“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.” – Billie Jean King
The first part of building our emotional intelligence is through our personal competence. Personal competence is made up of two parts: our self-awareness and our self-management. Both have a strong focus on emotions and learning how to understand our emotions and manage them.
Horses support us as wonderful coaches to increase our personal competence because they are always in tune with our nervous system and responding to our emotions. With their body language, horses let us know when there is a shift in our nervous system — which can help us better understand our emotions and what is happening in our bodies. This works together to help us be aware of and able to manage our emotions, instead of them controlling us. By understanding our emotions, we are able to respond in a more positive and productive way to situations that we may have jumped to conclusions about in the past.
Let’s begin with self-awareness, because really, none of the other elements of emotional intelligence can come together without it. What is self-awareness? It is understanding what makes you tick, what causes you discomfort, and what elicits a positive response to a variety of life experiences.
Self-awareness is about knowing what motivates and satisfies you. What pushes your buttons? Often people push ‘negative’ emotions away instead of embracing them and attempting to better understand them. We should not hide from situations of discomfort, but instead embrace them and use them as a source of information for greater understanding.
Horses encourage our authentic selves to come out. They connect with you when you are real with yourself and with them. This may look like admitting to a ‘negative’ emotion like nervousness, fear, or anger. It’s knowing that feeling this way is a part of the process of becoming self-aware and shouldn’t be pushed down inside of us.
Emotions come along with every situation you find yourself in and the more you resist them the more challenging you will find it to think clearly with purpose. When we don’t take the time to notice and recognize our emotions, they have a way of resurfacing when we least expect/want them to.
How do we increase our self-awareness? There are many different strategies that you can use to do this. Here are four to get your started.
- Don’t treat your emotions as good or bad. Suspend any judgment of emotions. Just allow them to flow, no matter what they are. When you remove judgment, then it lets you explore and understand the emotions and what may have caused it.
- Notice where you feel and experience your emotions physically in your body. The physical sensations that accompany an emotion or may even precede it, such as stomach tightening, increase in heart rate, or a dry mouth, are important for understanding your emotions. Once your mind is open to feeling sensations you may often be more physically aware of your emotions before you are mentally aware, which can help with knowing what emotions you are feeling.
- Don’t be fooled by a bad mood. When we are in a bad mood it puts a cloud over every other emotion that may come up. Self-awareness requires recognizing what you are going through, even if you can’t change it. Low moods will pass if you allow them to. Don’t hold onto the mood — instead let it run its course.
- Ask yourself why. When emotions rumble to the surface, ask yourself why. What changed that made these emotions occur? Tracing your emotions back to the origin, aids in understanding them and in return you’ll be better equipped to know when certain emotions may come up.
Self-awareness if the first step to improve our emotional intelligence through personal competence. The next step involves self-management, which works hand in hand with self-awareness. Stay tuned for tips on improving our self-management!
About the Author: Juliana Newport is a summer intern supporting the experiences and programs offered at The Mane Intent Inc. Along with her love for horses, she has just finished her third year as a Psychology Student at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. With prior insight into how horses yearn to create relationship and provide loving, non-judgmental support for people, Juliana hopes to deepen her knowledge of the connection between horses and greater wellness while working at the farm this summer.