Self-Awareness is looking, and seeing, and discovering who you really are”. Anon

Self-Awareness gives you the ability to take an honest look at your WorkLife to identify and evaluate what is good, bad or indifferent. It allows you to be your own best critic in recognising your strengths and weaknesses, things you want to keep, things you want to improve upon, or things you want to let go of. Taking ownership will energise you to make the small changes, to take the small steps that will make your WorkLife better.

A Case Study

Bill’s Story: Imposter Syndrome

Bill worked at a university, as part of the team responsible for e-learning courses. He and his colleague Stephanie had just completed the Online On-Boarding course for new students, and were beginning to work on the next module, which was the Monthly Mastermind Online Meet Up. Key outcomes of these modules were to ensure that students learnt from the beginning the importance of questions in their learning, along with the importance of active listening and participating in online conversations. 

The problem was Bill did not really get the theory behind all of this, and he felt he needed to. He was suffering from imposter syndrome: he was working at a university and he did not get the theory. He felt like a fraud, and was afraid of being exposed. Every day he thought: “Today will be the day, people see through me, and realise I’m not up to the job, that I’m a complete imposter, I’ll be exposed for being a fraud.”

So when Stephanie asked for his help on the next module, saying she really needed his skills on this, he incredulously blurted out: “My skills?” Stephanie responded, “You’ve got a lot to offer that will help”, causing Bill to nearly fall off his chair. Stephanie continued: “Your attributes will really help in developing the modules”. Bill, still incredulous, said: “My attributes?” Stephanie continued: “The way you interact with people so easily. This model helps networking skills, and you’re a natural networker.” 

Now Bill was curious and said: “But online I don’t really get that, it takes me out of my comfort zone.” Stephanie said: “We’re simply looking for ways to take real life online – short videos, how not to do things, they can be fun and funny, then learning from those, how to do things better. Also, we want to gamify these modules, and gaming is your thing.” Bill thought he would really like to help with that, and he opened up to Stephanie about his imposter syndrome.

Now it was Stephanie’s turn to be incredulous, saying: “But you’re so good at asking questions, getting people to open up, putting them at ease. Your gift is the gift of asking great questions.” Bill replied: “I hadn’t really thought of it like that. I’m just curious and interested in people.”

Stephanie responded: “Which is perfect for this module. We want to help and encourage people to interact socially. We have such a diversity of people among staff and students, so many different groups of people, and we somehow need to help them navigate these differences. You’re really good at this. I’m more academic maybe, but I hold back, or I’m afraid of sharing personal anecdotes and stories. I’m a nerd and I’m not always comfortable in social situations. I actually have a deep-rooted fear of networking. I’m not good at it. I’m not the most fun person at the party.”

Laughing, Bill responded: “Ah, but we haven’t seen you party. Maybe you have an inner party animal lurking to get out.”

Bill was slowly beginning to become aware of what he had to offer in helping to develop these modules. He had become so consumed with his imposter syndrome that he had lost sight of this, or actually he had never had the realisation in the first place. Everything that Stephanie said to him about his skills and attributes were things that came naturally to him, and because of this he had not given them much thought, or had taken them for granted. He had not seen what other people saw in him. He had also separated his work from his life outside of work, and did not associate these skills and attributes with work. They were just him being himself, and he had not seen the connection. 

Now that his self-awareness had been awakened, he was beginning to see things in a different light. He was beginning to see the connections to who he was as a person, his personable skills and attributes, and how these could help his work, and how they would allow him to be his real self in all areas of his WorkLife.   

Develop Your WorkLife Story

Self-awareness is linked to happiness at the intersection of what you enjoy doing, what you are good at, and what others value about you and your work. Continuing to increase your self-awareness will enable you to co-create these kinds of interactions again in the future. 

Self-Awareness Assignment

Identifying Your Natural Abilities: Skills Attributes and Unique Capabilities 

When you do things that come easily to you, you can take them for granted, and you may not give much thought to the skills, attributes and unique capabilities you have used and how they fit with your values, interests and motivated abilities. To help you become more self-aware of who you are and what you do well, work through the following exercise:

Your Achievements Assignment:

Spend time thinking about the times when you felt a real sense of achievement. This might include anything you felt particularly satisfying, and felt proud of, or it might be a challenge you successfully overcame. 

Outline something that you regard as a particular achievement in your WorkLife so far. It can be from your work or your life outside of work.


From Bill’s Worklife:

The Situation

Bill ran regular open mic nights at his local pub. The idea behind it was to help people gain confidence in public speaking by telling a short funny story about something they had experienced in life.

The Action Taken

Bill worked with people’s different needs. For those who did not think they had a funny story to tell, he worked with them to help find their story. For people who did not know how to tell their story in a way that would draw out the funniness, he worked with them to tell it in a way that engaged their audience and made them laugh. For people who were extremely nervous standing in front of an audience telling their story, he worked with them to overcome their nerves.

The Outcome or Result 

Bill helped everyone he worked with to find their funny story, to tell it in the best way they could, and to not only overcome their nerves but to actually enjoy their moment in the spotlight. This resulted in people feeling so much more confident in their ability to speak in public.

The Skills and Attributes You Used

Bill asked questions, he listened, he shared funny stories of his own, he connected with people, and put them at ease. He got people to see things in a different light, which in turn helped them to tell their authentic funny story.

The Way You Felt Afterwards

Bill felt exhilarated because he had been able to help people overcome their fear of speaking in public. He recognised he had the ability to see what is truly inside of people; and in doing so, he enabled them to become active participants in their own lives, through the power of telling their own authentic story. He enabled their self-awareness about their uniqueness, which allowed them to take ownership of their WorkLives. 

Now Your Turn: 


The Situation

The Action Taken

The Outcome or Result 

The Skills and Attributes You Used

The Way You Felt Afterwards

The Moral of this Story

Increasing your self-awareness, having clarity about who you are, and what is unique about you, through identifying your skills, attributes and capabilities, will empower you to consciously and actively incorporate them into all areas of your WorkLife.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Repeat Your Achievements Exercise for more of your achievements. Once you begin to become self-aware of who you really are when you are at your best, what it is you are doing that contributes to you being the best you can be, you will become more and more self-aware of your unique skills, attributes and capabilities. You will become unstoppable in owning your greatness.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

As your self-awareness grows, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Now I have this self-awareness what does it mean to me? 
  • What does it make me think? 
  • How does it make me feel? 
  • Will it make a difference in how I approach any aspects of my WorkLife? 

Words of Wisdom

The knowledge you are gaining through your increased self-awareness is another superpower. Continuously ask yourself how you can use this knowledge to have a positive impact on your WorkLife. 

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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