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  • Writer's pictureJilian Houghton

Self Awareness Myths: Key Beliefs Holding You Back at Work

Despite 95% of us thinking we know ourselves at work,

only 10% of us are actually self aware.


If your stomach did a little flip because you're worried you might be part of the 95, then keep reading to find out how to make that determination.

And if it didn't?

Then it's time to keep reading so you can determine if you need a self awareness wake up call. We help agencies and organizations become centers of progress, insight and safety for their employees. Sometimes that means ruffling some feathers. Nothing makes people feel uneasy quite like learning to see themselves the way others do at work. Here are three common self awareness myths that might be holding you back from becoming the team MVP you believe you are.


MYTH #1: People become more self aware through experience.

Have you ever sat in a meeting listening to an important presentation totally baffled by the fact that the board member can't communicate to save his life and yet continues to hold their position? Or watched in amused astonishment as Kathy reorganized the billing department by successfully bulldozing over her entire team, quashing dissenting opinions, and destroying team cohesion and then slapped a gold star on her report and labelled it a "job well done"?

Despite our commonly held belief that age breeds wisdom, studies have shown that people do not always learn from experience.* In fact the opposite is often true when it comes to self awareness at work, experience can lead to a false sense of confidence. One study of more than 3,600 leaders across various roles and industries found that higher level leaders significantly overvalued their skills compared to their lower level counterparts. Our experience training thousands of leaders only reinforces these findings, but that means when it comes to developing self awareness this is the rare opportunity when we're all on equal footing. Whether this measurable deficit is due to the absence of honest feedback (we all know we're scared to tell the boss what we think of her) or because we over estimate our self knowledge, it is critical for leaders to seek out honest feedback and sincerely listen.



MYTH #2: Introspection increases our self awareness.

Introspection can help, but often doesn't. Research suggests that people who engage in self reflection about work are less self aware and report worse job satisfaction and well-being.* It's not that introspection doesn't have a place in our self awareness journey, but that most of us are doing it wrong. We think we can actually examine our unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motives but that's a pretty tall order since they are just that--unconscious. The problem often isn't how wrong we are, but how confident we are that we are right.*



MYTH #3: Greater self esteem is tied to greater self awareness.

Our brains are hardwired to look for connections and form relationships between people, things, and events, which means we are constantly trying to fit all the data bombarding us into existing boxes within our understanding. This makes us unable to perceive things as they actually are, especially ourselves.* Since the 1970s the self esteem train has gained momentum, making sure that we are all aware of our valuable contributions and immeasurable self importance. But that doesn't mean we have increased awareness surrounding the impact we are having on our coworkers. The opposite is true, as self esteem has become popularized, self awareness has decreased.* Self esteem often leads you to the illusion of excellence, while self awareness leads you to the reality of lasting impact.


This myth busting exercise isn't meant to leave you hopeless, instead we hope that in freeing yourself of the thinking patterns holding you back, you are now able to cultivate your ability to be the influential leader and vital team member you've always aspired to be.




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