Helen McKillen

helenmckillen self awareness


Self-awareness is something many people struggle with, myself included. Ever since I can remember I had this pervasive fear and anxiety. I believed there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed. Back then there was nothing like the plethora of self-help books that are available today, but I did buy a particular book titled “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am”. This was the first time I had read something that articulated how I felt. That if I could just find what was “missing” from me, I would be OK.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. So I continued over the years, looking for answers in books and courses.  Some were useful, but the problem was that I was holding a distorted image of how I thought I should be. Like many people I was continually focusing on what was wrong and missing in life,  rather than looking at what was good and present within me.

It wasn’t until I hit my own personal rock bottom . I came to see that I was continually hurting myself  with my destructive thinking and compulsive behaviour.  I was causing my own pain. Thankfully, self-awareness was my key to freedom from despair and self-doubt. I learned to accept all parts of myself, not just the parts that I thought would be acceptable to others.

I will use the model of the Johari window to explain.

This is the self that we are happy for people to see. It’s the self we project out into the world. You could say it’s our best show reel. Featuring our achievements, successes, and life when everything is going well.  Many people get caught up in this view of themselves,  thinking that they have to continually project  positivity and prosperity. But it is unrealistic. Life is not always going to be bright and sunny.


This is the part of us we don’t want to be seen.  Preferring to keep it hidden from others and sometimes, even from ourselves. We don’t want to acknowledge  that we are afraid. Or, that we doubt ourselves and feel vulnerable, so we keep them hidden. We also limit our potential by playing small. Fearing that if we step out of our comfort zone we might fail, be criticised, or rejected. Unfortunately, hiding or rejecting this part of ourselves can trigger coping behaviours like overeating, drinking or drug use.  Just like anyone who has been rejected in life – all this part of ourselves wants is to be accepted. What we have hidden, maybe the very thing we need to accept. This is the first step towards transformation.

Today, vulnerability is my strength. I can use it to connect with others who feel the same. It’s now the part of myself that is known and not hidden.


Is the part of us that we may not be aware of but others see quite clearly. We may view ourselves as progressive and determined, but fail to see at times that we can be hurtful and arrogant in the process.

Equally, we can be blind to the natural talents and abilities that have a positive impact on those we live and work with every day.  Sometimes, just taking the time to pay attention and notice how we are in relationship with others can be useful.  Checking in to see are we kind and patient in all our dealings with others?

Can we listen to others give their opinions even when they differ from our own. Do we accept that sometimes we don’t always know the right thing to do?  It’s a great relief when we don’t have to always be on the defensive . We can relax and be OK with whatever happens.


For many, this is the part of us that we haven’t yet discovered… we don’t know what is possible within us until we step out of our comfort zone into the great unknown. This is when we are challenged to let go of our limited beliefs about how we must and should be in life. It’s time to open our mind to possibility and growth. Unless we change how we see ourselves, the self we see will never change… it will always be stuck on the treadmill of life just waiting for someone to give us permission to get off.

This is an opportunity to rediscover aspects of ourselves that we may have abandoned. Our creativity, love of nature, interests in music, reading or just having fun. All the important things that we need to keep us in balance.  Nothing is certain in life, but prioritising and making time for these things can contribute to us feeling a whole lot better than living on a diet of stress and worry.

Self-awareness has helped me to see myself and life from a different perspective. We are all unique . There is no one size fits all type of person and no one size fits all solution in life.  As Maya Angelou so rightly said:

We are all doing the best that we can with what we know, when we know better, we can do better.”

In the meantime, be kind and understanding of yourself in the process.
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