A Leading Mental Health Expert on the Power of Self Awareness

Self awareness is the practice of knowing yourself. The research consistently shows that people who master self awareness are more creative, build stronger relationships, and are more effective leaders and communicators. It’s also good for business: Companies with strong financial performance tend to have employees with higher levels of self-awareness than poorly performing companies, according to Korn Ferry International.

So how can we improve our self-awareness so that we are able to build stronger relationships and become more productive at home and at work?

In this episode of Break the Bias, Consciously Unbiased founder Ashish Kaushal (virtually) sits down with Dr. Lanail Plummer, CEO of Onyx Therapy Group, for an unplugged conversation about how self-awareness is an essential skill for building your EQ, and contributes to building more inclusive workplace environments. Dr. Plummer also offers insight into better managing mental health during the pandemic and why we need to reframe productivity.

Listen to the full podcast here, and read below for some key takeaways.


ASHISH: How do you define self-awareness exactly?

DR. PLUMMER: “In basic terms, self-awareness is knowing all about yourself including: awareness of your thoughts, your feelings, the things that negatively affect you, and the things that bring you joy. Self-awareness is about knowing what to push and what not to push as well as knowing what to say and what not to say. It’s knowing what connects with what and why. I think that self-awareness happens when we are intentional about learning ourselves.”

ASHISH: The main reason why we are not self-aware is because we don’t want to face our truths. So do you think that stems from us not being honest about each other and about ourselves?

DR. PLUMMER: “A lot of people are in denial about who they are. They don’t want to be perceived negatively. In our society we put so much effort around negativity that anything that looks or feels bad, we don’t want to be associated with it. A lot of people avoid the exercises and the activities related to self-awareness or the time and the exclusion that is related to self-awareness because they are afraid of what they’re going to find. But, there are ways that we can improve and move forward, even though people may not necessarily know that they do have the tools to adjust accordingly.”

ASHISH: How does self-awareness play out in the workplace, both from a perspective of leadership and then inclusivity?

Related: A Gender Equality Expert On How To Reclaim Your Creative Life In A Too-Busy World

DR. PLUMMER: “Who you are is what you bring to the workplace. The more you know about how you, as a system works, the easier it is for you to navigate the work experience. Having better self-awareness leads to more satisfaction at work and is the reason behind more positive interactions and relationships with others. But, if one is lacking self-awareness, then they are not understanding why their boss’s comments upset them so much or they are not understanding why they are not being productive.”

ASHISH: Improving your self-awareness will make you a better leader. Do you think having a strong EQ is more relevant to success in the workplace than IQ?

DR. PLUMMER: “When you feel a sense of belonging or you feel understood, you tend to be more productive. It is true that many leaders need to have a higher EQ than IQ. Your IQ only works in your own individual lane of intelligence. It doesn’t work in your interactions with other people because most people are not impressed by your intelligence, but are rather impressed by how you treat them and how you make them feel.”

ASHISH: What is some advice you can give to leaders for better addressing intersectionality in the workplace?

Related: 6 Examples of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

DR. PLUMMER: “In our workplaces we put so much emphasis on productivity of service or productivity of product and not enough on the human essence and experience. We enjoy each other more and have better experiences when we set aside time to get to know one another with no ulterior motives. People want to be seen based on their value and not their ability to produce.”

ASHISH: Given all the trauma that we have gone through this year, what are some things that companies should offer in terms of mental health for their employees?

DR. PLUMMER: “Supervisors and leaders need to offer access to mental health days that don’t require a doctor’s note. We don’t have to make somebody feel bad about needing a day for themselves. We also need to give employees the permission to work during their peak hours. We have to recognize that people are feeling overwhelmed because they are managing their home responsibilities while also trying to be productive. Being more flexible with mental health days will allow employees to feel seen, heard, and valued, and encourage them to take their work a bit more seriously.”

ASHISH: How can leaders work to reduce work-related stress and anxiety by reframing what it means to be productive?

DR. PLUMMER: “The supervisor or the leader needs to have conversations with their staff members regarding what productivity looks like for themselves and what productivity looks like for their employees so they are able to reach a mutual agreement. The supervisor may have more pressure to define what productivity looks like, but when you force that on someone without understanding their experience, you’re likely going to fail. Having these conversations will reduce employees’ anxiety because they are not going to feel overwhelmed or overworked, and reduce depression symptoms because they will not feel misunderstood, unseen or unheard.”



Onyx Therapy Group

Ted Talk: “Increase Your Self Awareness With One Simple Fix

HBR: “What Self Awareness Really Is (And How to Cultivate It)


Holly Corbett

As the Director of Content at Consciously Unbiased, Holly Corbett is fueling inclusion through storytelling to build a passionate community and creating experiences inside organizations to transform workplace culture.
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