A few months ago Facebook and Instagram feeds were flooded with 10 Year Challenge enthusiast proudly showing off their “glow up” or lack thereof for some (lol). I decided to sit that one out. After much thought, I realized that no photo could do justice to the most significant differentiator between my 18-year-old self and the woman I’m coming into today, that being self-awareness.
2009 was a rough year. I got the chicken pox three weeks before my sixth form graduation and if the itchy blisters and alarmingly high fever wasn’t enough, the marks that remained were a taste of humble-pie that no 18 years old girl could acquire. I was waitlisted for the program I really wanted to enrol in and ended up matriculating in the most random degree the University had to offer just so I wasn’t left behind by my peers. Then, after 6 months of dating who I endearingly will refer to as HellBoy, I broke off a verbally abusive relationship. Of course, he was the first person I saw when I stepped into my first lecture for the year. And, among other undesirable things, my struggles with acne was confirmed to be cystic/hormonal aka the worst kind and thence, first year university life was a party, on my face, a pity party in my head and all around Project X type mess -read disaster-.
Fast forward to 2019. I turned 28 years old on February 20 with not one chicken pox battle scar in sight though I am still struggling with cystic acne. And, besides the whole single bit, everything else has changed. Dr. Joe Dispenza said “Knowledge is power but self-knowledge is empowerment” which I believe is the best explanation for my slow but steady transformation. I didn’t know myself 10 years ago. Almost all of my actions and thoughts came about through proximity to someone or something else and rarely originated within me. I had an incredible appetite for acceptance and even stronger propensity for people pleasing. Unfortunately, this meant that being likeable concerned me more than being in integrity with myself.
Ten years ago I also wasn’t attuned to the frequency of my intuition and didn’t understand that I had the ability to create the life that I wanted. I didn’t read books beyond the demands of my degree, didn’t know meditation was a thing and surely never set a single goal much less had a vision for my life. My life and purview were limited. Back then life was happening TO me. I took what I got and settled for any blessing that fell in my lap.
Except, I always knew somewhere at the back of my mind that this approach wasn’t going to cut it. I didn’t feel fulfilled but also, I didn’t know where to start to make a change. In retrospect, I lacked clarity. Because I didn’t know what I wanted from life, I accepted anything and didn’t know when or why to say yes (or no). I wasn’t aware for example that I am a 7 (Joyful Person) on the Enneagram which pretty much means the state of happiness is the one thing I value most. Learning little things like this was transformational.
You might be wondering what I’m getting at so, let me explain. I had a lot of pent up anger in university and most of it was directed at myself. I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t make myself do things, things that others were doing that I believed would get me ahead. I was always ready to give up on anything (people included) who seemed to suck the happiness out of my life which is not unusual for an Ennegram Style 7. We avoid pain and discomfort to maintain happiness but as you would imagine, this isn’t always healthy. To no surprise after years of this misunderstanding of self, I developed destructive patterns of procrastination and giving into instant gratification that ultimately made me feel stuck. It was only through my awareness of what truly motivates me I was able to manage myself better and form new habits for success. This started with first creating a vision for my life which didn’t come easy at first but gave me the ability to focus on the things that I needed to do for myself rather than on what anyone else was doing. So, all of this to say, we cannot change that which we do not understand. Self-awareness helps you to tap into your confidence and improves esteem so that you can actualize your greatness. Therefore, we have to achieve a sense of mastery from within before we can figure out anything else.
Wherever it is you want to be in life, the reality is that it is not where you are right now. Imagine today going somewhere for the first time and not having Google Maps app or any other GPS tool for reference. My guess is that even if you do end up finding it at all, you’ll take a lot longer, stopping at intervals for directions and probably make more wrong turns than you’d like. Self-Awareness is the Google Maps of your life. It allows you to find your current coordinates so that you can map your path to your future self without having to rely heavily on external forces. And most importantly, it provides the clarity you need to avoid dead ends. It is choosing to be lead by knowledge rather than anything else.
Personally, I am no where near who I want to be but I know I am “becoming”. I still struggle through a lot, but admittedly, being able to check in with myself and analyze the things that serve me or otherwise have changed my attitude and overall mindset. It’s all a process and I’m growing and learning each day. And, I hope that you are too.
Here are a few ways I go about bootstrapping my efforts that might be useful to you or someone you know:
Psychometric Tests: I’ve done about 5 of these tests but there are a bunch of others available online. I highly recommend them, especially the Enneagram ($10) and the 16 Personalities (free). These two were freakishly on point and so I reference them often, particularly the blind spots/ weaknesses for guidance. Don’t be dissuaded if it doesn’t connect with you 100%. Focus on the stuff that resonates.
Ask for Feedback: Sometimes you might not be fully aware of how you’re showing up so call on the people closest to you. Ask for example, “what are some of the things you love about me” and “what are the things can I improve on”. Do this with an open mind and avoid getting defensive. Ensure these are people you can count on to be honest with you so that you feel comfortable knowing that any criticism is coming from a place of love.
Pay Attention: Whether or not you believe this to be true, we are emotional creatures. As such, we must pay close attention to the things that make us tick, for better or worse. How do you typically respond? Why did you respond in a certain manner? Are you okay with this feeling?
Journal: This is the immediate next step after paying attention to your responses. You have to write them down. Even if you’re not much of a writer, journaling allows you to get out of your head a bit and brings your awareness to the patterns that are particularly toxic so you can start addressing them.
Log Your Faves: I know this might seem silly to some people but I keep a note in my iPhone with ‘I like” followed by a list of all the things that bring me joy. I have a list of songs, food, places, things and even people. It might seem simple but it is a constant reminder of the who/what I need to keep in my space more often.
Change Your Self Talk: show yourself some love! Write down your own or seek out affirmations to recite daily to create a new script for your life. We are what we believe and we manifest the things we repeatedly say so ensure you are speaking life and joy into being.
I hope this helps, even a little bit. It’s no magic bullet but its a start at living your life in a more authentic way, one that requires no validation from anyone else. I remember a few years ago telling my ex boyfriend that he was the best thing to happen to me. Now, looking back, losing him was actually the best thing since it was the only way I could happen to myself. We all need to “happen to” ourselves. We each have a unique purpose and are beautiful in our own way. Once we see that spark in ourselves, there is nothing we cannot do or achieve. Get to know yourself. Get to know your worth.
“When no one is liking you, do you like yourself?” — Chidera Eggerue (The SlumFlower).