Self awareness, according to Wong (2003), means recognition of our personality, strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes. As a social worker, self awareness is an essential element to prepare oneself to encounter the clients' personal matter, their attitudes, thoughts, etc. The essay is going to discuss the importance and significance of self awareness. Then talk about what I have learnt about myself, in terms of my personalities, attitudes, strengths, limitations and how my past experiences affect me. Finally correlate how self awareness can help my professional development as a social worker.
According to Rothman (1999), everyone has its own attitudes or viewpoints towards something. Our thoughts and values are shaped during the time of infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. These thinking may be based on our own experiences, education received or society influences.
It is clear that our past experiences, social norms, values from the others, characteristics, prejudices or stereotypes shape
Knowing how my past experiences influence my own values helps me to be more aware of my own self. Having an uncle who committed suicide that made my family, especially my grandmother, sad and miserable, I personally hate people who have the intention to end up their lives. However, this hatred may make me unable to make the most appropriate decision when a client who has the will to commit suicide seeks help from me. Moreover, as suggested by Biestek (1961), the relationship between the social worker and the client has been called the soul of casework. It may be hard for me to develop appropriate relationship with the client. It is possible that I will have uncontrolled emotional involvement and judgmental attitudes towards the client. Without self awareness and knowing what experiences shape my thoughts, I will experience difficulty in providing sensitive and skillful services to the clients. I may also unknowingly reject the client and avoid talking too much about death unconsciously. However, by knowing what experiences are affecting my values and thoughts, Rothman (1999) suggested that it assists the worker to work with clients, and to control and minimize the influences of personal attitudes and beliefs that may be harmful and prejudicial toward clients.
Prejudices, biases and stereotypes may be great barriers on my professional development. It is common that when come to minorities such as prostitutes, homosexuals or the street sleepers, people may regard their behaviors as unethical. It may due to their personal values, cultural, religious and other beliefs which people take for granted to adopt when facing these issues. I also have prejudices and stereotypes on them and they may be expressed in conversations, acts or behaviours since they are hidden in the subconscious as suggested by Rothman (1999). I may unknowingly have words that harm them and make them defensive or not trust in me. Thus making it hard to develop good relationship with the client and hard to have intervention processes. For example, I have been exposed to a strong heterosexual bias and may incorporate some homophobic reactions such as discomfort or hatred of homosexual people. Without self-awareness and knowledge, I may not be able to provide skillful services to gay or lesbian clients. If a worker has religious belief, he or she may even have a strong belief that homosexuality is a sin. According to Sheafor and Morales (2007), one of the competences required for social work practice is the capacity to engage in ethnic-, gender- and age-sensitive practice. In order to achieve this, it is essential for a worker to find ways and methods to separate their personal belief system from their professional values, ethics and roles.
Knowing my strengths and weaknesses also helps me with my professional development. I am glad and patient to listen to others. At the same time, I am also empathetic to others' experiences and difficulties. It makes the clients feel being respected and thus it is easier to develop a proper client-worker relationship. It is of utmost importance that the client trust you
Reflecting on our own experiences and developmental stages helps when working with clients. For example, I was shy and not willing to express my care towards others in my childhood. And I would have no opportunity to show my love to my grandmother who died years ago. The losses in my life make me re-think the way I used to be and strive for a change, that is, be more outgoing and caring to others. I can thus draw on my personal experience when working with young people and guide them in the changing process. However, it also makes me consider my limitations, that is, when working with elderly clients. I can relate my experience that is similar to a teenager's, however, it is impossible for me to have certain difficulties faced by elderly clients such as the aging process. As suggested by Berman-Rossi(2001), a social worker thus must develop aging relevant knowledge, self awareness, sensitivity and skill. Knowledge about aging demographics, age-related changes and developmental tasks is essential.
Although there are limitations to my service provided, there are ways to minimize the inadequacy.
Increased openness to other ways of thinking
My family is a blissful one, sometimes having some conflicts but still harmonious on the whole. I once thought that it is normal to have the kind of family like mine, and at least most of the families are alike. However, it is wrong as there are diversities in family structure. Some families are single-parented, while some may have huge communication problems among family members or having family members that are drug addicts that greatly affects the family.
Sharing own feelings and thoughts among a group of peers helps to make up one's own viewpoint towards the population. By listening and sharing, one can know more about the peers' attitudes on the issue, to examine their own attitudes and to exchange opinions in an overview. One can also have a broader view on an issue and
Social workers must confront their own prejudices and stereotypes about minorities.
Making myself known about losses in my own life helps me to understand what past experiences or feelings are affecting my own values and thoughts today.