How Self-Aware Are You?

self-awareness career adviceHarvard Business Review had an interesting article a few months ago about how self-awareness can be critical to career success, particularly as a leader, and I thought it might be interesting to discuss here. How self-aware are you, both internally and externally — and if you’re lacking one of those skills, how can you become MORE self-aware? 

The author, Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, noted that in a large-scale study that she and her colleagues did, they found key differences between internal self-awareness (who you are, what you value) and external self-awareness (knowing how you are seen), and found that experience and power can hinder self-awareness because, basically, there are more “yes” people than no people at a certain point.

I thought it was really interesting that she suggested asking what questions instead of why questions, such as, “What are the situations that make me feel terrible, and what do they have in common?” (kind of like we discussed in our conversation about how to know whether your job is right for you), as well as “What are the steps I need to take in the future to do a better job?” instead of “why did I get a negative review?”

How about you, readers — do you find that self-awareness has played a critical part in your career success? For those of you who are more senior, do you feel like your external self-awareness has suffered as you’ve climbed the career ladder? What are your best tips for getting more self-awareness?


Did you know that being self-aware can be critical to career success, particularly as a leader? Organizational psychologist and executive coach Tasha Eurich shared her findings recently, including how to cultivate more self-awareness. Corporette readers discuss.


  1. Internally, I’m pretty self-aware. I know what situations work for me, and which don’t. As I’ve gotten into middle management, I feel like I’m floundering with the external piece. It is not possible to please everyone, and pushing back isn’t the most comfortable thing for me. But I do it for the sake of the team. For so long, I was that go-to workhorse and got a great deal of satisfaction from being that hard-working team player. Now I feel somewhat clueless about how I’m perceived by others. It’s like the feedback loop is much more closed-off than it used to be. It’s easy to let the anxiety take over and start wondering if everyone secretly hates me.

    TBH, I think I’m internally self-aware to know that I’m not enjoying my role very much, even though it was a promotion that I worked my tail off for. I get a lot of satisfaction from crossing items off my list and diving deep into projects. I am very capable of overseeing projects and people, but I find it less satisfying. Some days I feel like I’m the person who handles all of the “un-fun” stuff and problems. There are so many layers to work through, and I’m usually the one who has to do it. (Which, yeah, that’s pretty much the function of middle management.) Before I even applied for the job, I suspected that this role wasn’t quite right for me. I wish I would’ve listened to that internal wisdom more. My job anxiety has spiked, partly from not enjoying the role and partly because I have no idea how I’m perceived externally.

    • Anonymous :

      It sounds like maybe you haven’t yet adjusted to a new grid for how to tell if you’re doing a good job. You used to have a to-do list and completed projects. If you got the work done, you were doing a good job. Now your work is people / problem-solving, and you don’t have the tangible results anymore. And you’re not getting verbal feedback that is telling you that you’re doing well. So you’re starting to doubt that you ARE doing well. If this sounds accurate, I’d write out a new checklist for how to know you’re doing well, so you have a new grid. It’s going to be a different set of parameters than “the work got done.” I

      • YES. I think you’re exactly right. You’ve given me some good food for thought. Fellow managers in the middle, I would love your input.

    • Yeah, I always feel so bad for the McDonalds’ onsite managers and the like who have to deal with disgruntled customers AND schedule employee shifts, find absence coverage, etc. Do you have supportive management? You can try asking them to play “bad cop” in some of these situations where you have to maintain a friendly image to keep work going. It’s also important to acknowledge that you won’t ever get 100% approval from external teams because in their ideal world you do all their work for them (ask me how I know!).

      In a similar position, I derived satisfaction from creating scripts for my employees so they could help me address some of the difficult situations and at the end of the day I would have a tangible piece of paper to support the hard work I had done in managing one convoluted issue or another. Not always possible but definitely helped a lot with satisfaction.

      And +1 to Anonymous at 2:58.

  2. As a person who is very ADD I struggle with being self ware. Now in my mid 30’s unemployed I am finding how important both internal & external awareness affect my life.

  3. Anonymous :

    Any help

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