The ability to be self-aware through self-reflection is the cornerstone for achieving a high quality of being. We are human beings, not ‘human doings’. To some extent we can choose how we want to be.
Knowing who you are is so important. When asked who we are, we would normally respond with our current roles and responsibilities. With more questioning, we would share our capabilities and skills. With more probing, we would then talk about our values and beliefs. By removing layers of our self, we discover our potential and possibility of purpose.
In coaching, having a high degree of self-awareness shapes and directs the coaching journey. Every good coach aims to embed this self-awareness in themselves and in their own practice or clients by reflecting on this question often – who are you? It’s initially uncomfortable but the empowering effect is lasting. Trying to work through this discomfort is crucial to success and plays a big part in an effective coaching relationship. John Whitmore said it best; coaching is helping them to learn rather than teaching them. There is so much underpinning research around this, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is widely used whereby self-actualisation occurs when a person is able to take full advantage of their individual talents while being mindful of their limitations.
Parts of Gestalt’s principle offered a unique perspective to helping my understanding of coaching and personal development. Gestalt’s principle states that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which simply means there are many parts, and some are more significant than others but ineffective on their own. Only when they’re all working together, will there be more effectiveness. This idea can be applied in many contexts; it can be applied to the self, family unit, community, or even an organisation. However, at the individual level, when we begin to accept who we are and build on our strengths, experiences and skills that will set us apart. There is power in knowing who you are and who you care capable of becoming.
Gestalt therapy provides an interesting perspective in enabling self-awareness. When people identify with their current experience, i.e. can self-reflect and make some analysis of their emotions and behaviour, and work through their circumstances, change happens. In other words, it is full self acceptance rather than striving to be different.
‘The paradox is that the more one attempts to be who one is not, the more one remains the same.’
Why is it important to know who you are? There’s that quirky quote – be you, everyone else is taken! If you don’t know who you are, it’s easy to become someone you’re not. Most often for the wrong reasons like wanting to fit in or lacking confidence to portray yourself when you literally stand out or putting off unlocking your potential? As an ethnic minority woman in the workplace, this has a significant impact on your career but also self-esteem. The reality is you tend to become someone else’s version of you (or adapt to the status quo) and what you’re truly capable of remains undiscovered. Diversity and inclusion is being recognised at every level, yet sometimes its more noise than changed behaviour. Change begins with you.
On that final note, differentiating between counselling and coaching helps to better understand coaching. Counselling support can navigate deep-rooted emotional problems that explores aspects of personality, concepts, values and beliefs. Coaching, on the other hand, builds on self-awareness in order to develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset is strengthened and enhanced when you focus on what is true, positive and helpful.
I was compelled to begin to articulate my thoughts on self-awareness as in my recent exchanges, this has been a recurring theme - knowing who you are. And to extend on this - its one thing to know who you are but its another to know what other people think of you. In leadership courses, 360 degree feedback is part of developing those key qualities in managers. Seeking feedback from our line manager, co-workers or wider team helps to paint that fuller picture and reinforce positive self-belief.
I have always welcomed feedback in any form. I've taken professional pride in giving feedback, praise or credit where it is due. It adds value to someone's personal development and self-awareness. I hope you're encouraged to practice this daily and found this post enlightening.
(Source: Super Coaching, written by Graham Alexander and Ben Renshaw)