I’d like to focus this article on practical ways we can shape our own psychological safety and promote self-love and the best environment for ourselves to thrive. It seemed apt with all the messages of love around leading up to Valentine’s Day. All too often, we forget that love and safety start at home. When we can do that well, the love, safety and happiness we feel has the opportunity to spill over to others. I’m going to use SCARF as a framework to guide us with some examples of how we can take Key Steps to shape our own safety and…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

    1. STATUS: How important we feel in relation to others.

      Threat:Ways you can create self-threat…
      Constant criticism and/or perfectionism (incl. excessively hard on self)
      Taking things personally
      Comparing self to others and coming up short

      Safety: Ways you can create self-safety…
      Weed out poor self-talk and practise self-empathy
      Adopt a growth mindset and see mistakes as opportunities to learn
      Focus on what you get right and the value you bring


    2. CERTAINTY: Our ability to predict and manage our future.
      Ways you can create self-threat…
      Not being clear on your boundaries and holding them
      Keeping quiet when confused or lost in a conversation
      Not being prepared

      Safety: Ways you can create self-safety…
      Know your limits and be prepared to say no
      Listen attentively and ask questions for clarity
      Set realistic goals and break them into chunks


    3. AUTONOMY: Our sense of control over events.
      Ways you can create self-threat…
      Focusing on what is out of your control
      Taking on too much responsibility
      Analysis paralysis, overthinking and rumination

      Safety: Ways you can create self-safety…
      Focus on what is in your control

      Delegate appropriately (don’t abdicate)
      Write down your thoughts / goals and so on to prevent rumination


    4. RELATEDNESS: How safe we feel with others and build relationships.
      Ways you can create self-threat…
      Insisting on being right / close mindedness

      Excluding yourself or fuelling imposter syndrome
      Over caring and not establishing boundaries

      Safety: Ways you can create self-safety…
      Learn about different cultures and foster diverse relationships

      Actively look for your own bias
      Catch yourself getting it right and celebrate it


    5. FAIRNESS: How fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be.
      Ways you can create self-threat…
      Not being open to feedback or taking it personally
      Looking for perceived unfairness when perhaps there isn’t any
      Overburdening yourself and taking on unfair workload

      Safety: Ways you can create self-safety…
      Give valid, reliable and fair feedback to yourself
      Set boundaries and be fair to yourself
      Set yourself up for success by asking for what you need

We often expect someone else to create psychological safety. During my workshops, I often hear people saying, “If only they would…” I get it. When environments are not ideal, of course we want change. I recommend looking to self first as we are the ‘THEY’ we are waiting for. Creating psychological safety starts with ME and YOU.  This week, I hope you’ll take note of where you compromise your own psychological safety and take Key Steps to…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’



NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to hold the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’