Self-awareness is the ability to understand our own emotions, how they impact performance, and the people around us. It is a foundational aspect of emotional intelligence that many consider a critical skill. Now that we have established the meaning and importance of self-awareness let’s start off with a staggering statistic. Studies show that most of us believe that we are self-aware, but only 10-15 percent of us actually are. Ouch, that stings!
Taking a look in the mirror can be intimidating, especially in work and business. We strive to build our reputation and career through strengths and competencies, so recognizing areas of challenge and limitation goes against the grain. Or does it?
There is a theory, some say phenomenon, in social psychology, called the Pratfall Effect that suggests people who we consider highly competent are found to be more likable when they make a mistake than those who don’t. These small errors are said to make the person more approachable and emphasize their human qualities. Using the Pratfall Effect can leverage our self-awareness to gain connection and trust with those around us. The flip side of leveraging this theory is that it does not tend to produce the same results for individuals who are seen as average.
Perhaps concepts like the Pratfall Effect can make us more willing to engage in introspection while becoming cognizant of how others see us. Are we highly competent? Average? Somewhere in between? What can we do to improve?
Whether we are early in our career or have advanced to the C-suite, building the skill of self-awareness is a continuous improvement process. Interestingly enough, the higher we climb on the career ladder, the more we need to work at growing self-awareness. The tendency to wear rose-colored glasses and label ourselves in the highly competent category blurs our ability to clearly assess the effectiveness of our performance and the relevance of our experiences. Career and leadership development greatly depends on our willingness to consciously choose self-awareness.
Everyone is unique when it comes to self-awareness and where we are on the journey. Here are a few things to consider:
Begin the Journey – We must start somewhere! First and foremost, we must want to develop our self-awareness. Even though self-awareness is important in the workplace, it’s personal work that does not originate from shame, blame, or other external pressure. If we aren’t fully bought into the concept of self-awareness, we are not likely to practice effectively or find value in trying.
Self-Awareness Should Be Managed – Mental health is an important issue in the workplace. Employees at all levels feel increasingly overwhelmed, leading to burnout, anxiety, depression, and other health issues. Self-awareness comes with many benefits but can take a turn if it results in extreme self-consciousness. Experts suggest focusing on the ‘what’ instead of the ‘why’ when being introspective. This keeps our thinking forward focused on taking action while minimizing negative thoughts.
Get to Know Yourself – Professional development initiatives offer many opportunities to learn more about yourself. This includes assessments that offer insight into communication styles, behaviors, strengths, limitations, values, and more. Getting to know yourself is also an ongoing activity. We are all works in progress as we develop, engage in new experiences, and expand our knowledge. Understanding how we show up for ourselves also impacts how we show up for others. The key is, once we know, we must put self-awareness into action.
Explore Feedback – This is likely the most intimidating aspect of the self-awareness journey. The feedback we receive may not be the feedback we want to hear. We may fear being wrong or embarrassed, but exploring feedback can help us to identify our blind spots, drive learning, and embrace challenges.
Self-awareness can open many doors of opportunity in work, business, and beyond. It is a reflective competency that catapults personal and professional development to the next level. Learning more about what self-awareness is and is not will support adopting a narrative that influences tangible results in our ability to communicate, solve problems, make decisions, manage, lead others, and so much more.
“If you are comfortable with yourself and know yourself, you’re going to shine and radiate, and other people are going to be drawn to you.” – Dolly Parton
Augusta, L. (2023, March 15). How To Increase Self-Awareness In The Workplace. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2023/03/15/how-to-increase-self-awareness-in-the-workplace/?sh=7fd37312259c
Brescia University. (2017, June 26). Interesting Psychological Phenomena: The Pratfall Effect. https://www.brescia.edu/2017/06/pratfall-effect/
Eurich, T. (2018, January 4). What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It). Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it
Well, T. (2019, September 30). Can You Be Too Self-Aware? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-clarity/201909/can-you-be-too-self-aware