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    Seeing Ourselves, Understanding Others: The Dynamic Duo of Self-Awareness and Empathy

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    Hello friends! This month let’s explore the ties between self-awareness and empathy. How does this affect our relationship? It’s difficult to understand or inspire others if you don’t know how YOU feel. So, tuning into yourself is the first step. A lack of emotional self-awareness also gets in the way of sensing the emotions of others – in other words, showing empathy.

    Couples often navigate a sea of emotions and complexities, with self-awareness and empathy holding the compass toward smoother waters. Understanding ourselves isn’t just introspection for the sake of it; it’s the cornerstone for understanding our partner better, and consequentially, creating a thriving relationship.

    So, if you’re reading this while side-eyeing your significant other or subtly herding them towards the laptop screen, hoping they’ll “accidentally” read this too, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dig-in to the importance of knowing thyself to understand others.

    Understanding Self-Awareness

    Self-awareness is not a rigid concept but more an ever-evolving narrative to our lives. It’s about embracing and understanding the ebb and flow of our thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions. I want to empower the individuals of the couples that I work with to peel back the layers of self-discovery toward a deeper understanding of themself. Let’s embrace the beauty of our authenticity as we take control of and truly show up for our life and our relationship.women in a field holding a mirror where her face would be Katheryn Barton LPC couples counseling relationships love empathy self-awareness

    Consider this: how can we truly understand and empathize with others if we do not truly understand ourselves and how we show up in the world.

    When I react out of embarrassment or hurt, what does that look like? If I am angry about something where is that anger actually, stemming from? Typically, anger is a more socially acceptable emotion than the more vulnerable one it is masking. Explore that and tell me what you uncover.

    I am challenging you to do some deep diving, to put some new or more descriptive labels to your emotions and the reactions that come from them. Getting to know ourselves is a continuous, lifelong process. Let’s celebrate this process of embracing who we are at our core.

    The Role of Empathy in Relationships

    Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a fundamental aspect of human connection and plays a pivotal role in fostering healthy relationships. What makes it so important? It is a powerful way to build trust and intimacy with others. When we truly feel understood we feel safer in our relationship. A sense of validation emerges. This allows us to be more open and vulnerable with our partner and allows us to connect on a deeper level. It also offers a foundation for mutual respect and clearer communication.

    By incorporating empathy into our lives and relationships we not only enhance the quality of our relationships we also enhance our overall life and connection with the world and others. As we cultivate empathy, we develop a greater awareness of the diverse experiences and emotions that shape the human condition. This heightened understanding enables us to navigate conflicts more effectively, as we become attuned to the needs and perspectives of those around us. Moreover, practicing empathy fosters a sense of community and cooperation, as individuals are more inclined to collaborate when they feel seen and understood. Ultimately, a more empathetic society promotes kindness, tolerance, and inclusivity, creating a ripple effect that positively impacts not only our interpersonal relationships but also our collective human experience.

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    The Link Between Self-Awareness and Empathy

    The intriguing part? Self-awareness and empathy feed into each other, in a beautiful cycle of growth. A heightened self-awareness enables a person to regulate their emotions, make intentional choices, and communicate more effectively. As a result, when engaged in a relationship, individuals with a strong sense of self-awareness are better equipped to express their needs, articulate their feelings, and contribute positively to the partnership. As we delve deeper into our own psyches, we unearth past experiences, biases, and emotional triggers. This excavation doesn’t just bring us clarity; it arms us with the knowledge to recognize those same triggers in our partner.

    Imagine the knowledge of self-awareness as a shield, deflecting the arrows of misunderstanding and defensiveness that so often appear in the heat of an argument. But this shield isn’t just for our defense; it’s a mirror, reflecting our partner’s emotions back at them, creating a space for dialogue and understanding. Emotional intelligence allows individuals to empathize more deeply with their partners, recognizing and validating their emotions. Moreover, self-awareness prevents projection and allows for a more accurate interpretation of a partner’s feelings. Consequently, couples who are both self-aware and empathetic create a positive feedback loop, as their mutual understanding fosters a supportive and compassionate environment. In such relationships, partners can react to each other’s needs with empathy, building a stronger connection based on genuine understanding and emotional intimacy. Again, using that shield as a way to avoid the communication barriers and allow space for communication and understanding.

    Challenges in Developing Self-Awareness and Empathy

    To say that developing self-awareness and empathy is a walk in the park is like saying Romeo and Juliet had a calm, stable relationship. Building empathy can be challenging as it requires a deep understanding and connection with the emotions and experiences of others. One of the difficulties lies in overcoming personal biases and perspectives, as individuals may unconsciously project their own feelings and assumptions onto others. Additionally, the complexity of human emotions makes it challenging to accurately interpret and respond to the myriad of feelings that people may be experiencing. Misunderstandings can arise when empathy is hindered by a lack of awareness or sensitivity to the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of those around us.

    Several factors can impede the development of empathy, both generally and within the context of a romantic relationship. Emotional barriers, such as fear of vulnerability or an inability to express one’s own emotions, may hinder the ability to connect with and understand a partner’s feelings. Communication breakdowns, stemming from a lack of effective dialogue or active listening, can also be a significant obstacle to empathy. Moreover, preconceived notions and expectations about a partner’s behavior or emotional responses can cloud one’s ability to truly empathize, as these assumptions may lead to misinterpretations and a failure to grasp the genuine emotions at play. Building empathy requires ongoing effort, self-reflection, and a commitment to understanding others without judgment, even in the midst of challenges within a relationship.

    Practical Tips for Cultivating Self-Awareness and Empathy

    Now, we roll up our sleeves and talk strategy. Here are the lifehacks and tools in our emotional toolkit:

    1. Reflection and Mindfulness: These aren’t just for the yogis and monks among us. Take time regularly for self-reflection and mindfulness exercises. This can include meditation, journaling, or simply quiet contemplation. By being present in the moment and reflecting on your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Taking a moment every day to just breathe can do wonders for self-awareness. And with awareness comes the space to choose—how we respond, how we empathize.

    2. Solicit Feedback: Seek feedback from trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. Others often have valuable insights that you might not be aware of. Be open to constructive feedback and use it as an opportunity for growth. Understanding how you are perceived by others can enhance your self-awareness.

    3. Emotional Intelligence Development: Work on developing your emotional intelligence by recognizing and understanding your own emotions. Pay attention to how different situations impact your emotional state. This awareness can help you manage your emotions effectively and navigate interpersonal relationships more successfully. Do this by slowing down and asking yourself what is happening for you in the moment and where is it coming from. You can also look back on your day and examine where emotions came up and what was happening for you in that moment. This is where one of those emotional wheel pillows comes in handy. Look up different words you can use to describe what you are feeling. Let’s grow our vocabulary too!

    4. Set and Reflect on Goals: Define personal and professional goals and regularly assess your progress. Understanding your aspirations and motivations can provide insight into your values and priorities. Regularly revisiting and adjusting your goals can help you stay aligned with your evolving sense of self. This can also be a space of congratulations. Acknowledge the work you are putting in and give yourself a pat on the back for it.

    5. Personality Assessments: Consider taking personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Big Five Personality Traits, or StrengthsFinder. While these tools have their limitations, they can offer insights into your natural tendencies, strengths, and areas for growth. Use these results as a starting point for self-discovery and understanding. Plus, who doesn’t love taking a personality test? I know I do!

    6. Seek Professional Help: Therapists are like the relationship exterminators. They help clear out the emotional pests that breed in the dark corners of miscommunication. When this feels hard or if you are feeling stuck in trying to get started, working with a professional to have them ask the hard questions is a great way to learn more about yourself!therapy session Katheryn Barton LPC couples counseling office support relationships connection love empathy self-awareness

    Remember, building self-awareness is an ongoing process that requires commitment and a willingness to explore various aspects of yourself. It involves embracing both strengths and areas for improvement, fostering a deeper understanding of your values, beliefs, and behaviors.


    In conclusion, self-awareness stands as a cornerstone for personal growth and a flourishing relationship. An enhanced self-awareness empowers individuals to navigate their emotions, understand their motivations, and align their actions with their values. This introspective clarity not only fosters a stronger sense of identity and purpose but also lays the groundwork for more meaning and authenticity in your relationship.

    Crucially, self-awareness forms the bridge to empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As we deepen our understanding of ourselves, we naturally become more attuned to the experiences of those around us. In relationships, the intersection of self-awareness and empathy becomes particularly vital. Cultivating empathy for your partner involves not only recognizing their emotions but also understanding the impact of our own actions on the relationship dynamic. This reciprocal exchange of empathy fosters a deeper connection, promotes mutual growth, and contributes to the overall strength and resilience of the relationship. Ultimately, the synergy of self-awareness and empathy creates a foundation for individuals and couples to thrive, fostering a shared journey of understanding, support, and personal and relational evolution.

    Through your own reflections, mindfulness, listening and taking in the feedback of others and personality assessments you can grow your self-awareness and use that to influence and deepen the connection with your partner.

    Take this to the next level! I can’t wait to see and hear how it goes!


    Katheryn Barton

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