Cultivating Self Awareness and Identifying Workplace Demons

Can self awareness redefine the essence of confident leadership? If so, how does this introspective journey impact your ability to lead effectively and empathetically? Rachel Rider, founder of MettaWorks, believes that the key to confident leadership lies in self awareness, understanding and navigating one’s inner world. In this blog, we unveil her unique insights on how leaders can cultivate self awareness, balance power, and navigate their own and their team’s inner demons. 


Woman in a gray suit with her eyes closed - Self Awareness


Rachel’s Transition to Leadership Development and Executive Coaching

Rachel has a background in HR generalist roles at a large tech organisation, where she gained experience in leadership development and executive coaching. She began her journey in these areas after experiencing conflicts with her values during a global layoff from one of her previous jobs. Rachel has been practicing Buddhist meditation since age 13 and has a deep-seated curiosity to understand herself and others. Hence, her strong belief that self awareness is key to personal growth. Growing up in a diverse religious and psychoanalytical environment, she developed a “seeking heart” for understanding the inner and outer worlds, which she continues to explore in her personal and professional life. She sees herself as a constant work in progress, always striving to improve and offer her best to others.

Rachel was initially trained as a somatic experiencing practitioner, a field focused on understanding how trauma affects the body’s nervous system. She’s trained to recognise how past experiences can influence behavior, especially in the workplace. And she uses this skill to help clients gain self awareness. Trauma often comes from a very volatile environment, one where you need to be managing quickly, consistently, and always on your toes. She describes this as overreactions, bursts of anger, or challenges in setting boundaries due to anxiety. For many people, all it takes is to achieve a certain level of self awareness to unlock all of this.


Self Awareness Helps Identify Workplace Demons

One common ‘workplace demon’ that Rachel frequently encounters in her coaching sessions is false urgency. She describes scenarios like responding to non-urgent messages immediately or working over the weekend due to a weekend email, highlighting how these behaviors often lead to unproductive outcomes and rash decisions. And the way this affects people without self awareness is they miss the signals their bodies are sending. That urgency feeling is connected to the nervous system, and Rachel guides her clients to understand that urgency isn’t always necessary. She helps them align their cognitive understanding with their nervous system responses, so they have better decision-making and problem-solving in the workplace.

Rachel helps her clients identify and address their behavioral patterns, often starting with enhancing their self awareness, such as knowing what they dislike most about themselves, as it often reveals consistent obstacles in the workplace. She also encourages clients to identify survival mechanisms, which often nestle themselves into our work and thrive there unnoticed. She focuses on helping clients transform these “demons” into strengths by educating them with updated information and fostering a stronger partnership between different aspects of oneself.


Self Awareness Is A Powerful Tool

Cultivating self awareness is indeed a powerful tool for personal growth. One of the first steps to developing self awareness is understanding how you show up in your life and how people respond to you. Rachel recommends several proven strategies and techniques for this purpose.

  • Pay attention to how people respond to you, particularly those you respect. And then later collect information from those you don’t care about as much. Also, pay attention to how you want these people to respond to you.
  • Have an ongoing conversation between your head and heart or gut. The non-thinking part of oneself often has a sense of truth. And when the head and the heart or gut are not on the same page, it leads to constant internal friction.
  • Use visualisation as a tool to regulate your nervous system. This technique can help individuals regulate their emotions and call in desired energies when feeling stuck or in challenging relationships. 

Rachel finds visualisation techniques helpful for regulating the nervous system and improving relationships. One of her favorite tools is the “head in the heart” visualisation, where she asks clients to visualise avatars or colors representing their head and heart. Rachel encourages clients to invite these visualised aspects to a mental tea party, which can bring a sense of calm and change the emotional atmosphere. If you’re feeling angry, call in that calm avatar that makes you feel calm. However, it takes self awareness to start noticing that you are reacting a certain way to a situation.


“The body will always trump the mind if the body disagrees with the situation.” – Rachel Rider


How does self awareness translate to leadership in the workplace?

Self awareness helps leaders deal with themselves first. Leaders at the organisation’s highest levels are tasked to focus on maintaining relationships. These are the people who need to focus on fostering strong, trusting, and candid relationships with other people. They have to ensure clarity on expectations, success metrics, and open communication channels when challenges arise. However many leaders struggle to achieve this. 

Some themes from Rachel’s coaching sessions with leaders revolve around struggles with power dynamics. Clients may express feelings of being terrified or embarrassed about holding power, uncertainty about embodying it, and challenges in empowering others while maintaining control. Others have been running their businesses for so long that they end up wanting things to go their way all the time. And although it doesn’t take a high level of self awareness to say that these are problems, sometimes the challenging part is getting the clients to talk about themselves and what they’re dealing with.

Rachel’s work focuses on helping individuals identify their inner power and understand how it manifests for them, translating leadership principles to align with their unique values and inner world. She delves into clients’ baggage, issues, and value sets, aiming to illuminate what motivates and inspires them. For a person to know all of that, they need to practice having self awareness. Rachel sees this work as the “juicy sexy” part, which involves unraveling unhelpful belief systems and behavioral patterns to bring forth the best version of oneself.


“Being able to navigate a relationship where money’s on the line, power is unclear and unequal, becomes very complicated, and so you having the ability to regulate your nervous system to know what’s your demon versus their demon, to know how to navigate their demon when it arises is so important to being successful at the highest tiers of an organisation, and that’s really the premise of my work”. – Rachel Rider


The Influence Of Our Actions In Strong Relationships 

Where do you begin to cultivate self awareness? One great example from Rachel is individuals who tend to over-accommodate. When a CEO gives them a directive, they often respond with immediate agreement, even if it means disregarding their own plans or priorities. Due to their accommodating nature, team members may not express their concerns or the potential conflicts the directive might create. Now, an individual with self awareness would know if they have strong feelings about this request, possibly because it means they’ll need to cancel plans. One way to deal with this is to communicate with the CEO about reprioritizing current tasks and projects to accommodate their request.

Ultimately, building strong relationships and fostering open communication is key to navigating these dynamics effectively. When there’s a foundation of trust and understanding among team members, addressing behavioral patterns and working through challenges becomes much smoother and more productive. This situation highlights the importance of understanding our own behavioral patterns or “demons” and recognising them in others. By acknowledging and addressing these patterns, we can have more open and productive conversations. For instance, team members could approach the CEO and say, “I’m happy to proceed with this task, but we’ll need to adjust our priorities accordingly. Is that acceptable to you?” 


Confident Leaders Cultivate Self Awareness

Confident leaders are always tuned in to their surroundings, paying close attention to how people respond and react. They recognise their own inner demons and those of their team, knowing that these influence their decisions and shape their realities. And one way to achieve self awareness is through visualisation. This practice helps them prepare mentally and emotionally for various scenarios, enhancing their ability to lead with clarity and focus.

Which insights from this blog resonate with you in terms of developing self awareness in your workplace? 

Share your thoughts with us on YouTube or at You can listen to the full Cultivating Self Awareness and Identifying Workplace Demons podcast episode here.

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