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Increase Resilience Daily | Part 2: Self-Awareness

Reflection: a key element to self-awareness

There are many things outside of our control, now and always. Whether it's losing a job, passing of a loved one, a pandemic, fires, (all of the above for many at this moment), basement flood, tornado, whatever it is that life or mother nature has thrown your way there are just going to be things we cannot plan for or prevent.

What we can do is become our most resilient selves in order to weather the storms when they hit and so that when the storms clear, we can pick up the pieces, put ourselves back together, and maybe even come out stronger for it. Resiliency is not built overnight, it is built overtime and is largely determined by our biology and psycho-social variables including; how we physiologically respond to stress, self-awareness, self-regulation, our connections, and our mindset. The good news is that we have a lot of control over many of these factors as adults, so over the next few months we will talk about all 5 of these ways that you can start making choices that will help you when you need to bring your strongest self to the ring, both in mind and body. Check out Part 1: Biological Influences here.

Increase Resilience Daily: Part 2

2. Self-Awareness

What is self-awareness? Does it just entail reading a bunch of self-help books?

No, not necessarily, in fact you can read 100 self-help books and still not have self-awareness until you actually start to do the work. Self-awareness is the process of understanding ourselves, our actions, how we react, how we think, our choices and what drives those choices, our emotions, our behaviors, our biases, our beliefs, our perspectives, our physiological responses to those thoughts and emotions, knowing our strengths and most importantly- being willing and able to be honest with ourselves. It is essentially self knowledge.

I'm sure you're thinking a couple of things at this point, right? One being, "that's cool and all but what does self-awareness have to do with resilience?", and another maybe being, "that sounds overwhelming as heck, where do I even begin?!"

Let me tell you.

Increased self-awareness can increase our resilience primarily by creating a stepping stone towards greater self-regulation. Without the awareness, we cannot know what to change, improve, grow, or even what to let go of.


  • By knowing our strengths we are better able to use them to our advantage during challenging times. This also means we now know our weaknesses, giving us the opportunity to ask for help, to know when to ask for help, and to know where we need to improve upon.

  • The more we are able to notice our thoughts as they come, the more we are able to recognize which are true, which are old stories, which are false, which we have control over, and which are out of our control. When we do this we can choose what to let go, what to take action on, and what to process further giving us more control over our thoughts rather than the other way around.

  • As we become aware of our patterns, behaviors, and reactions to various triggers and situations we are then able to come up with alternative responses when we are faced with similar situations before they recur. Meaning, we are able to pause before we act, to create more favorable behaviors for more beneficial outcomes and to redirect old patterns again giving us more control over our actions rather than being controlled by old patterns.

  • Self- awareness also allows us to observe how we are feeling in our body such as; if our breathing is increased, heart rate is increased, appetite is increased or decreased, pain is increased, and other bodily responses often triggered by stressful situations or situations that remind us of traumatic events in our past. When we tune in to how we are feeling, we can then work on the Self Regulation side of things and implement techniques to help reduce these responses such as belly breathing, taking a bath, gargling water, grounding, drinking calming tea, forest bathing, etc. (More on self-regulation in Part 3.)

Okay...soooo...where to begin.

Self-awareness is an on-going process because we are always changing and evolving and also because there are a lot of factors that make us, us. So, like any form of gaining knowledge it requires study, but in this case, we are the subject. This is a great time to bring in the counselors, therapists, etc for their expertise on guiding that self-exploratory process in a safe way. Just as you would build a team of care providers with an injury, you want to build a mental health team as well. They can also help you get an unbiased view of yourself that friends, family and ourselves often cannot.

For those that have asked what tools and resources I've used over the years (in addition to counseling), I've provided some ideas below. There are tons and tons of resources out there so these are by no means the only tools you should or could use, they're simply either what I've found helpful or what others around me have found helpful. Also, keep in mind that we all come from different religions, cultures, belief systems and so on, so some things in this list won't be your cup of tea. Some things in this list aren't even my cup of tea, but I know others that find them helpful so I've added them in because they may be insightful to you as well.

As you dive into the self-awareness tools, you will discover that some things won't resonate with you right now, but may later down the road, and what resonates with you right now may not later on. It's a funny business like that, but it makes sense. You will outgrow certain ideas, perceptions, beliefs, behaviors if you're "doing the work." So keep what still works, let go of what doesn't, learn more, and repeat.

Let's get to know YOU

Key topics covered below, so scroll to what you're interested in;



Journal prompts


Character strengths


5 Love Languages





Do not underestimate the power of a good book. Books allow us to access knowledge, experience, wisdom, understanding from 100s and 1,000s of people which is truly a privilege and something we often take for-granted.

There are tons of great and helpful books out there, and there are tons I choose not to read because they don't resonate with me. This will likely happen to you as well, so don't feel guilty for not reading certain books that you think you "should" read if they aren't your cup of tea. Sometimes I will listen to an interview done with the author instead to still get valuable info, or use the magic of a library card. Many States even have ebooks and audiobooks through free library apps, I use the Libby app for instance. It's saved me money and space having digital access and can save you time if you don't end up liking the book because you can simply "return" it.

Of course, I still love my printed books and gathered together the ones that I've read over the years (or am still reading) that have helped me gain some awareness in different areas of my life such as career, mind, body, financial, spiritual, behavioral, and relationships.

BUT, as I've said before, the real power comes in the application of what you've learned in the book, and that is in your hands and your hands only.

Podcasts, YouTube, Blogs

This is actually a pretty great part of the interwebs, there's really no excuse these days to not "do the work" because there are so many free resources, it's amazing. The problem is, again, overwhelm because there are sooo many of them so I tend to stick with just a few that I know I will learn something from or that will inspire me in some way. You will find the ones that you resonate with over time. Also keep in mind that the areas you are interested in gaining awareness in may change overtime, depending on the season of life you are in. So again I'm just sharing what resonates with where I currently am;

Journaling & Checking In

One way that we can begin to gain awareness is by journaling and doing frequent check-ins with ourselves. 3 important things to check-in on to make big shifts in our resiliency are; our thoughts, our emotions, and our re-actions.



- How do I want to spend my time here?

- How do I want to serve others?

- How am I currently spending my time?

- Who do I want to be?

- What's stopping me from being that person?

- What's stopping me from being present?

- What have I not forgiven myself for?

- What have I not forgiven others for?

- What do I appreciate most about myself?

- What comes up with this phrase; I am loveable, I am more than enough, I am exactly where I need to be?

- What gets me in the state of flow?

- What am I doing when I feel joy?

- Who am I with when I feel joy?

- I am grateful for...

- Dear past self...

- Dear future self...

- I am letting go of...

- How do I feel in my body?

- Where do I see myself in 10 years? 5 years? 1 year?

- What's a situation I handle well?

- What's a situation I could have handled better?

- What are some of my biggest life lessons so far?


- Is this thought or behavior helpful or hurtful?

- Does this choice align with my values and intentions?

- How do I feel in this moment?

- Was there a thought that came before this emotion I am currently feeling?

- Have I done, felt or thought this before? If so, when? (follow this back to it's roots)


I have taken many free online courses to help me better understand myself. One great resource is coursera.

One that I am about to begin (so I cannot speak to it but I'll share it here) is; Know Thyself

Others that have been so helpful and inspired much of my work;

Character Strengths

One tool I love for self-awareness is character strengths. This helps us see what areas come to us naturally and which we may want to work on a bit or delegate to others with the particular set of strengths needed to get the "job" done.

We can call on our strengths when we are faced with a challenge and we can know when to ask for help if it's something outside of our strengths. Knowing our strengths can help us understand our role in groups, at work, and in relationships. It also is important to know these because there are "dark" sides, shadow sides, whatever you'd like to call it, to our strengths and weaknesses as well. For instance, my top strength came back as Judgement. This immediately sounded negative to me but it makes sense for my field. In order to be a good Doctor you need to have good discernment and be able to examine things from all sides. With that, of course, comes the dark side of being too judgemental if I do not stay self-aware. So in any of our strengths and weaknesses we have to bring awareness to the pros and cons so that we can call ourselves out when needed.

Lastly, in knowing our strengths and knowing our weaknesses, we can see why we don't jive with certain people or may be jealous of others. They may have a strength that we don't, and therefore we don't understand them, they drive us bonkers or we're envious. So this can help us be more compassionate to ourselves and others because although it means we can't be good at everything, it also means we are great at certain things.

Learn more and take the VIA survey here.

My top 5 results as of 2019; Judgement, Fairness, Creativity, Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Curiosity

Another popular strengths indicator is the 34 Clifton character strengths which focuses more so on talent and skills related to work.

Learn more about the 34 Clifton Character Strengths here.


Another favorite tool (sorry this one costs money, no affiliation) is knowing your conative action modes.

Huh? Yes, this may be a new term for you, it was new to me too!

Kolbe corp has put together a survey tool that you can use to get a better idea on your primary action modes; quick start, fact finder, follow thru, and implementer. Conation is about how we naturally spend our time and energy when left to our own devices, as well as which action modes give us energy and which drain us. Like character strengths, we all have some of each so what the test tells us is how much of each and also how we can use them to our benefit. Basically, quick starters are the idea generators and like to start lots of projects (but may not finish them), fact finders will look up every detail for instance about a vacation destination, follow thru's are all about systems and schedules down to the minute, and implementers like to work with their hands and often need a visual representation of an idea before they really get it (wood workers, athletes). What I like about this tool is that these tendencies generally do not change during our lives unlike certain learned behaviors that contribute to our "personality". More on that later.

This is one of the few tests I actually feel is worth the money. Not only did it help me understand why I am the last person to get my car fixed....It helped me understand why I work best under pressure, why I need to have all the facts before making decisions, and why I see things on a more macro level rather than the micro. This has also helped me see the areas I do not like to spend much time in so that I can outsource them when possible and use my energy in the areas I get the most enjoyment out of.

They have also developed tools for relationships which can help partners work better together. (And maybe understand why your partner just won't put their dang dishes away and why that drives you nuts).

Learn more and take the Kolbe Corp test here.

My results; 8- Quick Start, 7- Fact Finder, 4- Follow Thru, 2- Implementor

5 Love Languages

The 5 love languages was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman after his experience working with couples and individuals. This assessment can help us understand both how we receive love and how we show love which are not always the same. Though I think we all do each of these, some of them mean more to us than others. This can be impacted by how we were shown love growing up and also how we were not. We may seek out the love language that we were not given or may not find much joy from them because they aren't familiar, everyone responds differently.

The 5 Love Languages are;

  • Physical touch

  • Words of affirmation

  • Quality time spent

  • Acts of service

  • Gift giving

This can be helpful information to know about ourselves and those close to us because then we can be sure we are showing love in a way our friends, family and partner best receives it and can communicate how we would best feel loved. You may find that your partner already shows you love the ways you best receive it (coincidence?...maybe not).

Learn more about the 5 Love languages here.

Take the quiz here.

My results; Acts of service and quality time.

{A side note on personality}

In my opinion, personality is often environment dependent though we may have some dominant traits that persist. We tend to shift aspects of our personality based on who we are around and the situation we are in. I also think this is one of the more easily influenced aspects of ourselves and therefore, an area I think is constantly changing as we go through life. In fact, I took the Myers-Briggs early on in undergraduate school at a leadership camp and my results were different than what they are today. Right now they would consider me to be primarily extroverted though in the past I came up introverted. I know for me it's situational. I need a lot of downtime after long interactions or time in between longer sessions or group activities. I think this goes to show that it really is dependent and can vary so I think these tools to follow are more so helpful to determine how we are in certain areas of life such as our dominating personality at work, with our partners, with our friends, around our family, and in other social situations. When we look at our personality in this way we can have a better understanding of how we work best and who we may work best with.

The other element to keep in mind when taking personality tests and reviewing the systems I have below is that they are based on our responses which means that if we are not honest with our answers, our results will not be true to us. So be as honest as you can be and avoid putting answers you think you "should" put vs what you actually do or feel (try to think of examples that have occurred in your life as you go).


Myers-Briggs type indicator looks at 4 aspects of personality;

  • Extroversion vs Introversion

  • Sensing vs Intuitive

  • Thinking vs Feeling

  • Judgement vs Perception

According to MBTIonline this assessment helps you to understand your behavior, communication patterns, learning style, and decision making patterns.

Learn more about Myers-Briggs here and here.

Take a free version of the Myers-Briggs test here.

My results; ENFJ, ENTJ, and INTJ although most of them were nearly 50/50 aside from intuition which was dominant.

DiSC Personality Test

DISC stands for 4 areas;

  • Dominance

  • Influence

  • Steadiness

  • Conscientious

According to DiSC profile, DiSC assessment is used to understand communication styles, behavior patterns, and how you best work to help you be more productive and manage conflict in the workplace. It was first created by William Moulton Marston as a way to describe one's emotions and behaviors and has since been interpreted for use in the workplace.

Learn more about DISC here.

Take the free DISC personality test here.

My results: C/DS

Enneagram Test

Based on 9 basic personality types with the idea of finding your dominating personality type to better understand how we think, feel and our instincts; the reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger, and peacemaker.

This is one of the more intricate systems and I won't pretend to know the details but you can learn more about the Enneagram here and the types here.

Take the free Enneagram test here

My results; 98% match with Eight, 91% match with Five, 86% match with One


So, I think that's enough to get you started. Let me know what works for you and what else you've found helpful on your self-awareness journey. I look forward to learning and growing with you all. Parts 3-5 on Resilience coming soon.

In Health,

Kierstin DeWitt, ND, RAc

P.S. Be sure to check out Part 1: The Biological Influences here.

(The content in this post is intended is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized medical or professional advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your daily regimen.)

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