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There is so much going on in the world outside, both good and bad. News of this event and that, sounds of this noise or that – all of our senses take in so much information on a daily basis. It’s easy to get lost in our awareness of the world that we often don’t leave room to be aware of what happens within us.

It is equally important to be in tune with ourselves, our surroundings, and our environment.

What is Self-Awareness?

The meaning of this concept is straightforward: awareness of the self. How do you see yourself? What do you see? Can you look at yourself objectively, both your strengths and weaknesses?

It’s about taking a good, honest look at ourselves – our thoughts, feelings, desires. While it can be tough to uncover and face certain parts, it’s a necessary skill we need to build to develop a healthier relationship with ourselves and others.

Self-awareness is also the foundation of emotional intelligence. All other components of emotional intelligence (self-management, social awareness, relationship management) are built upon this first, crucial step.

How is Self-Awareness Related to Emotions?

Emotions are a part of ourselves. In practicing emotional self-awareness, we look at our feelings without judging ourselves, simply accepting that they are there. However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t do anything about them. Losing control and allowing strong emotions to overwhelm you can hinder you in different ways. For instance, it can impair your ability to meet challenges. It’s difficult to think and solve problems when our judgment is clouded with emotions.

Next, when we act out on strong emotions, we can disturb or even harm others and our relationships. This can also make you look unprofessional, jeopardizing your work or potential for promotions, or, in extreme cases, leading to job loss. It’s important to remain cool and calm in the workplace, and to stay positive. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Being aware of your emotions is only the first step – you also need to know what to do with that knowledge and how to self-manage your emotions.

Everyone experiences failures, set-backs, and losses. How you react to and deal with them determines how successful you are, both in your personal and professional life.

What are emotional breakdowns?

When your emotions bubble up and they overwhelm your attempts to suppress them, you may have an emotional breakdown. In other words, you lose control of yourself and react involuntarily. We say someone has “lost it” or “gone overboard” when this happens. Road rage is a classic example of an emotional breakdown, but more subtle examples can often be witnessed in the workplace.

You might struggle to control your behavior when you are emotionally distressed. You might also find you’re prone to emotional breakdowns in particular situations. In either case, this may lead colleagues to try avoiding setting you off. They might avoid certain subjects in your presence, or feel they’re at fault when you lose control.

So for the sake of both your professional and personal relationships, it’s important to manage your emotions and your actions.

What is Self-Management?

Whereas self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, self-management is the basis for making the correct decisions about what to do with your emotions. It involves taking action such as expressing your feelings when they’re relevant, and dealing with irrelevant or inappropriate emotions – whether they’re positive or negative.

Your emotions are what make you human and can help you connect to other people.

In self-control, you manage to keep your cool in the face of negative emotions like anger. 

What is emotional self-control?

Emotional self-control isn’t about trying to fake or suppress your emotions. This could negatively affect your health. It may also be counterproductive because your true feelings could eventually explode in an inappropriate way. If you bottle up your feelings and try not to show any vulnerability at all, you run the risk of appearing aloof and unfeeling.

This doesn’t only apply to negative emotions like anger. There are times when we need to be mindful of losing control over positive emotions. Reacting instinctively to a positive emotion can be insensitive or inappropriate in certain situations, like shouting with joy in front of your colleagues if you’re the only one given a raise.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is over-control, where you don’t share or express your emotions at all. This can be just as problematic as the complete lack of control.

Emotional self-control is all about maintaining a healthy balance – behaving appropriately while respecting your feelings. In fact, self-control is a form of self-management.

How do you Practice Self-Management?

One of the most common tips people associate with self-control is to take a deep breath or counting to ten to resist the urge to lash out. This is definitely helpful while you’re in the moment, and we believe that your breath is a powerful tool for calming and grounding yourself.

You can use breathing GIFs like this one to calm down and control your breathing.(You can check out more of our breathing GIFs and videos on our Instagram and Facebook.)

There are also some proactive (rather than reactive) ways that can help you demonstrate self-management. These include:

  • Expressing yourself through hobbies and interests. This involves channeling your feelings into getting something productive done, rather than simply reacting instinctively.
  • Being assertive. Often being assertive requires courage – recognizing a fear or avoidance tendency and purposefully overcoming it.
  • Moderating the tone of conversations. You may defuse potential conflict by adjusting what you say – or how you say it – based on how you gauge the other party’s likely reaction. Or you may subtly guide a conversation that has gone off-track back in the right direction.
  • Showing resilience. If you’re resilient, you bounce back from difficult situations and don’t let disappointment or other negative emotions get the better of you. You persevere rather than giving up.

How Can Self-Awareness Compliment Self-Management?

When you practice self-awareness, you can gain insight into what evokes strong emotions in you. You can use this to prepare to handle these feelings in advance. It’s like preparing a safety net for yourself so you won’t be caught off guard when a stressful situation occurs. It also helps to be aware of triggers that have the potential to bring out strong emotions in you. These triggers may, for example, relate to:

  • Other’s moods. If you’re sensitive to the moods and attitudes of others, try to pinpoint who tends to provoke an emotional response in you and why. You could rehearse making light-hearted comments to defuse the situation.
  • Hot buttons. Certain subjects or words might evoke an overblown or irrational emotional reaction because of past experiences or specific beliefs you have. You could imagine laughing at yourself when this happens or prepare a more diplomatic response than a knee-jerk reaction.
  • Criticism. This is a common emotional trigger, especially when you feel it’s unfair or you haven’t been given a chance to defend yourself. You could rehearse a calm response like,  “why do you feel that way?”
  • Environment. Specific situations or environments can be emotional triggers. You might tend to become irritable when your surroundings are crowded, noisy, or cold. You could try envisioning yourself staying calm in these situations.

You’ll be better able to navigate your emotional responses if you acknowledge your triggers, visualize positive outcomes, and take steps to make these outcomes a reality. Managing  emotions will then come easier.

What is the Link Between Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, and Self-Management?

Emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness, which involves recognizing your emotions and their causes. The next step is self-management – regulating your emotions and making conscious decisions about how to react to them appropriately.

Self-management prevents emotional breakdowns, in which you lose control over your behavior. Rather than suppressing emotions, it involves acknowledging and dealing with them.

Identifying triggers and potentially stressful situations, and planning in advance how you’ll react to the emotions they cause, is a good way to improve your self-management skills.


Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and deal with emotions in a healthy and productive manner. Many people don’t realize that their emotions are determined by what they think, and that concrete self-management techniques exist for gaining control of feelings. Emotional intelligence has four attributes, including being aware of, and managing emotions within your relationships with others.

But before you can recognize others’ emotions and manage your relationships, you must have a firm sense and control of your own feelings. In one of our courses (coming soon!), you’ll learn how to build your emotional intelligence through appropriate actions and techniques for managing your emotions. You’ll learn:

  • The competency areas of self-awareness and self-management,
  • How to identify and regulate your own emotions through self-awareness techniques, including understanding the value of emotional self-awareness and recognizing typical behavioral and physical expressions of key emotions, and
  • How to move from self-awareness to self-management and how self-management functions as a component of emotional intelligence.