by Trina Laube, CWP and Suzanne Hunt, MPH, CHC, CWP

This is the second article in a six-part series on the role of competencies in wellness promotion.

For professionals to most effectively support individuals or communities in cultivating positive change, they must first understand the foundations of whole-person wellness, approach their personal and professional wellness practices authentically, and engage in lifelong learning as a strategy to develop enhanced self-awareness.

The first domain of the National Wellness Institute (NWI) Wellness Promotion Competency Model includes four evidence-informed competencies that focus on the importance of authenticity and self-awareness when supporting others in their wellness journeys.

The first two competencies within the “Authenticity & Self-awareness” domain highlight the need for wellness professionals to engage in ongoing reflection to expand personal growth and professional development in multiple dimensions of wellness and to demonstrate commitment to wellness promotion by modeling healthy lifestyle practices. In other words, well leaders must “walk the walk” before they “talk the talk,” until they are eventually “walking the talk.” This begins with self-awareness.

In one of the two courses intentionally designed to support professional development in the “Authenticity & Self-awareness” competency domain, practicing professionals share their perspectives about what self-awareness means to them. “Self-awareness is the power to stand within one’s own subjective view of the world, and then to step outside of that subjective view and reflect back upon it,” notes Stuart Nelson, Acting President of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center. “I think the capacity to engage reflexivity can help stimulate and promote autonomy in the communities we are a part of. [If we are able to] consider the reality that other people might have different approaches to the same kinds of questions, then we can engage in a collaborative process that supports each member of the community’s autonomy.”

The third competency in this domain further showcases the critical role that establishing authentic and autonomy-supportive relationships plays in wellness promotion. Professionals who are more self-aware and authentic build stronger relationships with clients and colleagues, develop greater rapport and mutual trust with others, and take approaches that encourage the people they support to be active in their own wellness choices. In turn, the individuals and communities they support are more likely to realize positive outcomes.

But success does not occur when working in silos or outside one’s scope of practice, or without expanding one’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. As the final competency in this domain of the NWI Wellness Promotion Competency Model states, it is essential for professionals in all wellness-related roles to recognize their own limitations in wellness promotion and refer individuals to other professionals when appropriate. This includes implementing collaborative and multiculturally competent approaches that support whole-person wellness and complying with professional codes of conduct.

Self-aware and authentic professionals recognize the benefits of lifelong learning and seek out training and tools that support leading through authenticity, autonomy, and awareness as they strive to cultivate positive change in individuals, build trustworthy connections, and create cultures of well-being for all.