Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Welcome back pilgrims!
This self-care Sunday is about getting to know yourself. How many of you have taken one of those magazine or online quizzes to find out more about yourself? Was it to figure out which Hogwarts house to which you belong? Did you take a quiz because you wanted to know which celebrity you were in a past life?
Look, I’m not judging you. We’ve all been there. Whether you wanted to know which 90s song you are or you took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I think it’s great! You have shown interest in yourself. You do spend the most time with that person, might as well get to know him/her.
As with any of the self-care practices, getting to know yourself requires a great deal of honesty. Honesty can be hard, but it is soooo worth it. Self-reflection fortifies you in so many ways. When you know who you are, you are a lot less likely to let someone else tell you who you are. When you know what your motivations are, you can focus those to achieve your goals. When you know where you are you can make the best/most informed decisions to change or maintain your circumstances.
When I first chose this topic, there were two books that came to mind that have helped me get to know myself. It's funny because my takeaways from each book were auxiliary messages. The first was Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages is written with romantic love in mind, but since reading it I've been able to apply those concepts to a variety of different relationships. I enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot about my expectations of love. However, my biggest takeaway was my new perspective on communication. Yes, communication is key, but understanding is paramount.
My summarization of the book is this:
People’s understanding and expectations when it comes to love is unique to that person. My definition of love may not necessarily be the definition to someone else.
Example: I say that I really want fruit. You bring me some bananas and I let them spoil in the fruit bowl. The next week I complain about how you never bring me fruit. You think I’m unappreciative of your efforts, because I never even said 'thank you' for the bananas you gave me last time. Little do you know, I grew up in Florida and my idea of fruit is mangoes. I said I wanted fruit, but I really meant that I wanted mangoes. Furthermore, I never give you bananas. No matter how many bananas you brought me or mangoes I gave you, we would never be satisfied and we would grow more and more disheartened.
In this metaphor, fruit is love. Bananas and Mangoes are peoples expectations of love. To use two of Chapman’s languages, Spending Quality Time with your partner is mangoes, while Gift-giving is bananas. Each of us thought we knew what the other wanted based off our own expectations of love. If you find this analogy helpful, the book goes in much greater detail. It’s an easy read if you need one.
Since reading Love Languages, I was able to reflect on several relationships and situations that I have been in and see where miscommunication may have led to upheaval. Getting to know myself, has helped me understand other people. My expectations are not universal. Since I have realized that, I have become much more explicit in expressing myself. Coincidentally, I have also gained a better understanding of others. I no longer assume I understand their actions. I now have discussions to make sure that we each understand and are on the same page. And I am more appreciative of their efforts.
The second book Clifton StrengthsFinder. The professor of my capstone course had the class take the quiz and use the book for assigned learning. The premise of book is that everyone has a certain number of fixed universal personal-character attributes. These attributes have a tendency to develop certain skills more easily and excel in certain fields in a sustainable way while failing or not being able to sustain success or high levels of effectiveness in other fields.
Whether or not I agree with what the assessment said my skills were (I do), the biggest take away from the book has nothing to do with the results. Basically:
Lead with your strengths, not someone else’s.
At some point in life you were told (or perhaps you came to your own conclusion to) what it takes to be successful. You may have even put a lot of effort in to mimicking what someone else has done. After a lot of time and dedication, you have been able to get to their level of strength in that area. Unfortunately, by doing this you have discounted your own strengths. If this is a competition, you will always be at a disadvantage because you are playing in an area that will always be that person’s strength.
Imagine if you took all of that energy you put into emulating that person, and instead focused it on your strengths? Imagine embracing your natural talents and leading with those instead of acquiescing to someone else’s version of success. I won’t lie, it is easy to second guess yourself and try to follow someone else’s path. It is possible. But can I tell you about this momentum switch when I got in my own lane? I have also gotten a little lost at times, but I digress… I have gotten to certain destinations (figurative and literal) a lot quicker and smoother in my own lane and no one ahead of me. Remember what I said about environments? Once you know what your self, you can better identify the environments that are most conducive to nurturing those needs and desires.
You may think you know yourself, but I can tell you from experience, if you ask the right questions you can always learn more. What are your motivations? Why are they motivations? When did you develop this as a motivation? How will you respond once you have achieved this goal? Will you be satisfied then? Why or why not? What amount of self-worth do you attach to this goal?
Some of you pilgrims are looking at me like:
I have a friend, and when she and I are having our heart to hearts we question the hell out of the other’s bold statements. We have a great friendship so we can be, in her words, ‘brutally honest' with each other. We hold each other accountable. We can’t just throw a statement out there as fact. One of us will question it, and down the rabbit hole we go, until we have gotten to the root of it all.
Me and my homegirl analyzing the or problems.
‘Down the rabbit hole’ questioning has been one of my most productive means of gaining self-awareness. When I have a negative emotion/reaction to something, it’s a great opportunity for me to get to know myself a little better. Or if it’s a trigger, that I have already identified, then it reinforces my knowledge of self. Remember those boundaries I mentioned? How can I establish boundaries if I don’t know what my limits are? If I don’t know myself, how can I communicate to others what my needs are?
These are only a few ways that I have practiced self reflection. My experience may not mirror yours, but there are a dozen more ways that you can get in touch with your self. You spend the most amount of time with yourself. Make sure you know who he/she is, and he/she likes you because you will be spending the rest of your life together.
Good Luck on your journey,
I really tried to make this gif work for the banana analogy and couldn't find a way to tie it in, but I really feel like it should be included.