All Growth Begins with Self-Awareness

My first year on the YouVersion Bible App team was exciting and challenging. I joined the team to help with partnerships and community-building. Like any new job, the first year came with a learning curve and the need to pick up new skills. I had never been part of a technology team before, so I was learning the lingo and mindset behind what was essentially a startup born inside of a church in Oklahoma. Eventually, I started managing social media as well as helping lay the groundwork for Bible Plans and other content in the app.

Over the course of my first year, I started to wear down. I felt defeated many days, feeling like I wasn’t growing as quickly as I needed to. Maybe I was even losing ground. Inside my head, I was convinced I wasn’t a good fit. “Someone else could surely be doing a better job. Maybe I need to look for another role within the church.” Every day ended with a sense that I had more work to do than I had started the day with. I was afraid I was holding back the team as I struggled. I was afraid I had moved my family across the country to join this team and now I was failing the team and my family.

I decided it was time to have an open and honest conversation with the two top leaders of YouVersion about my fears and concerns around my performance. All the while, there had been no indications from them about any concerns. I didn’t want to leave, but it felt like something needed to change – and that something was me.

Their response was not what I expected.

When we have someone on the team that thinks they need to be somewhere else, we usually help them move on, in a healthy way, as soon as we can. Usually if someone is struggling in this way, they aren’t getting better at their work at the same time. But you are. You are getting better every day. We don’t think you need to go anywhere.

Then they simply held up a mirror to help me see more clearly.

I had slowly developed an internal story in my head that said, “You aren’t good enough. You’re struggling. Someone else would do a better job.” The problem wasn’t my performance; it was the voice in my head. I thought I needed to be able to do everything, without sweating. I thought it was up to me to conquer the day – but I didn’t realize this was what I was telling myself. They wanted me to see how my internal story wasn’t accurate and was actually threatening to take me out. I didn’t realize how my own thoughts and feelings were undermining my ability to contribute and to grow.

What I learned in that season and continued to learn during my four years on the team was a maxim that was repeated constantly throughout the organization:

All growth begins with self-awareness.

Self-awareness is about noticing and understanding your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. Yet, self-awareness isn’t always about recognizing our own brokenness. You don’t need to be sick to get healthier.

As an individual, as a leader, and even as a Christian…self-awareness is the centerpiece of growth.

In the book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader (which I highly recommend), Peter Scazarro writes: “Lasting change in churches and organizations requires men and women committed to leading from a deep and transformed inner life. We lead more out of who we are than out of what we do.”

We lead out of who we are, for better or worse. Who you are on the inside determines how you think, act, and speak. As a leader, formal or informal, you have an impact on the people around you. And since no leader is perfect, that means you are reproducing the good and bad of yourself in those you are leading.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Luke 6:45

How well do do you know yourself – not who you want to be or who you think you should be, but who you are from the inside out?

Is there something getting in the way of your ability to lead well? Is something inside of you undermining your ability to grow, and therefore, undermining the ability of your team to grow? Maybe you have something inside of you that needs to be unearthed and developed as a talent and gift.

If you want to change the impact you have on others, you have to start with what is going on inside of you and work outward. All growth begins with self-awareness.

Scott Magdalein

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