Increased self-awareness can increase our self-control or self-regulation because the more self-aware we are, the more salient our internal standards are. It’s almost like you have a natural defence against falling regulatory resources or ego depletion, because with heightened self-awareness, you have a motivation that comes from having a higher set of internal standards.
Despite this increased motivation, all of this actually takes energy. So whilst self-awareness, used in that context, can actually be helpful in regulating behaviour in the face of a depleted ego, there is another way to employ self-awareness that doesn’t drain as much regulatory resource.
As we discovered in the last module, there is internal self-awareness as well as awareness of the perceptions of others. Another way of framing this is self-identity and social identity or how you perceive yourself and how you are perceived by others, in the context of identity creation.
Having an alignment of self-identity with social identity draws less regulatory resources.
One of the reasons for this comes back to self-compassion and self-acceptance. If you accept who you are and how you occur to others, your inner-critic’s voice is hard to hear. Simply by not fighting your inner critic all day, you are freeing up internal resources to focus on other things.
So the end-of-day drain on regulatory resources to resist temptation is not as demanding. Think of this process as preventative mental medicine. If you can reduce the draw on internal resources, then the urges of temptation become less acute. With less audible negative self-talk, the drain on your regulatory resources is reduced and your likelihood of engaging in risky behaviour decreases. By learning this process of self-regulation, we can find a natural state of acceptance of self and connection to those around us. This state requires very little internal regulatory resource to manage.
In the next topic, we’ll look at the importance of values in regulating behaviour.