The Path to Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the ability to have a clear understanding of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, thoughts and beliefs. Much of the journey to becoming an effective social worker comprises developing our own self-awareness – with professors, classmates and clients continuously challenging us to be cognizant of our feelings. The process of being self-aware is not always easy, but is a worthwhile and magnanimous achievement.

Learning to be Self-Aware

In deepening our understanding of ourselves, both professionally and personally, we can develop a greater capacity to objectively tend to the needs of our clients, and this is emphasized throughout the MSW@USC curriculum. We strive to understand ourselves, strengthening and building our own self-awareness in the interest of accumulating knowledge and sensitivities that can be applied to positively affect the lives of others. As social workers, we must not only know ourselves but also be open-minded enough to adjust our thought processes and sensitivities to address the specific needs and realities of individual clients.

Being aware and secure in what we think and feel usually results in happiness and good health, which is something every social worker should be mindful of. In recognizing and acknowledging our own likes, dislikes, feelings and beliefs, we continue to build on a core understanding of ourselves. This empowers us to develop a higher self-esteem and creates a positive outlook, giving us a sense of purpose in life. We are only able to help someone else if we are fully present in our own mind, body and spirit.

Social Work as an Art

As MSW@USC students, we are being trained to be aware of ourselves, as well as to recognize and comprehend the behaviors and demeanors of those around us. Social work is an extremely intuitive practice requiring a deep dive into our own selves before applying our knowledge to the sensitivities and needs of others. Adhering to a code of ethics often requires us to walk a fine line between applying best practices to our clients while maintaining confidentiality and keeping their trust. Above all, we must curb our frustrations as we encourage and support the autonomy of our clients and acknowledge the individuality of their worldviews.

“Choices: Developing Self-Awareness,” by Dr. Charles Frost offers the following qualities and skills self-aware social workers can focus on to develop their professional capabilities:

  1. Identify and label your personal feelings.
  2. Know where your feelings end and those of your clients begin.
  3. Recognize and accept areas of vulnerability and unresolved issues.
  4. Understand personal values and their influence on the counseling relationship.
  5. Recognize and manage internal dialogue.
  6. Understand and control personal defense mechanisms.
  7. Know when and how clients are reacting to your style.
  8. Realize how you influence outcomes.
  9. Modify behavior based on reactions of clients.
  10. Set professional goals based on knowledge of personal and skill strengths and limitations.

In order to be the great social worker USC is sculpting us to be, we need to provide ourselves with self-care, as well as a chance to reflect on the 10 points Dr. Frost highlights. However you attain this within your professional and/or personal life is entirely up to you. As we will suggest for our clients, the path to self-improvement and self-awareness can only come through understanding the “what” and the “why,” as well as the way we feel and believe about certain issues.

Image provided by Jeni Yarbrough

Jeni Yarbrough is a first year MSW student and a graduate of the University of Florida. She enjoys surfing and soaking up the sun on the East coast! She also enjoys traveling, cooking , writing, and volunteering with local 4-H chapters. Hopefully she will begin training her PitMix, named Hunter, to be a Therapy Dog with the Deaf Community.

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