Another Time Around … for Self-Awareness/ Self-Knowledge/ Self-Care

How we care

It is well established that how nurses relate to themselves impacts the quality of their relationships and connections, and the care they provide.

“One can only understand in another what is understood in self.”   E-B, p297.

There is no way around it …     Caring starts with self.

Caring connections originate within the nurse, spark from a connection between the nurse and other, are nurtured by the nurse’s internal resources, and can only be sustained by the nurse.

How we care is about …      How we see ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, how we love ourselves, how we care for ourselves.  

Yes, there is the phenomenon of nurses being prone to ‘people-pleasing’ to the detriment of themselves.    We know that this is not healthy, can lead to burn-out and caring fatigue, and cannot be sustained without self-care intervention at some point.

Personal knowledge – a personal renaissance

We also know that self-care and development of self-awareness and self- knowledge is a personal journey … they take time to master and are difficult to teach in the healthcare industry.

And yet, here we are in an age of growing mindfulness and wellness consciousness.  There is a Personal Renaissance underway all around us in our society, and this calls to nursing to respond. 

Bigger issue

To get to the core of self … the bigger issue for nurses is the stress of job demands and the unreachability of authentic caring in the healthcare industry.  How do we reconcile these two opposing energies as nurses and as nurse leaders?

Caring skills – authentic caring skills –  are as critical as clinical skills.  … and it starts with self-care,  self-awareness, and self-knowledge.  

We have to bring self-care and self-growth into the hallways at work. Nurses can benefit from meaningful conversations about caring — its origins in self-awareness, what practices support caring.  These conversations can be momentary in the middle of rounds, in-between the nurses’ patients and in the hallways.   

We start by talking

As leaders, we can start talking about self-awareness with our peers and with nurses.  It’s healing to hear about others’ journeys into self-awareness and growth — the routine /easy ways of becoming self-aware and the hard ways, the stumbling blocks, the inevitable vulnerabilities, and the a-ha’s.  Sharing the positives and the negatives makes us human, real in the eyes of nurses.  And the a-ha’s shared by nurses help us grow.

What comes with sharing our awakening … is learning how all of us have feelings and emotions that dominate our lives and need to be heard.  How paying attention to our negative feelings can not only reduce their power, but make us more open to others.  “One can only understand in another what is understood in self.”

The benefits of sharing are clear for everyone.  “When we share our humanity, no one turns away”  (J Doty).   It helps us learn and grow, clarifies our thoughts,  slows things down and allows us to experience a moment of shared self-care.


Eckroth-Bucher M. Self-Awareness: A Review and Analysis of a Basic Nursing Concept. ANS, 2010; 33(4): 297-309.
image courtesy of ashley-batz

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