How Self-Observation Can Help Your Self-Acceptance and Self-Realisation

And How This Leads to Self-Awareness That Can Give You a Greater Appreciation for Your WorkLife

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

A Case Study: David’s Story:

David learnt the hard way that one of the most challenging management skills for him was to take care of himself first. That’s because he’s a very giving person. He cares about people, and not putting the needs of the people who worked with him before his own felt wrong, and it felt selfish. But he came to learn that this belief not only stopped him from being his best self it also stopped him from helping the people he cared about being their best selves – a management skill he had wanted to embrace.

David is a designer and maker of furniture. Starting out, he worked both alone and in collaboration with fellow craftspeople making unique pieces for clients – individuals and organisations.

His understanding of the material he works with and his passion for bringing out the natural beauty of wood brought about a great demand for his work. Undertaking more and more commissions led him to open his own studio and bring on a team to work on exciting projects together, all of which start from a place of having wood at the heart, honouring a traditional craft with an emphasis on the beauty, grace and longevity of natural materials. 

But as the company expanded and grew in strength of numbers, within himself, David felt a sense he was weakening. As someone who, up until now, had always taken things in his stride, this caused him great anxiety, resulting in him becoming more and more withdrawn from the business – the people and everything going on around him.

Over a beer with his friend, Eoin, he opened up about how he was feeling insecure and uncertain in his WorkLife. 

Words of Wisdom

Raising his glass, Eoin said, “Welcome to the business of running a business, my friend.”Going on to say, “what you’re feeling is normal. People who start, manage and grow a business feel mixed emotions all the time, from insecurity and uncertainty to excitement. Fear, doubt, politics all creep in too, which don’t help, but they also don’t mean that you or the company are in a bad place. It just means things can and will be overwhelming at times.”

While Eoin’s words helped David realise what he was feeling was normal, he was still left unknowing what he should do. He felt his behaviour was negatively impacting the people he cared about. He felt having withdrawn into himself; he had put his needs over the people who worked with him. That felt wrong, and it felt selfish, and he believed it made him a bad manager.

In sharing this, David was surprised when Eoin encouraged him not to fixate or act on his emotions for now but instead to ride it out. To see how he felt in a few weeks when he should be coming out the other side and feeling better. 

Although this felt counterintuitive to David, he trusted Eoin both as a good friend and a good businessman. 

Eoin went on to suggest that David be observant of his emotions during this time. He said some emotions would go after a day or more, and rather than acting on every emotion, it’s better to deal with the emotions that remain constant throughout this time.

Eoin was right. Three weeks later, David was in a very different place. He was in a much more positive place. He once again felt he could take things in his stride. Because his self-observation had enabled him to see that he had been overly focused on managing people. 

He came to recognise and appreciate that he had both laid good groundwork for his team to grow and that he had built a good team that was extremely capable of doing what was needed to continue to grow and build the company. In essence, his company was reflecting his personal values because his good groundwork had enabled people to be their best selves and to help others be the same, all of which came from a place of caring.


Through the observation process, David had an increased self-awareness of his strengths and weaknesses, which led to the self-acceptance of his talents, capabilities and his worth, which in turn led to the self-realisation of his potential, giving him a renewed appreciation for his WorkLife.

In the knowledge, he had built a good team to manage both the day to day needs of the business and the strategic planning needs for the future. With his team, David now focuses on handcrafting furniture for their clients. The carving of each piece tells the story of the wood, the craftsperson and the skills and techniques of their profession. In creating the pieces, they are beginning a story of an heirloom that will be treasured and passed on through generations.

Self-Observation Assignment

There will most likely be times when you experience emotional rollercoasters in your WorkLife. When you do, follow these three steps:

Step One: Observe, don’t act.

Identify your emotions and acknowledge that it’s normal to have different emotions. But wait to act on them when you know what’s real.

Step Two: Give it two/three weeks.

Sleeping on it can help for sure, but some emotions last longer than a day. Continue to acknowledge your emotions and let go of those that don’t persist.

Step Three: Take action

After two/three weeks, take the necessary action on any emotions that remain or anything else that your time spent observing has brought up for you.

I.e. David’s time spent observing helped him to reach a place of self-acceptance and self-realisation through increased self-awareness of his strengths and weaknesses. So, he go back to doing what he loved and what he was best at, which gave him a greater appreciation for his WorkLife. 

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.


Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.