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Self-Awareness is Your Main Asset in Youth Work


Self-awareness as a youth worker is the best thing you can do to improve positive outcomes with young people. Simply put – you are your best tool in the tool box when it comes to your youth work.

Being self-aware means you know why you do what you do. Conscious of your thoughts, emotions, and behavior, you become alert to the actions you take.

Bringing your most authentic self to your work is essential for young people to develop trust in you. Once trust is established, positive outcomes are more likely to be the result of your service to young people.

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    How self-awareness impacts you and your work

    • Practicing self-awareness is role-modeling vital skills for the young people you serve. This is what you want them to do, so do it yourself. Be open and honest in your practice of self-reflection.
    • Aware of your thoughts, behaviors and emotions, it’s easier to choose your mindset. With an inner focus, you can decide how much internal and external events impact you. This is a goal of youth work too – we support their growth into mindful decision-making that helps versus harms them.
    • As youth workers, it’s incumbent upon us to improve ourselves each and every day. Because we are our best tool in youth work, self-awareness leads to personal growth that helps us avoid letting our own needs interfere with the needs of young people.

    Knowing ourselves takes practice and a lifetime to master. And, somedays it’s easier than others. The good news is that you can always improve your self-awareness and learn to practice it in your personal and professional life.

    Six ways you can improve your skills

    1. Know your triggers. When you are bothered or affected negatively, seek help from others or take time away to center yourself before responding. Emotional check-ins avoid regrettable responses and potential harmful actions.
    2. Ask for and take feedback from trusted people in your life. Sometimes it can be difficult to see ourselves, but others can let you know what they see. Absorb their comments and reflect on their accuracy before deciding the feedback’s worth.
    3. Have realistic expectations about your strengths and weaknesses. Feel proud about strengths and remain humble to maximize them to your benefit. Don’t fret over weaknesses; recognize your need for improvement and practice, practice, practice.
    4. Identify moments or environments that allow for self-reflection and seek them out. Think about your situations with an open mind and draw conclusions when you’re calm and centered.
    5. Label your emotions and ponder what causes them. Utilize your emotions as a window into your deepest self. Let your emotions help you understand yourself.
    6. Be your own best self-advocate. Identify what you want and need and work to obtain it. Life events can cause you to neglect yourself but defending what you need draws a focus on self-awareness.

    It will help to seek training and support in your own personal growth. It takes time and energy but the results will benefit the young people you serve and you, personally. It’s a win-win.

    The Professional Youth Worker offers a moving training called, Mirroring and Modeling Social Emotional Well-being for Youth. It’s free to YIPA members and will guide you in your self-awareness journey.

    About the author

    Paul Meunier is the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Paul a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

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