Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

T-SEL Competencies: Self-Awareness

The Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (T-SEL) competency of self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.

The Competencies, developed for voluntary use, complement the California Transformative Social and Emotional Learning Conditions for Thriving. For background on the development of these competencies and guidance on their purpose and use, please visit the T-SEL Competencies and Conditions for Thriving web page.



Description of the competency, key ideas, and examples.

The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose. Self-awareness includes abilities such as:

  • Integrating personal and social identities
  • Identifying personal, cultural, and linguistic assets
  • Identifying one’s emotions
  • Demonstrating honesty and integrity
  • Linking feelings, values, and thoughts
  • Examining prejudices and biases
  • Experiencing self-efficacy
  • Having a growth mindset
  • Developing interests and a sense of purpose
  • Reflecting on one’s personal role and contributions within a community

(Adapted from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning 2020 External link opens in new window or tab. )


Research-based reasons for developing this competency.

Developing self-awareness in adults and students is integral to:

Healthy and integrated identity development: Having a strong sense of self and recognizing how one’s experiences and background contribute to who they are helps students and adults to recognize privileges and mitigate against stress and the negative mental health effects of discrimination and trauma (Nagaoka et. al., 2015; Shaffer, 2018). Exploring ethnic-racial identity (ERI), in particular, is important to healthy identity development in all students, including those in minority and majority groups. By intentionally exploring one’s ERI, young people are better prepared to face challenges of racism and privilege, as well as those related to academic and professional success and social and emotional well-being (Rivas-Drake & Umaña-Taylor, 2019).

Building self-knowledge about purpose, values, and roles in community: Helping young people develop a sense of purpose contributes to well-being and has been tied to improved physical health (Cotton Bronk, 2014). Recognizing one’s own strengths, preferences, and values are key elements of positive youth development and help students and adults participate effectively in community (Saito & Sullivan, 2011).

Recognizing emotions and their connection to behavior and maintaining a growth mindset: The ability to recognize one's emotions (and therefore use strategies to harness them productively) is essential to building positive relationships, developing agency, self-determination, and achieving goals (Hoffman, et al., 2020). Those who cultivate a growth mindset—that is, the belief that intelligence and talent can be developed through effort—are more likely to succeed academically, personally, and professionally (Dweck, 2006).

Strong, fair relationships: Educators who are self-aware are better able to foster a positive classroom environment and, therefore, cultivate supportive relationships with students (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Increasing educators’ awareness includes examining the relationship between expectations for students and beliefs around gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic factors, and reactions to student behavior including disciplinary practices (Stark et al, 2020; Okonofua, & Eberhardt, 2015; Copur-Gencturk, 2020).

Student and Community Statements

“I Can" and "We Can” short statements about the competency.

Student Statement: I can identify what emotion I am experiencing and understand how my thoughts and emotions can influence the way I act. I know what is important to me, am honest and fair, and I believe in my abilities.

Community Statement: We can acknowledge that we all have feelings, emotions, and thoughts based on our identities and experiences that are important and need to be heard. These feelings and emotions lead to behaviors that affect each and every one of us. We will act with honesty and integrity as we contribute our skills and talents to our community.


Self-Awareness Resource Collection External link opens in new window or tab.


References cited



Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
1.A.1. Students name their personal characteristics and life experiences and have an increasingly accurate basic sense of self. Students are aware of their own likes and dislikes. 1.A.2. Students understand how some aspects of their personal and social identity can change over time and be shaped by themselves, others, and their experiences. Students show confidence and pride in their identity without needing to feel superior to others. 1.A.3. Students identify and explore their different social identities, including race, ethnicity, language, gender, and ability. Students begin to explore the concept of intersectionality. Students cultivate a healthy, well-grounded sense of self- confidence based on their strengths. 1.A.4. Students work to understand multiple aspects of their identity including race, ethnicity, language, gender, and ability, among others, and how they intersect. Students recognize the evolving and dynamic nature of identity based on context and perceptions of self and others. 1.A.5. Adults have deep and accurate knowledge of their own identity and its implications for their role in supporting student development. Adults model continuous reflection and exploration of their own evolving identity.
1.B.1. Students recognize, label, and understand basic emotions in themselves and know that more than one emotion can be experienced at once. Students are aware of how emotions can affect their body. 1.B.2. Students recognize the intensity of their emotions and can name increasingly complex emotions. Students identify when they feel stressed or anxious. 1.B.3. Students examine and reflect on the underlying causes of emotions. Students recognize the difference between emotions and feelings. Students work to label, with specificity, their feeling states. 1.B.4. Students accurately label and understand their feeling states and can embrace strong emotions without judgment. 1.B.5. Adults recognize, understand, label with granularity, and accept their emotions.
1.C.1. Students name people, places, and ideas that are important to them. Students can describe their own family traditions. 1.C.2. Students articulate their beliefs about topics that are important to them, their family, and their learning community. 1.C.3. Students explore the concept of values: how they are formed, how they reflect our identity and experiences, and how they are applied. Students start to examine how personal perspectives and values can be challenged. 1.C.4. Students deepen their understanding of their own perspectives, values, beliefs, and mental models. Students critically examine and question their own perspectives and opinions. 1.C.5. Adults continuously reflect on and critically examine their own mental models, ideologies, and life experiences, and evaluate how these influence their beliefs and values.


Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
1.D.1. Students understand acceptance versus exclusion and how they help or harm others. 1.D.2. Students are able to reflect on their own experiences of inclusion and
exclusion and of being excluded and
excluding others.
1.D.3. Students begin to identify their prejudices and biases and how those might impact their behaviors toward others related to being inclusive or exclusive. 1.D.4.Students are regularly identifying and interrupting their own prejudices and implicit biases and reflecting on the impact on others. 1.D.5. Adults continually reflect on and interrupt their own prejudices and biases in regard to academic and behavioral expectations of students, including how those impact discipline, grading, giving leadership opportunities, and whose voices are heard in the learning environment.
1.E.1. Students identify ways to help and practice helping others at school, home, and other settings. 1.E.2. Students describe their roles and contributions in the different settings in which they participate. Students identify characteristics and habits they have and how they may affect others in their learning community. 1.E.3. Students begin to identify what they need from communities they belong to and assess if their needs are being met. Students are aware of the ways they are or are not meeting the needs of others in their learning community. 1.E.4. Students can assess and analyze areas of need in their community and make a plan to contribute. Students can reflect on the quality and impact of their community service and civic engagement. 1.E.5. Adults model being contributing, reflective, and caring community members with students and other adults in the learning community.


Early Elementary Late Elementary Middle School High School Adult
1.F.1. Students reflect on experiences as the causes of certain emotions. Students recognize the purpose of emotions and name simple ways their emotions influence their decisions and behavior. 1.F.2. Students recognize how their emotions are information they can choose to harness and use. Students understand that there are no “bad” emotions and that their feeling states can be changed intentionally. 1.F.3. Students recognize the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and behavior based on brain science. Students recognize how they express their emotions may be influenced by their culture and experiences. 1.F.4. Students deepen their understanding of brain and body connections and how behavior is shaped by culture and lived experiences. Students can assess and respond to their environment by choosing to code-switch. 1.F.5. Adults are able to identify the connections between a thought, feeling, and behavior, and interrupt the cycle that results in a negative consequence for self or others. Adults model cultural awareness around emotions.
1.G.1. Students are aware of, and distinguish between, their wants and needs. Students can name their strengths such as skills, knowledge, or talents. 1.G.2. Students articulate their needs in constructive ways. Students begin to develop a sense of personal purpose and feel that their lives are important and meaningful. 1.G.3. Students develop a sense of personal power and can identify and use their personal, social, and cultural assets in healthy ways. 1.G.4. Students identify and apply their personal strengths and assets to deepen their sense of power and pursue their purpose. 1.G.5. Adults model the process of how they have identified their strengths and personal power and how they use them to better serve their life purpose and the lives of others.
1.H.1. Students believe in their capacity to learn and that they are capable, important community members. Students practice having an optimistic outlook. 1.H.2. Students are more accurate in their perceptions and gain confidence in their own thoughts and well-founded opinions but are open to trying and listening to new and different ideas. 1.H.3. Students examine and reflect on how beliefs about themselves and about learning intersect (mastery orientation versus performance orientation) and the impact on their optimism and confidence. 1.H.4. Students deepen and build a more nuanced understanding of self-efficacy by embracing and leveraging mistakes as opportunities for growth, displaying a well-developed mastery orientation to learning. 1.H.5. Adults model a mastery orientation to learning, including the process of making mistakes, intellectual humility, practicing positive self-talk, and demonstrating optimism and a growth mindset.

Questions:   Social Emotional Learning Office |
Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 29, 2024