I’ve never been happier than I am today
Introspection is one of the hardest things to dive in, to live a happier life. The faster, the better, because it’s a long way to go. The more I dig, the more surprises — pleasant, and bad — I get.
I started somewhere
I was 25.
My then boyfriend was 100% into self-improvement — which was a bit overwhelming (and annoying) at times — and he slowly encouraged me to get into self-help books, TED talks, and various wise resources to find awareness of who I am.
I was still considering myself as a girl and not yet a woman. My attitude was childish, and “responsibility” was a grown-up concept I was avoiding at all costs.
I wasn’t ready, and I didn’t feel mature enough to dive in that deep and vast ocean of newness.
Back in time, I was 100% hermetic to it.
Here’s how I looked at introspection :
- What would I learn about myself that I don’t know already? (I know I love pasta and gold is my favorite color)
- I have plenty of other things to do, I’m so busy (the last episode of Suits is out on Netflix)
- I’m not that kind of people (self-improvement? thanks, but no thanks)
- My life is what it is (why would I want to change it?)
Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions.
— Egyptian proverb
I was wrong.
I was young, and those were all stupid excuses: I had no personal opinion on anything, I never spoke up for myself, I was bored, complained all the time, got angry as soon as someone didn’t agree with me, did useless things in my free time and hated being alone.
I was jealous of “those people who succeed,” but I was reluctant to change.
Change? “Looks like a cool ride, indeed. Go ahead with your fancy concepts; I’ll take the next train, thanks.”
I didn’t want to hear it. I was so close to that idea.
I needed change.
I couldn’t go on anymore.
My life was chaotic
I had lost my dad after three years of sickness and suffering, had a tyrannical boss and lost my job, went through depression, retrained for a new job, changed career, got my heart broken and gained 30 pounds.
I thought a six months trip to South America mostly on my own would help, but that journey was pretty close to a failed therapy more than a life-changing trip. It wasn’t enough.
Despite the situation, it took years before I started diving into these endless excavations.
What is introspection?
Introspection is a reflective looking inward. It’s an examination of one’s thoughts and feelings. In other words, it’s what’s truly happening inside the mind, body, and soul. To me, it is having that comprehension of what makes me me, and understanding my behaviors, feelings, attitude, and actions. So much more in fact, but let’s move on.
So I’m back from those six months of “terapia,” and my joie de vivre isn’t back. It is what I missed the most because it’s one of my strongest trait of character. I wasn’t the always smiling Lisa everybody knows; I wasn’t who I used to be. I had to find a way to bring it back.
I was lost; my hopes were close to 0.
It felt like all was locked inside, but I didn’t have the tools to crack the code. The key to my inner freedom was somewhere, buried deep inside. I didn’t even have an idea of where I should begin.
I was struggling. I felt like I needed to start everything from scratch because I didn’t know anything about who I was. I had always been repeating all I was hearing without thinking by myself. I was doing what everybody did without even wondering why I was doing it or what was my opinion. I was a follower who was finally in search of meaning.
I needed to know myself.
As introspection is a never-ending quest, here are some steps I went through, that worked for me.
If you need guidance for a start, you should be aware that those were helpful at my level, but since we are all different, there are many other ways to get where I am today, and the ones I share might not be the ones for you. Keep digging!
Here is how I keep that introspection going when I need it:
1. I ask questions to myself
I know I have all the answers. It is inside, hidden, buried, but it’s right here. All I need is to ask fundamental questions. There are no wrong questions and no wrong answers. I am unique and asking about the same issues as everybody else can be a hint, but not necessarily help me in my quest. I read a lot, and a lot of questions come naturally through the authors’ struggle, but I always reflect by myself to avoid following the masses. It is my mind, my personality, so my questions, and therefore, my answers.
Questions are free and unlimited (yay!), so I wonder about everything that matters to me (or just because it’s fun), from my favorite place on Earth to how does my dream house look like, so why do I like that food so much?
I always keep in mind that questions putting me ill-at-ease are the ones I need to answer because there is something hidden I know I’m afraid to learn about myself. Those are the things I need to work on the most. What scares me is what I need to go through.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
— May Sarton
My process is always to ask my question and follow each answer by “why” 4 or 5 times to dig even more profound. The deeper I dig, the difficult it gets. That’s where I want to go because the key is where I don’t want to dig.
Where fear of the answers is.
2. I reflect and write
Writing, note taking, journaling, doodling, where my imagination takes me. I grab a pen and paper, and I write. The best is to do it with consistency to get the most of it. Sometimes I won’t because I just can’t.
I’m the master, I decide.
My pace is the right pace.
When I started writing, I wrote about what a happened in my life: what did I do today, what I was pissed about, the weather, nothing fancy. At first, didn’t write every thought I had, I was restricting myself to go all-in because I thought “who cares?” and “what will people think if they read my journal?”. Until the day I decided I was doing it for myself. It changed everything.
Writing puts words on my emotions; that’s what I’m looking for. Sometimes I open my notebook and think “what the hell am I gonna write down today?”. Well, I write that down! It flows right after that.
I usually set a timer or minimum pages to make sure I don’t write too little. Cheating is easy sometimes. I started small: 5 minutes is better than 0. Even 1 minute is better than 0.
3. I read, watch, learn & listen
TED talks, self-help books, masterclasses, quotes, workbooks, podcasts, blogs, websites, forums, conferences, YouTube channels, coaches. There are SO many resources out there to help unleash and understand what’s inside.
Those resources are super useful because others have been through what I’m going through today. It shows me daily an essential thing:
I’m not alone.
People are going through a lot, and introspection is a common approach to move forward. Stories are all different, but by listening to others, I can often hear or read things I identify to and get that “aha moment,” that “OMG that’s exactly what I feel!” thought, helping me in my introspection and putting words on what I often can’t express myself. Sometimes it’ll come out an interview, a song, a line from my favorite movie or even from a commercial. I never underestimate the power of what I hear or read.
Google is one of my best introspection friends; I ask the right questions and dive in to find answers. Ideally, I want to define what solutions I’m looking for. I write it down first to avoid losing my focus.
I force myself not to be limited; I’ll always dig deeper if I don’t feel comfortable with what the person talks about or if it bugs me. It usually means I have a fear to find an answer that will deliver the truth about myself.
Oh, and by “the truth,” I also mean “the key,” the “aha moment,” the “is it what I believe I think it means?!”.
4. I listen to my guts and follow my heart
“I learned to be with myself rather than avoiding myself with limiting habits; I started to be aware of my feelings more, rather than numb them.”
— Judith Wright
Sometimes, I read books, and after 50 pages, I feel like “meh, I’m bored.”
This book is a best seller and recommended by a million people, but I still don’t think you should read it? That podcast is rated five stars and is the best in the world, but it doesn’t talk to me? Then I don’t! Either I come back to it later because I decide it, or I abandon it! Introspection is already not comfortable, why on Earth would I do something I don’t resonate with?
I trust my guts and listen to myself.
It’s probably not the best time to read or listen to it because I’m not ready, or because it doesn’t feel like I’ll get what I’m looking for if I explore that path now. There are plenty of resources. I never lack resources.
The key is to build my own knowledge library and to figure out what I want to put on those shelves. It’s 100% about me, not about what people say. I listen and stay very open-minded, but I force myself to keep a personal opinion for each decision I take.
5. I run some tests to feel aligned with my actions
What time of the day am I the most productive? What environment suits me best to work? What are the foods that make me feel the best during the day and brings me tons of energy? Is tea or coffee a better drink for my busy mornings? Unless I try several options, likely, it’s most likely that I’ll never know what’s best for me.
I didn’t start from scratch to run those tests. I had a look around and asked people what they are doing to get a sense of what already exists, and then I apply what I think is best for myself.
To figure that out, I must try and keep track of it. I don’t need to become a control freak or a data analyst to do that. I just make some comments in a note on my phone : “tried that, feels good”, “ate that, feel bloated”, “slept 8 hours, still feel tired”, “ate that after my morning run but had stomach pain, should try fasting the next time”, “working out in the morning is better than after work”, etc.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” — Brené Brown
The most important is to figure out what works best for me because I am not the others.
I am not the others.
I am unique.
Decisions are mine.
So I take inspiration from others, but I don’t let anybody decide for myself.
I make my own choices.
6. I share my approach and discoveries
Any change in my life has been subject to doubt. Especially when people around you are following the most prominent trends and stereotypes. Well, I learned that it’s no shame to share my projects with my friends, family, to my journal, my therapist, or communities I’ve chosen.
I always listen to your guts, and I know who is a better listener. Sometimes, a stranger or someone I barely know will be the right person. I feel it.
I’ve shared my story with a few close friends, coaches, my therapist, and even strangers. Sharing has helped me listen to others’ stories, and it sometimes permitted others to understand what they’re going through themselves.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
— E.E. Cummings
Today, I’m sharing my story on Medium because I know that a lot of people are going through what I’ve been struggling with for years. I want to tell them that nothing is permanent. It’s about making the first step.
I’m not superhuman. I took action and actively, patiently waited for a change.
I did it, so can you.