Gnōthi Seauton (“Know Thyself”)
(inscribed on the Temple of Apollo, Delphi, Ancient Greece)
Having worked with people inside organisations for years I learned that those who take responsibility for knowing what they don’t know are more respected than folks who pretend to know everything.
These days, I am reminded in my private practice work that self-awareness is one of the most valuable personal competencies we can have. Yet, in organisations, and in society generally, it is one of the least discussed skills.
When we don’t know our own strengths and limitations, we are likely to overestimate (or underestimate) ourselves. Research studies (and my own experiences with clients) have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor relationships, poor job performance, and poor health.
You have probably met more than a few people in your life who behave as if they know everything. Or people who don’t realise just how agitated or snappy they become when they are stressed. We live in a highly competitive culture. These people are fearful that others will question and even challenge their capability or intelligence. However, the opposite is true. Whether they acknowledge their own weaknesses or not, you still notice them, right? Trying to hide our shortcomings actually magnifies them, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, lack of trust.
When it comes to our work, knowing our weaknesses can help us avoid or compensate for areas where we are unskilled or just plain unsuited. Knowing ourselves also helps us to use our strengths better and develop where we can.
Increasing self-knowledge is one of the main goals of coaching, counselling and psychotherapy because the simple truth is: people who know themselves better do better. As the Dalai Lama once famously said:
“To be aware of a single shortcoming in oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else”.