Self-Awareness is a Superpower for Career Mental Well-being and Happiness
& How Brize Helps Develop It
There is a growing recognition that self-awareness is the secret to career success, happiness, and mental well-being.
A joint effort by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center found that 85% of career success is determined by well-developed soft and people skills. That means our technical skills and intelligence contribute just 15%.
And self-awareness is the foundation of all soft and people skills. We all most likely can point to an example that gets our heads shaking in agreement that self-awareness contributes to success and happiness. Like knowing what motivates us, goal-oriented or relationships-oriented, our values, strengths, weaknesses, and our preferred work and communication styles. This is probably why Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times bestselling author, found in her research that 95% of people believe they are self-aware. But when she measured actual self-awareness, only 12% – 15% were found to be self-aware.
The World Health Organization also recognized the importance of self-awareness and has identified it as one of the skills that power good health across all cultures. Meaning, self-awareness or self-knowledge is essential to mental well-being.
Some of the many benefits of self-awareness include successful decision-making, stronger self-confidence, more effective communication, an ability to understand things from different perspectives, and building stronger work relationships.
How Self-Awareness Produces the Benefits
These all sound great, right. But you may be wondering exactly how self-awareness leads to these benefits or positive job performance, success, and happiness. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
Let’s start with knowing our strengths & weaknesses. This self-knowledge helps us focus on what we do well, which naturally leads to positive job performance and seeking help with our weaknesses. If we attempt to go it alone and work on a project requiring skills where we are weak, this will most likely lead to less than desired work output quality. But when we ask for help in areas where we are weak, our overall work output quality improves. This self-knowledge removes unnecessary stress and anxiety of trying to achieve everything on our own.
Another example is knowing our co-workers’ different work styles, which reduces misunderstandings. We can misinterpret our colleagues’ comments, behaviors, or actions when we do not understand their work style. For example, some people will avoid conflict at all costs. Their behaviors can be misinterpreted as not caring about their jobs, which is often not the case. These colleagues can be very dedicated, hardworking individuals. They will just do anything to avoid conflict and seem to disappear when it happens.
Understanding different work styles also helps us communicate our ideas to different individuals in a way that they all understand. This knowledge of others reduces our frustration and thinking, “why don’t they get what I am saying?” or “Why can’t they see that this idea is important?” You can most likely feel that frustration right now if you have had similar situations in the past.
And our behaviors can be misinterpreted by our co-workers more than we likely realize. Here is a seemingly silly but real example. Some people subconsciously grimace or make odd-looking faces when processing information. These non-verbal cues can be interpreted as disagreeing with what someone said or even disrespecting the person speaking. In reality, the listener is working to understand better what they heard. We need help from our colleagues to understand our mannerisms to ensure we are not being misinterpreted.
How to Develop Deeper Self-Awareness
First, let’s start by better understanding self-awareness because it is broader than some of us realize.
Self-awareness is the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us. Which can create that gap Tasha Eurich’s research found between individuals who believe they are self-aware but actually are not.
Ultimately, self-awareness is a deep understanding of our emotions, strengths, weaknesses, desires, motivations, and approaches to work, and how others interpret these personal attributes.
In her research, Tasha Eurich identified two categories of self-awareness: internal and external self-awareness. She defines internal self-awareness as clearly understanding our attributes and our impact on others. And external self-awareness is an understanding of how other people view us and our impact on others.
In the work environment, we need to understand how we go about doing work, how others interpret our behaviors, and how our role is interrelated with our colleagues’ roles. We need to understand ourselves, understand the uniqueness of our colleagues, and know how we can interact collaboratively to achieve our personal goals, responsibilities, and tasks and ensure our company or organization achieves its goals.
Internal self-awareness leads to stronger confidence and better decision-making at work, which leads to high-quality output, which leads to higher job satisfaction, happiness, and success.
When we are externally self-aware, we also make sounder decisions while building stronger relationships, collaborating efficiently, and communicating more effectively. We need to understand how others perceive us so that we can make adjustments to ensure colleagues do not misinterpret our comments, actions, and behaviors.
Where to Start?
Knowing how to develop self-awareness can be overwhelming. Our approach at Brize builds both internal and external self-awareness through a career goals lens that directly impacts our co-worker relationships and job performance. We help individuals build self-knowledge about how they think, approach their work, and interact with their co-workers.
More specifically, we help individuals develop the soft skills that lead to strategic thinking, collaborative behaviors, and positive mindsets. Our users start with discovery questionnaires to learn more about how they approach work. They then learn more about and practice development exercises of the skills or mindsets they want to build or strengthen.
How Self-Awareness Strengthens Mental Well-Being
Self-awareness strengthens mental well-being by eliminating unnecessary stress and anxiety and leads us to build stronger working relationships. And we humans are social beings, and research has found positive social interactions strengthen mental well-being. Think for a moment about a co-work with who you do not get along with well. Now consider what you know about that person both in their job and personally. Your somewhat contentious relationship very well could be driven by your lack of knowledge and understanding of that person. And they most likely don’t know very much about you. When you both get to know one another more deeply, such as each of your work styles, how you prefer to communicate, or whether you are conflict-averse or don’t mind it, and more, you will strengthen your relationship, work more collaboratively, and eliminate any anxiety you feel when you need to interact. E.g., strengthening your mental well-being.
Two Things to Know
Here are two things you should know about a commitment to becoming more self-aware.
It takes courage. When we honestly evaluate our approaches to work, behaviors, and how we interact with others, we sometimes don’t like what we come to realize about ourselves. Developing self-awareness can be uncomfortable because it requires shifting a focus from others to ourselves. For example, instead of thinking, “my boss doesn’t appreciate me,” the emphasis should be placed on you. Ask, why might my boss not appreciate me? What can I do better?
But the good news is, you will also discover things that you underappreciate about yourself. You should enjoy and celebrate gaining greater knowledge about your strengths, achievements, and positive interactions with others. Continue to nurture these favorable attributes. You may be disappointed to learn more about your weaknesses and less than favorable interactions with others. You may find yourself saying, “wow, I didn’t know how I spoke to that person could be interpreted negatively.”
Your inner critic is likely to speak more loudly during these negative self-realizations. Brize users learn how to quiet their inner voice so they can focus on making any needed changes.
The second thing to know is that there will be a part of us that pushes back against the idea of being more honest with ourselves for most of us. Our defense mechanism kicks in. This is our mind’s way of trying to protect us from getting in touch with things about ourselves that we don’t like, don’t want to admit to, or feel are too painful or scary. Take your time with getting to know yourself in this way.
Developing self-awareness is a marathon, not a sprint. You may want to rush to the finish line, but you should stay the course. Commit to assessing your current expertise, learning more about the soft skills needed to achieve career success and mental well-being, and practice development exercises for those skills that need strengthening.
So how do you become more self-aware?
Psychologists have found we can enhance our self-awareness through journaling, meditation, mindfulness, getting feedback from people we trust, trying new things, through the arts, allowing ourselves to fail, and self-reflection. Our development exercises leverage many of these techniques.
We all know that knowledge is power. And self-awareness is a superpower for career mental well-being and happiness.