bitter and angry, but instead, you actively choose to find a positive angle. That requires a lot of emotional self-awareness, but will ultimately have a positive influence on your happiness.

Example 3: an emotionally unaware and angry passenger

This is a fun example that happened to me last your when I flew back to the Netherlands from a weekend trip.

There was an angry passenger trying to get his ticket sorted at the counter. He became very angry because he thought the process was inefficient and was afraid he was going to miss his flight. This man wasn’t even aware of how upset he was. The entire line of people was just watching him go bananas at the girl behind the counter.

But more importantly, he was oblivious of the effect his anger and behavior were having on the airline’s ticket agent.

And do you think his anger helped him get his anger sorted any faster? Nope. The girl tried her best to help him, but the man had crushed any sympathy she could have had for him by throwing a fit.

If he had been calmer and more diplomatic about the situation, he’d probably have his stuff sorted out much quicker. The man eventually sat in front of us on the plane. He got extremely angry over something that didn’t even matter in the end.

Example 4: tapping your fingers

Waiting is part of life, and it’s something that’s quite common in modern life. Let’s say that you’re waiting to be served at a store or restaurant. You start tapping your finger. You start doing it subconsciously and aren’t aware of the action or your feelings of impatience.

Then you notice that you’re tapping your fingers. In the meantime, you also observe that you’re feeling impatient. You’re becoming self-aware of your emotions.

You might even start thinking about how surprised you are about the wait time while you’re in line. Afterward, you realize that you’re starting to feel judgmental. That’s because you’re making a judgment about how long the wait time should be based on your perceptions.

Why does this matter? Because if we allow these thoughts and emotions to determine how we feel subconsciously, then we can’t avoid it. However, if we are aware of our impatience, that’s when we can actually try to change our mindset into something that’s more positive!

So instead of focusing on something negative, you can start thinking about things that are actually enjoyable.

Example 5: road rage

The last example I want to show you is becoming more and more common nowadays: road rage.

It's actually a perfect example of a lack of emotional self-awareness.

It happens more and more, as the traffic and stress of daily life seems to only increase. As a result, people become very agitated in traffic, which results in a lot of mindless negativity.

Just search YouTube for the term "road rage" and you can watch hours of footage of people lacking emotional self-awareness.

I want to show you one of the most memorable examples I've ever seen. It's quite long, but worth the watch! It might even make you laugh...

It's sad to think about how this situation could've been easily avoided if one of these 2 gentlemen had a little more sense of emotional self-awareness.

I'm not saying who's right or wrong here, I'm just saying that this situation should have been defused by one of them.

Instead, you now have a situation where nobody wins.

That brings me to the next section of this article. What are the benefits of training your emotional self-awareness?

Benefits of emotional self-awareness

So we’ve discussed some examples of emotional self-awareness. You should have a pretty clear idea of what this concept is about.

Can you already see the benefits of being emotionally self-aware?

No? Let’s look at some benefits right away!

Benefit 1: react better to uncontrollable factors

This involves various situations like difficult coworkers, traffic jams, bad customer service, etc. In your life, you’re eventually going to be in a bad situation because of uncontrollable factors.

These situations are simply a part of life, but they can be quite stressful.

We like to think we have the power to choose when to get emotional during those situations.

It’s debatable whether or not we should be logical or emotional in these situations. However, the most important issue is being aware of our emotions and how they affect others.

For example, you might find yourself yelling at a rude or annoying coworker for whatever reason. Your feelings and emotions might, in fact, be “natural” in these situations. However, they can also have negative results, like the co-worker getting upset or you getting in trouble for throwing a fit.

You should know by now that a better approach is to get in touch with your emotions.

Why is this coworker making you upset? What’s the most logical way to deal with this annoying or rude coworker? Is there a way you can be less emotional in responding to the situation?

It may take a little more effort, but it will undeniably result in a better - long-term - result for yourself. You have to look at the bigger picture here.

Sure, getting angry at this coworker might satisfy your short-term needs (you’re angry!). But by getting in touch with your emotions and remaining calm, you can reach a far better result in the long term.

Benefit 2: facing and dealing with disappointments

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always turn out as we’d like to it.

For example, we might not get our target high score playing Candy Crash, land a particular job or promotion, or complete everything on our daily to-do list.

These might be silly examples, but you get the idea. Not reaching your goals or expectations sucks.

It’s perfectly natural to feel upset about things like this. The key here is to take a mental inventory about how you feel. Think about how you’re feeling, the source of those feelings, and how those feelings are affecting you both physically and mentally.

Then it’s time to “listen” to your feelings.

This is critical since it will help you to gain insights about how to deal with the feelings of disappointment. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy about your disappointments, but it will certainly help you to deal with the situation in a more effective way.

Benefit 3: predicting the response of others

A large part of emotional self-awareness is being aware of our own emotions.

That includes recognizing, acknowledging, identifying, accepting, and reflecting on the feeling that we experience. As we know now, this is a complex and difficult process, but critical for getting in touch with our emotions.

However, this process also improves our ability to forecast feelings. And it just so happens that that skill can be used on our own emotions but also on that of others! As we become better at forecasting our own feelings, we also get better at figuring out how other people will feel as well.

More specifically, we realize that others will likely have the same feelings as we do in certain situations. If we have happy or sad feelings in certain situations, then it’s likely others will experience the same emotions.

This way, you can better position yourself in relation to others.

Let’s bring up an easy example:

You and your friend are late for a concert. You start feeling a bit angry and impatient. It makes sense, right?

Chances are your friend is feeling the exact same emotions. And he wants to vent about it. “Stupid traffic this!” and “Stupid red lights!”

emotional self awareness example red light
Having the ability to change your own perception of the outside world can make a significant difference

Instead of jumping on the negativity bandwagon, you can now position yourself better in order to reach a more positive mindset together. Instead of allowing yourself to get angry as well, you can choose to think about positive things instead.

And you can now try to turn your - still angry - friend on that same positivity bandwagon. You can probably see how this creates a better and happier situation for the both of you, right?

Benefit 4: high emotional intelligence

The key is to do an accurate self-assessment to get the biggest emotional intelligence (EI) boosts.

To put it another way, it’s important for a person to have a very precise understanding of how their feelings affect their behavior, performance, and mood. They should also be aware of how these things affect others’ moods.

It’s also important for people to think about their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their emotional intelligence What am I good at? In what situations do my emotions get out of hand more easily?. There are various measurement tools you can use to determine the answer to these questions.

We’ll talk more about these tools later!

Anyway, another great benefit of a higher emotional intelligence is that it helps to create an environment in which you can receive honest feedback better.

Instead of getting angry about constructive feedback, you can decide to accept it for what it is: good feedback. Even though your emotions are pushing you in an angry mindset, you can recognize this and then stop it from happiness.

That’s a win-win!

That’s because people are concerned about your personal and professional development and instead of blocking their perhaps painful words, you accept them as lessons learned and use them to grow as a person. This way, you and your peers can grow as a whole, without any negative emotions.

Benefit 5: constructive reactions

Emotions are normal and are part of what makes us humans.

Even the most stoic person will crack a tear (or a smile!) sometimes. However, feelings like anger, disgust, and fear can cause us various problems when they result in destructive reactions. We’ve seen that in our examples of a lack of emotional self-awareness.

In fact, emotions themselves are basically constructive. The problem is they can become destructive in certain situations.

The good news is self-awareness of our emotions can help to make the right choices in terms of emotional behavior.

If we have better emotional self-awareness, we can then choose to avoid acting in a destructive way that could cause various unwanted results.

Another example is from Shakespeare’s play Othello. The main character misreads the fear of Desdemona. He thinks it’s because she was caught in an affair. However, she was, in fact, fearful of a jealous husband.

This resulted in a tragic result that could have been avoided if Othello had a better awareness of her emotions.

This situation can obviously be applied to modern times. Sometimes we have misconceptions about what we’re expecting of people. It’s important to keep an open mind, although it’s often easier said than done.

How to improve your emotional self-awareness

Now that you’ve seen all these examples and benefits of emotional self-awareness, you might be thinking: how can I develop this skill?

This section shows actionable and practical methods on how to improve your emotional self-awareness right away!

Method 1: keeping a journal/diary

The main benefit of maintaining a journal or diary is that it puts your thoughts onto paper. We can then read and study what we’ve written, which can, in turn, result in better awareness of our emotions.

The journal/diary should center not only on what you’re feeling but also what you’re thinking. It can even address issues like your beliefs and weaknesses.

Interestingly, there are studies that find that people who maintain a journal have a better-developed sense of emotional self-awareness.

when and how to start journaling
Journaling can be a great way to train your emotional self-awareness!

It seems that maintaining a journal isn’t enough to boost emotional self-awareness. The key is to maintain it in an effective way. A good option is to write your thoughts/feelings on issues that have had a big effect on your life.

This isn’t an easy task and can cause some short-term stress. However, experts explain that in the long-term this approach can result in a better mood, and therefore wellbeing.

Method 2: meditating

Do you want to know yourself and your emotions better? You’ve made it this far in this article, so you probably should by now!

If so, then one of the best options is meditation.

In fact, this practice has been effective for some of the world’s most successful and influential people.

You can use meditation in various ways to achieve better self-awareness of your emotions. Some of the best times to meditate are in the early morning and right before bedtime. This is when your mind is clearer, so it’s easier to focus on how you feel.

Modern life can be quite hectic and overwhelming. I think we can all agree there. That’s especially true in the digital age when we’re constantly bombarded with news, ads, and information. Some of the most peaceful times of the day are when we just woke up or are getting ready for some shut-eye.

Meditation is effective for self-awareness because it requires us to stop thinking for a while.

You should know that meditation comes in a lot of shapes and forms. You don’t have to do traditional meditation, sitting on a chair with your eyes closed. There are other forms that work just as well, like walking in the park, tending your garden, or listening to some quiet music.

Research shows meditation can provide many health benefits in addition to emotional self-awareness. They include lower stress levels, a better immune system, and more-balanced mental health.

Autumn day utrechtse heuvelrug 2017
A simple walk could also be very meditating!

Method 3: practicing yoga

This might not be for everyone, but practicing yoga can be an excellent way to get more in touch with your emotions.

Yoga can be used in different ways. It can be a spiritual practice and also a type of exercise. The process involves using stretches and muscle flexibility with deep breathing. You can use different variations for different goals. By doing so, you can learn more about your personality, motives, character, passions, and desires.

It’s also obviously good for your physical health. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone, so to say! 😉

Method 4: slow down!

What does eating or walking slowly have to do with emotional self-awareness? It’s about slowing down for a brief moment. This allows us to focus more on things like how we feel, which is something we tend to forget in our busy lives.

You can do some basic things like taking a walk in the park or just sit in front of your window to look outside. You could also spend a whole hour eating your meal.

In fact, studies show that slow movement not only can benefit your mind but also your body. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports that more pain clinics are now offering slow movement as a self-awareness therapy.

Does this mean it’s time to cancel your gym membership? Not really, but some studies show that slow movement (including yoga!) can help reduce depression, pain, and disability.

Not convinced yet?

Taking it slow part of the day can allow us to focus on awareness of our emotions. Instead of gobbling down meals and rushing around all day looking at the next meetings on your smartphone, try taking it slow for a while.

Why does it work? Experts don’t fully understand the process, but slow movement provides benefits related to more relaxation and less stress. That, in turn, allows you to focus more on your current emotional state.

And by now, you should be acquainted with the many benefits of being emotionally self-aware!

Method 5: breath deeply

Breath deeply? What?

As simple as it may sound, this technique has a lot of unseen benefits.

In fact, activities like meditation and yoga often focus on the process of deep breathing. This can be effective in clearing your mind, which in turn allows you to focus better on your current emotional state.

Fun Fact:

People take an average of about 23,000 breaths/day. We don’t think much about breathing while we’re awake. Deep breathing exercises can allow you to live in the moment and focus on how and why you have certain emotions.

Method 6: talk with a counselor or therapist

Talking to a therapist or counselor can also help you to become better aware of your feelings and thoughts. They are trained to help their patients get in touch with their emotions.

For example, we often try to avoid negative emotions, which might have been caused by things like past experiences. A professional therapist/counselor will have the know-how and skills to help patients figure out how they’re truly feeling.

In essence, these people have mastered the art of emotional self-awareness. They have such a deep knowledge of emotions and self-awareness that they’re able to help you develop your own version of this skill!

They can also figure out how a person’s past experiences have shaped their current feelings. The results are often very positive: the ability of clients to become better aware of their emotions and factors like childhood experiences that have shaped those feelings.

Method 7: creative visualization

This technique requires people to close their eyes then use imagination to focus on what you want to have in your life. This can involve different issues like work, finances, physical or mental health, relationships, etc.

This can be an effective method for some people to address their emotions and psychological wounds. The reason is this method requires people to deal with past traumatic events.

Just as importantly, though, it allows people to merge their past, present, and future.

Here’s why:

When we have positive feelings about what we’re able to achieve we can start living to that potential. In addition, you can also better deal with negative emotions that are preventing you from achieving your goals and reaching your full potential.

It might not work for everybody, but visualization is yet another method that you can try right now to increase your level of emotional self-awareness!

emotional self awareness header image
Find inner peace with emotional self-awareness

Emotional intelligence and self-awareness

As you might have noticed, there are a lot of similarities between self-awareness, emotional intelligence and being emotionally self-aware.

Here’s how these concepts compare to each other:

How are they similar/different?

While emotional intelligence (EI) and self-awareness are similar, there are some clear differences.

Emotional intelligence is a broad term that refers to different abilities related to perceiving emotions accurately and providing an appropriate and effective response.

It involves different abilities, including recognizing your feelings and others’ feelings and distinguishing different emotions.

Emotional self-awareness, on the other hand, is related to the ability to know what you’re thinking or feeling. The overlap of these two terms is that self-awareness is needed to recognize and name your feelings.

Then there’s self-actualization. This is the ability to use your abilities in the best way possible. Self-awareness is needed to achieve self-actualization. The former is involved since you must recognize your gifts and determine how effectively you’re using them.

Role in today's world

Developing self-awareness in order to boost emotional intelligence is increasingly important in today’s world. That’s because self-awareness is a key skill upon which success and happiness are built. It’s been referred to as emotional intelligence’s “keystone”.

Here’s why:

When you understand your emotions, you then are able to control them instead of them controlling you. This is critical in the modern world when everyday-life can result in stressful situations.

Nearly eight decades ago US President Franklin Roosevelt stated that people are “prisoners of their own minds” and have the power to “become free” at any time. This advice is more important than ever when rage and rants are a major part of our everyday lives.

Instead of being a prisoner of this negativity, we should be able to free our minds and focus on other - more positive - things instead!

After reading this post, you should know that you can take control of your thoughts and emotions! And this skill is called emotional self-awareness. As you now know, this skill can help us respond appropriately to any situation we’re in. When you recognize and understand your feelings/emotions better, you can also understand your thoughts and actions better. This prevents destructive results from inappropriate responses.

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Who runs Tracking Happiness?

My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.

I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking your happiness.

My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.

With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!

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