#191 Focus on Self-Awareness

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#191

Focus on Self-Awareness

Some might think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, that ‘denial is safe’ yet living in a state of either can lead to rather dysfunctional coping and/or relating. As a psychotherapist, I find that a number of people entering my office are experiencing one or the other albeit, often unconsciously. Even though it may seem rather counter-intuitive – being ‘aware’ is the emotionally healthier option and so much of my work is to help people become “aware”.

Self Protection

If I could teach people in the world any one skill, it would be an ability to become self aware. It’s not necessarily an easy task! Sometimes, we don’t like what we see when we are able to see everything. That’s where avoidance and denial come into play – they protect us from seeing what feels bad. Who wants to feel awful about themselves?

No Judgement

The only reason we don’t’ want to ‘see’ these things is because on some level – we are judging them. Think about it. If you get a tattoo that you love but your mom hates – no problem. You like it so there’s ‘no judgment’. If you get one during a drunken stupor even though you’ve vowed never to ‘ink’ yourself, you may have a judgment about it and seek to cope with your own disappointment by creating a story that makes it ‘ok’ for you. The preferable scenario is that you simply accept both the drunken stupor and the impulse to get a tattoo without any negative feeling.

Frankly, regret is a waste of your emotional energy. For most of us, we do what we do in each moment because it makes sense based on what we know/feel – at that point in time!! And then, like Maya Angelou said “when you know better, you do better”.

Self-honesty

Even though it may be difficult, seeing yourself clearly – how you think, why you think and feel the way you do, why you engage and react in the manner that is common for you – those are important to know. Nothing changes unless you know it exists. Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire so if it works for you… it’s ok. However, if you are missing a piece of that link then a good hard look at YOU is in order. And since we are always changing in response to our relationships and our environment… it’s an ongoing process.

If your goal is to live with authenticity, then its imperative that you develop a lifelong goal to …

Focus on self-awareness.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

#336 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#336

Speak kindly to yourself

It’s still a bit amazing to me when I become aware of how difficult it is for some people to engage in kind ‘self-talk’. From little put downs such as “I know this is dumb but…” to looking in a mirror and thinking “you stupid idiot” in a loud critical internal voice, some of us engage in self talk that is demeaning, shaming, and downright hateful.

People who struggle to feel ‘worth it’ are the most frequent offenders and may simply be repeating condemning assertions that were absorbed over time from critical or abusive parents, bosses, or partners. Rarely, do I find that the statements represent truths, yet many of them do underline belief systems.

Entire industry segments of publishing and psychological research have built up around this problem from books such as Shad Helmstetter’s What to Say When You Talk to Yourself to Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Both of which, are resources I use with clients who experience antagonistic inner critic aggression.

Self-awareness and self-compassion are essential components of splitting up with that judicial speaker. Each time you hear the criticism begin to drown out your more rational loving voice… put your hand over your heart and imagine that you are speaking to someone you love. Begin a supportive and compassionate conversation that is empathetic and loving – the way you talk to a friend who is having difficulty. Be intentional with this practice and you will foster the ability to more consistently…

Speak kindly to yourself.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Who You Are

The most common form of despair is not being who you are… ~  Søren Kierkegaard

One of the most common conversations I have in my office is the one that focuses on personal authenticity. It seems like a ‘no-brainer’ – “just be yourself” and some of us believe that we are – yet depression and anxiety live in the space between how we behave out in the world and how our hearts wish we would.

There are a couple of obvious examples that are stereotypical, commonly known – the Doctor’s child who is guided toward medical school but internally, yearns to be an artist or an accountant. Or the person who yearns for same-sex intimacy yet believes he or she is only ‘acceptable’ as a heterosexual.

I see problems with authenticity with people who believe that no matter what they do – it’s not ‘good enough’… perhaps what they are doing IS the best and authentic to them yet they are unable to recognize it as so.

We are so driven to meet standards from outside of ourselves. First – our family or teachers and then from our society or culture and then again, our partner/spouse and social circles. The struggle I faced as a kid to ‘fit in’ in terms of body shape and physical fitness was real. I grew up in the era of ‘Twiggy’ where pencil thin was in and my Victorian physic had been out for hundreds of years. Standards of education, socioeconomic class, sexuality, language skills… they exist in every realm of our lives and so we strive to meet them with little regard for the ‘truth’ or the sincerity with which we present those standards to the world.

Earlier this week a client was expressing frustration that interacting with a relative often produced a gross reaction, sending the client into throws of ugly and spiteful thoughts while she spewed derogatory remarks that came from an unknown place inside of her. “That’s not who I am”, she says. She emphasized that she didn’t like that kind of reaction and she really hated herself when it happened. “How do I make it stop?” she was pleading for relief of the ‘despair’ she experienced when she found herself tackling sarcasm and malicious sentiment, tit for tat.

While some may argue that her behavior in that moment was indeed ‘part of her’, it was notably not part of who she ‘wanted’ to be. She saw herself as a kind person, warm and considerate most all of the time. She never wanted to represent herself as someone who could be enticed into a verbal warfare of inflammatory and debasing commentary. And so, when she gravitated there – for whatever reason – she experienced a sense of ‘inauthenticity’… that particular behavior was NOT part of the person she genuinely wanted to present to the world.

I remember taking family photographs the fall before Hubby and I were first separated. We met with a photographer, wore similar outfits, and snapped photos all over a local Civil War battlefield on a cool Fall day. By the time we got the proofs back, our relationship was feeling more strain and the pretending I was actively engaged in was becoming tiring. I looked at those photos and thought about how disingenuous I was in almost every one of them. There was a smile on my face and we posed well together, but Hubby and I were definitely NOT authentic. I didn’t feel the happiness that was represented in the picture – I knew it was a lie.

Sometimes we don’t notice or understand – there is no conscious awareness that we are living inauthentically. Several years ago, my family deserted me for a weekend, doing their own things – scouts, golf, etc… I found myself in the house alone for a whole weekend. It was just before Thanksgiving and so I began my Christmas crafting – making a disastrous mess out of the kitchen and dining area but loving the fact that I could leave my stuff out – and all over – without impacting anyone else. I never even noticed that time was passing. I was content, satisfied, at peace.

By the end of that weekend, I realized that I was ‘fed’ by utilizing my creative energy. I knew that about myself and yet, over time, I had allowed the opportunities for artistic expression to become unimportant, or at least very low on my list of priorities. I noticed how charged and full of enthusiasm I felt by Sunday evening; I was glad to see everyone when they came home. I had utilized my energy in one of the most AUTHENTIC ways possible and my psyche understood. I’ve never allowed myself to forget that experience and I always have something in the works. In reality, I had to open an Etsy shop in order to have an outlet from where to part with all of the ‘creations’ that I had generated. They are simple, imperfect things but they are made from a Zen place… at least that’s where my mind is when I am in creative mode.

Today, I am using that energy to write (and maybe fitting in a craft or two).

I believe that the most important part of being authentic is accepting ALL of you – the parts you don’t like, the parts you want to change, the parts that will never change, and the parts that you think the world will reject along with all the wonderful, amazing, and talented aspects of yourself. My life completely turned around when I understood that the whole of my person wasn’t all great – and accepted it. When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

I can’t tell you how many times in a session when I ask a client to say “I love you” to themselves – there is an emotional block or a strong emotional reaction. When we accept ourselves AS WE ARE and strive to present ourselves to the world bearing the values and qualities that WE aspire, we are living authentically and then… despair cannot exist. Learn to love everything about yourself – even the things you want to change. You don’t have to like them – only accept that they are there. Then – change begins and you can be WHO you are.