How well do you know yourself? Are you living the life you want to live? Is your life really complicated and difficult right now?
Am I living the Life I want to Live?
I used to think I was the worst kind of blank slate, that I lacked genuine personality, and was a completely different person depending on who I was with. I also used to want a life that, I realize now, is overly complicated and would not make me happy. Until recently, I was moping about how busy my life is and how hard it was to get up in the morning and to not let go of everything. I was seriously over complicating my life and it was making me miserable because I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted.
As a disclaimer, I’ve always been very introspective and I think that comes with my introverted personality that is prone to overthinking everything. With that said, there is always room to grow and get to know yourself. Especially if you are like me, and weren’t asking yourself the right questions.
A lot of people think that life is supposed to be hard in some way for it to be rewarding. Additionally, people think that busyness and difficulty are an inescapable part of life. I want to say that it doesn’t have to be unless you want it to be. Plenty of people live simple, yet fulfilling lives. Sometimes we might look at someone and think, “wow, their life is hard, how do they do it?” I’m here to say that maybe it isn’t? “Hard” is a subjective term, just like busy. “Hard” is a perspective. And maybe you think your life is hard because it’s not the life you want to be living.
Some people have it rough, and that’s an understatement. The growing animosity in our country and systematic oppression of people of color, LGBTQ+ persons, and the mental illness stigma (just to name a few) makes living safely and simply nearly impossible for many. I’m not talking about hardship, I’m talking about the perspective that important things are complicated. That in order to be important people we must live complicated lives. When we should be complicated people who live simple lives.
Complication is dramatic and so many people thrive on drama. These people can be toxic and over complicate things for the sake of over complicating things. Often we are these people and do this subconsciously or out of habit. This is why it is important to be self aware and introspective.
Have you ever done something that was tedious and complicated only to look back and think, “I made that a lot harder than it should have been.”
Have you ever had a friend approach you with a problem and while it wasn’t directly your problem, you felt the need to hype the issue up? Or you took it upon yourself to get angry about it, only to complicate the problem for your friend by getting directly involved, instead of just listening to your friend and understanding? This is toxic, unhelpful, and I strongly believe we are all guilty of this.
Life isn’t complicated, we are making it complicated. I think we can address this and learn about ourselves in the process through introspection and self awareness. We may find out that we don’t know anything about ourselves, that maybe we are the toxic friend/family member, or we are simply making our own lives more complicated than they need to be.
Introspection is important. There is a lot you can accomplish with introspection. This is understanding why you do things what your strengths and weaknesses are.
What I do is I take time to explain my actions as though I were someone who knows me very well explaining them to a stranger. It’s a little crazy, but it has helped me take a semi-unbiased approach to myself. It made me realize things about myself I wouldn’t have without taking the time to think about it. You could just as easily do this by asking yourself “why” more often.
The better you know yourself, which isn’t just knowing where you excel and what you like, but also acknowledging areas of improvement and being self aware enough to know when you can improve and why it is important to do so.
A self aware person might know they are a good verbal communicator, but also know that maybe they aren’t the best listener for their friends and actively wants to work on being a better listener.
I also utilize counseling and therapy every now and then. This is something I think everyone should try at least once. Even when you are in a good place mentally, a counselor or therapist can provide you with tools you can use at any point in your life. I had a counselor teach me a very calming breathing technique. I then was able to take this tool and teach it to classmates in a presentation course. I also use it in my yoga practice.
This technique is slowly inhaling to the count of six, holding it for six counts, then exhaling for six counts. Slightly constricting the throat like you would an ujjayi breath in yoga to prolong the breath is also helpful in this technique.
I was taught to do it for a minute. Three times is 54 seconds and that does the trick for me. It’s instantly calming and I use it almost daily to ground myself, to relax, and to dispel nervousness. It also helps me clear my mind. After doing this, I am able to clearly think about what I want out of life and what I needed to work on to be a better person. I also spend time visualizing the person I am and the person I want to be. It all sounds very hippy dippy “feel yourself” in writing, but it genuinely helps.
I started with identifying the kind of life I wanted to live. I used to want to be a super busy career woman. When I realized that would not make me happy, I evaluated my wants and needs out of life and a job. I realized that I don’t want my job to be my lifestyle, I wanted my job to support my lifestyle. I wanted my friends and family to be the center of my life. I want to be able to take my future kids to and from school. I want entire afternoons and evenings to play and learn with my future family. I want the weekends for bettering myself. I want time to read and write everyday, to go on walks and do yoga. I want to travel often and without expectation. I want a simple and slow life.
What Can I Change Right Now, to Live the Life I Want To Live?
Now where I am right now is not a slow or particularly simple life, but it can get me there. I can’t drop out of school. I need at least one job, and both of my jobs are good for me right now. I am aware of my options and what was best for me at this moment. I applied my new “life goals” to my current situation to see what I could change that would get me closer to the lifestyle I wanted right now. Now, I don’t have a family yet, so that took quite a bit of lifestyle off the table. But building relationships with the family I have and my friends is incredibly important.
I started with adding more yoga to my life and making time to go on meditative walks. I only read books that interest me and I make sure I have time to do that. I started this blog so I had a broader range of opportunities to write and practice writing. I also started this blog to rebuild a friendship with someone.
I thought about the kind of people I want to surround myself with, then what kind of person I am. Would I want to be friends with myself?
Am I friends with myself?
It’s possible to be friends with and even love yourself, and not like yourself sometimes. When you truly love someone, you love them in spite of their flaws. Now, this does not mean you are blind to the flaws, that is not love, that is unhealthy. This perspective applies to yourself as well. You need to love yourself in spite of your flaws, but be aware that you do have flaws and can always be better. I started talking to myself as I would my best friend; supportively and honestly. I’m learning to build myself up, be honest with myself when I make mistakes, yet not demonize myself for my mistakes and flaws.
Who Are My Friends? Do They Contribute To My Happiness?
I really considered how I interact with the people in my life. I learned I spend a lot of time talking about myself in conversation. And while most people talk about themselves in conversation, it’s something I want to limit. I want to know my friends and family, and I’m not going to get to know them by talking about myself. I want to ask more poignant questions and to listen to all of what my loved ones are saying, not just the important bits. I want to see and hear everything in a conversation, and that can’t happen if I’m busy thinking about what story I want to tell next.
I learned that the people I choose to be around are the people I want to be around. This wasn’t always the case, but I was overjoyed to learn that I love who I spend time with now. I used to have some pretty toxic friends that made being happy difficult. My psychiatrist pointed this out to me. I knew I always felt like shit after spending time with them, but had never considered that friendship is a choice and I wasn’t making choices with myself in mind.
Do I come First?
It’s okay to put yourself first, and in all honestly, you should put yourself first. You should be your own constructive best friend. You should know yourself better than anyone else. Your complicated life is probably less complicated than you are making it out to be. Take a step back, spend some time on introspection and work on self awareness. You never know what you will find out about yourself, and how simple and fulfilling your life can be after some serious soul searching.
So I want to know, what are you doing to get to know yourself? What have you found out about yourself? Did you find something you want to change? If so, how are you going to do that?