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Understanding the Role of Self-Awareness in Borderline Personality Disorder

Have you been told by mental health professionals that you have a lot of self-awareness? Unfortunately, having too much self-awareness can actually make things worse if you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Although it is usually seen as a positive thing, having an excessive amount of it can exacerbate the symptoms of BPD.

This article will discuss the neuroscience behind self-awareness and how having too much of it can affect someone with BPD.

All throughout my life, every mental health professional I've talked to has been like ''You have a lot of self-awareness'' and I'm like: ''Yes, I actually think that is part of my problem.'' I usually respond with a mix of gratitude and frustration since I feel like it's been a double-edged sword. It's both a gift and a burden. While self-awareness has undoubtedly helped me improve in many ways, it has also made me aware of some problems that I may not have otherwise noticed. Being so self-aware definitely made me who I am today, which I should be proud of, but also makes the journey more painful and difficult.

What Does it Mean to Be Self-Aware?

When you are highly self-aware, you may find yourself being overly self-conscious in social situations. Instead of paying attention to other people, your mind is constantly preoccupied with thoughts about yourself, such as "Do I look stupid?" or "Do I sound stupid?" You thoroughly think about everything you say and do. As a result, you become the primary focus of your attention, and your mind is fixated on evaluating yourself rather than enjoying the moment.

Self-awareness is the ability to reflect and examine one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It involves being able to recognize one's strengths and weaknesses, which is crucial for personal growth. This ability is rooted in the default mode network (DMN). The DMN is a set of brain regions that become active when we are not focused on the outside world, such as during daydreaming or self-reflection. This network allows us to engage in self-referential processing, which is the ability to think about ourselves and our experiences in relation to others.

The biggest difference between most animals and humans is the DMN. Humans have a more developed DMN than other animals, which allows us to engage in more complex self-referential processing. Animals go about their day without thinking about themselves doing it. They just do it. Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to reflect on themselves. It allows us to reflect on our actions and our sense of self. For example, if a deer can't find food in ten places, it doesn't feel bad about itself. But if a human asks ten people out and they all say no, the human may start to feel bad about themselves because of the rejection.

The Relationship Between Self-Awareness and BPD

People with BPD tend to have an overly active DMN, which can lead to excessive self-reflection, negative self-talk, and rumination, which can exacerbate the symptoms of BPD. They tend to view tiny things as major failures and often blame themselves for things that are not their fault. This tendency to overly self-reflect can lead to feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and hopelessness, all of which are associated with the disorder.

People with BPD often experience hyperarousal and panic, leading them to believe that they need to respond perfectly to every little clue in order to avoid rejection. But this hyperfocus on perfection means they don't pay attention to their own self-worth, leading to self-criticism and self-hatred. They are extremely aware of their own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and mistakes. They are very self-aware, but others may not recognize this because they see them doing destructive things in their relationships. However, these destructive behaviors are often the result of being overwhelmed by intense emotions, not a lack of awareness. After the emotions subside, they may be left feeling regretful and critical of themselves.

However, a big part of overcoming the challenges of BPD is by understanding yourself and the disorder. As you become more self-aware, you may find that you are better able to reflect on your thoughts and behaviors, especially in the context of your relationships. Identifying triggers or situations that lead to intense emotions or impulsive behaviors is the first step in developing effective coping mechanisms. By reflecting on these patterns, you can start to adopt healthier responses and improve your sense of self-worth. For instance, if you typically withdraw from others during times of distress, you can learn to recognize these feelings and practice alternative ways to deal with them more healthily. And as you gain a deeper understanding of your own thoughts and behaviors, you may also become more empathetic and understanding towards others. Rather than taking a loved one's behavior personally by thinking that it's a reflection of how they feel about you, you can recognize that it's likely a reflection of their own struggles and challenges. I wrote a book on understanding BPD that could be a helpful resource for your journey, which is available on this page.

It is important for individuals with BPD to balance self-awareness with self-compassion and acceptance. Instead of criticizing themselves for their flaws and mistakes, they should learn to embrace them as part of their growth and development. Practicing mindfulness techniques and cognitive-behavioral therapy can also help individuals with BPD regulate their emotions and reduce their self-criticism.

In conclusion, self-awareness is an important tool for personal growth and development, but having too much of it can be detrimental to our mental health, especially for individuals with BPD. Instead of criticizing ourselves for our flaws and mistakes, we should learn to embrace them as part of our growth and development. By doing so, we can build a more positive and resilient mindset.

1 Comment

Elizabeth Gray
Elizabeth Gray
May 14, 2023

This broke my heart and was so needed. Thank you. I'm crying but it's a good

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