August 11, 2022 by Lauren Gombas
In coaching and other helping professions, self-awareness means knowing how our actions, thoughts, and emotions align with our values. Rather than something that indicates a sense of being hyper-aware or insecure, self-awareness empowers someone to make objective assessments of themselves and make choices to adjust in a way that matches with their internal standards.
Self-awareness begins in infancy when a baby realizes that others are separate from itself. No one is born a master, and this skill can be continuously developed throughout life. It’s a powerful tool in helping us shape the life we want to live. It supports us in seeing goal-related obstacles, helps us be effective leaders, and provides us with more accurate evaluations of ourselves. Unfortunately, many go through life without enough self-awareness to know who they are, what they want, and how to have meaningful relationships.
While a client may lack self-awareness due to mental health concerns (at which point they should be referred to a therapist or counselor), lack of self-awareness can most often be attributed to lack of practice or a self-serving bias. As a coach, it’s important to be aware of the signs a client may be struggling with self-awareness and focus the coaching questions on helping them identify strategies to strengthen this muscle.
Approaching a client about their lack of self-awareness can be uncomfortable, especially if they’ve been hesitant or defensive about the topic to this point. Luckily, as coaching naturally inspires insights, there are ways to help a client build their self-awareness through carefully placed insights and powerful questions.
Coaching draws on positive psychology, which helps people enhance their strengths rather than focus on their flaws. By helping clients focus on their strengths, coaches can help them identify potential lapses in self-awareness, both around strengths and areas of potential growth. There are a number of ways to approach a conversation about self-awareness with your client, and each depend largely on where your client falls on their journey toward it. The strategies listed below are just a few ways you can help your client further develop their self-awareness.
John, our founder, does a great job of likening coaching work with workout reps. Similar to building muscle, our minds, personalities, and internal strengths can always stand to be exercised and further developed. Self-awareness is no different. Just as going to the gym daily helps build different muscle groups, there are exercises that clients can engage in regularly to help build self awareness.
Accountability from the coach is critical here, as once action steps are decided, the way to continue improving is to stick with it. An example of a self-awareness “rep” could be writing one paragraph daily for two weeks in a journal about an area of self-awareness on which they want to improve. Again, this is consistent and actionable, just like doing sit-ups or lifting weights.
We want to hear from you! How can you practice self-awareness more regularly? What challenges have you faced head-on in supporting your client's journey toward self-awareness?
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