Before we talk about self-awareness, let’s talk about maps. I imagine that you’ve used maps successfully on many journeys. Maps are more digital than paper these days, yet they still help us reach our destination. The first step in using a map is to find where you are and point to that place with your finger. This is my analogy for self-awareness…
“You can’t navigate from there to here if you don’t know where you are.” ~ Mary Pipher in her book, Women Rowing North
All of this talk of maps and navigating brings us to the topic of self-awareness.
Having a strong sense of ourselves and our own needs is a vital life skill. Mastering this skill requires that we pay attention to our compassionate inner voice and value our well-being.
Many women tell me that their inner voice and well-being has been dictated by others. Can you think of people, institutions, or cultural pressures in the past that taught you to think, feel, and behave in ways that were convenient to them?
Many of the women I talk to in my role as holistic health coach ask me questions about a chronic illness. The lifestyle of their past has built a dysfunction in their body, they tell me. They may become more self-aware as their new reality of illness settles in. The more they understand their body and their past, they can experience dramatic thoughts about “failing at self-care”. Sometimes they look for dramatic rules and regulations to follow that will solve their chronic illness and teach them to do better by themselves.
Can you relate? Perhaps others you know and love have a chronic illness. There are many ways to heal, or at least to begin the healing process. And an assertive list of rules and regulations might have been one of the options you found when you shopped around for a healing solution. But I need to make sure you realize that the “right way” for you to heal needs to feel good to you, in your gut, and in the middle of the night, at this particular time in your life.
And I need to make sure you realize that your happiness is like medicine.
“When I realized that life can never be perfect, I understood that it’s our thoughts that make us happy and not what life gives us…if we were computers, we would say that happiness is our default setting. People think happiness is something you can search for, and find, but it’s [already] in us.” ~ Mo Gawdat in his article My Biggest Illusion Was Control
All of us who are interested in thriving can use compassionate self-awareness to see ourselves with clear eyes.
We can see ourselves as a person in a transitioning process–changing and growing over time. When we use our kind eyes to look at ourselves, it is easy to see that Rules and Commandments imposed upon us by others on the topic of “how to become well” are not typically sustainable.
I believe in your ability to learn to support yourself in every stage of your life using self-respect and self-care. If I had one wish for you, it would be that you feel so firm in your right to change and grow in Your Own Manner, that anyone who tries to impose restrictive regimens on you, filled with “shoulds or oughts”, would be recognized as unhelpful and therefore, none of your business.
Supporting ourselves with compassion is like building a muscle. Or, it’s like learning new sheet music for the xylophone. We need to practice. We need to repeat, repeat, rethink, and repeat. Many women seeking wellness practice compassionate self-awareness through mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, or walking meditation. Do you like to practice mindfulness meditation?
We can talk to friends or therapists about our struggles. Or, we can participate in groups, such as women’s groups or church groups, that foster positive self-awareness. Some people journal and meditate. We can read psychology books or, my personal favorite, we can simply walk or sit and think.
Many people are finding their way to mindfulness meditation as a stress-relief tool.
Maybe that’s you? Others would prefer to follow the rituals of their specific religious tradition and find great comfort in those practices. Others still believe that communing with nature and walking in the forest or near water is their best option for relaxing their body and mind. They find the right space to reflect on their inner life. Whichever method works for you, I recommend that you find a way, in your own manner, to relax your body, mind, and spirit.
Compassionate Self-Awareness might be a new skill for you.
Many of my coaching clients tell me that they’ve spent the last 4-5 decades of their lives letting negative self-talk keep them “in line”. Maybe you feel that way, too. They tell me that they are determined to be the person their parents wanted. Or fit the mold of society as they understood it. I’ve certainly given myself some harsh criticism when my life journey felt stuck, or when I thought I might be judged. That technique has never truly helped me. Have you ever experienced the desired outcome by being hard on yourself?
I imagine that you are having some good times and some bad times as you take on whatever obstacles you find on your journey to wellness. And like life, there are ups and there are downs. I encourage you to focus on the good you are doing today on your wellness journey! For instance, you’re reading this message from a kind coach, and you could decide to CELEBRATE your effort and whistle a happy tune. I mean, you could. You could do that.
And that just might help you use self-awareness to make tomorrow another day to celebrate!
Here’s a cheer to all those who take a moment to be proud of how far they’ve come on a road less traveled. Good for you! I’m here for you every step of the way.