There are many situations that cause us to learn about ourselves; going on a camp, making big life choices, supporting others, being in leadership positions, going on a trip. However choosing to go on a journey of self-awareness should not be decided on lightly. I have gathered from my own experiences and my friends, 10 things that may happen to you if you decide to go on such a mission.
1. Develop an incredible supportive group of friends who ‘get you’. Learning about your values may mean gathering friends that have the same, and letting go of those that didn’t. As you become more self aware, it can be hard not to expect others to also be at the same level, or get frustrated that they just don’t understand.
2. Have deep and meaningful conversations – with everyone. Small talk has lost its flavor when you know there is so much more to a person that can be explored. Small talk can therefore become frustrating.
3. Discover your true partner in life. This may take unhealthy course initially of taking on more responsibility in relationships due to being aware of all the pitfalls and ways to guide someone out of them. This appears to develop into being more clearly able understand and articulate what are feeling or wanting.
4. Have big dreams and act on them. I have seem so many around me realize their potential, what they are capable of doing. I also believe this has made me less content with what currently appears to be an ‘ordinary’ life.
5. Learn what it is like to hit rock bottom. It can be hard to find out and accept what you are not good at. The process of learning the things that you might not like about yourself can be hard, hard to accept these truths.
6. Learn what happiness is really about. Learning your strength can allow you to let go or face your fears, which may have been holding happiness at bay. Also, finding out what is important allows you to prioritize your time around those things that make you feel good.
7. Expand your views on the world. Understanding that the world is a big place and that you are just one person within it, may influence you to become more open to listening to other peoples views, even if it is conflicting of your own. I have also noticed that I get frustrated when people are not able to be flexible with their views and opinions.
8. Become more involved in the community. Experiencing change within yourself can make you realize that you have the capacity to change the world around you.
9. Begin to see all the possibilities. Compared to those that say no straight away, or can’t see the potential in situations, people with more self awareness have learnt that their actions can have an impact on the world. It is not about wearing those rose coloured glasses to see that the world is perfect, its just surely they cant be too far out of reach.
10. Risk caring less or checking out. The awareness of what you can and can’t control may mean less effort gets put into things that are out of your control. There is also the risk of becoming more self absorbed due to the inward nature of the self-awareness process.
Perhaps being warned about all these things before hand, I may not have chosen to undertake so many life changing opportunities. Yet the truth is, I would never take any of them back. Also once you start, its hard to stop!
I dedicate this post to the amazing people I have met through Curtin Volunteers!, Rotary Youth Leadership Award, John Curtin Leadership Academy and Curtin Student Ambassadors. May our adventures continue ☺
So perhaps when going through a rough time you have thought ‘I should probably go talk to someone about it’ and don’t. Or perhaps when talking to a loved one said ‘I think you should go talk to someone about it’, and they don’t. This ‘someone’ refers to a health professional who is trained in talking to people about their problems. Well you are not the only one. There are so many reasons why people find it hard to book an appointment, then the harder step of actually going. So rather than exploring all of these, I thought I would share with you the 4 reasons why I think going to see a counselor for even just the small to medium sized problem is AWESOME!
1. You can moan, groan, bitch, complain, and whine as much as you want about anyone you want and they HAVE to listen to you! Also this person is not connected to your circles in anyway so it doesn’t matter, you can get it all off your chest without fear of offending anyone. Then when you catch up with friends/family there is more balance between the cool stuff and the hard stuff.
2. You get past that feeling of being stuck, sad, angry, and upset quicker. Sometimes it does feel good to wallow in misery and be annoyed at people, but being in this place can put grey clouds in front of happiness too. Having someone trained to ask you questions and even just saying problems out loud helps to work out what you are ACTUALLY feeling. If it just keeps going around your head it takes so much longer, then the next step of what to do about it is even further down the road.
3. Seeing a counselor for the small/medium stuff is kind of like using a sample pack before making a big purchase. Imagine the first time you have to speak to a stranger about your problems is when you have come to a huge problem or crisis (loved one passing, relationship breakdown, onset mental illness etc). It is worth finding a trained health professional that you like by trying them out on the smaller/medium problems. That way there is already a coach in your corner when its time to face the big ones.
4. If you have a health professional that you trust and have seen before, then when a family member or friend really really needs to see someone, then you already have someone to recommend. Also this loved one is much more likely to go when they come to a crisis if you have been before and can tell them what it’s like.
So if you have never sat down with a professional for some support, then the next time you have a problem, why not try it out? It could make a massive difference when you get to a crisis down the road (trust me these always come in some form), or to help someone else out if they have hit that point. I am glad I have one on my team before I get married, have kids, menopause (yikes!), parents become elderly, get seriously ill or any of the other normal life challenges that I’m sure are headed my way. But also, I like having a trained health professional to talk too so I can get up from those smaller challenges with an element of grace.
I have met many people this week who are striving to be the perfect partner, a hard worker, an amazing mum/dad, have a clean house, be amazingly fit, prepare healthy food, look after older parents and look stunning all at once. No wonder stress levels are running high. How can we expect to be good at all of these, all at the same time?
I’ve heard the analogy that life is like a juggling act trying to keep all the balls moving. It seems the ball that gets dropped and discarded first is the ‘looking after ourselves’ one. I mean how many times do you hear people say ‘you need to take some time to relax and look after yourself’. The response includes a polite smile and the thought ‘and I have time for that when?’. In the onslaught of battle against everyday expectations this warrior cant just sit there and paint her nails.
I get the point though, if the juggler falls off balance then all the balls are going to drop. So I decided to try out a new method. Instead of finding extra time to do nice things, I tried loosening the reigns just a little bit. After a hard day/week the default would be skipping the exercise class, getting takeaway and sitting on the couch. Although this seems to feel good at the time, the guilt trip after for not ‘looking after yourself’ doesn’t seem worth it. So how about taking the middle ground instead! Can’t be bothered with the gym? Go for a light walk instead. Can’t be bothered cooking? Get a premade salad and cooked chook instead. Too tired to attend that get together? Just go for an hour or arrange a quiet coffee date for another time instead.
I have found this way I am not opting out completely and still get a bit of everything in the day. It is just as important to be mindful of how you are feeling and find a compromise between what needs to be done. Show your self some kindness for how hard it is to juggle all the balls. And you never know, loosening the reigns on a couple of things every now and then might just give you the time to paint those nails.
I have recently gone through a house sitting stage and began to learn a lot about people by living in their homes. Being an OT who’s job it is to help people manage their routines, I found this compulsive need to put the houses in a clean and orderly state. In this process I learnt that EVERYONE at some point has just swept a bit of dirt under the rug. It was as if they got to the end or a particular spot and thought ‘that’s good enough’ or ‘no one will notice’. In some situations this was totally fine, the place didn’t need to be perfect as long as it was livable. Also being the new face coming in I was happy to take care of what would usually be left. In other houses it was more a case that there were not enough rugs to cover up the mess.
I began to speculate if this was a difference in personality, or just priorities. The therapist side of me wondered if there was a link between cleaning a messy house and dealing with messy emotions. Do people who leave a lot of mess around either:
a) Find it too much to deal with so just leave it, or
b) Focus more on the fun side of things and don’t bother with the messy stuff
At which point does it matter that we have just swept a few emotions under the rug? I mean a little mess was livable, gave some character and told a little story about the person. I remember a fridge magnet that my mum kept in prime position saying ‘ clean houses mean boring housewives’. In other situations when there was too much mess I wanted to avoid going there and couldn’t enjoy what the place had to offer. It was often pretty hard work to get the place cleaned up, but then these ones usually became my favourite. Some messy emotions or things that have happened in the past can at first seem overwhelming to look at. Yet cleaning and clearing these out allows for freedom and joy.
The first step is to acknowledge when a bit of cleaning is in order. Or is it that you need someone to ‘house sit’ to help you work a few things out?