In a world that is highly connected and apparently never sleeps, one needs time to be alone. Spending time alone with yourself allows you to reboot, meditate, focus and be more creative and productive. Being away from it all reduces the distractions and interruptions.
Women in particular, as the natural Caregivers and nurturers in our communities, have many demands made on their time by family, friends and careers that they may fail to find time for themselves. And when they do, they tend to feel guilty about it.
The psychologists never cease to remind us that each one of us needs time to look within herself/himself to know who he/she really is. Knowing your inner thoughts and beliefs, your gifts, talents and weaknesses and embracing them, helps you to act authentically and results in meaningful and fulfilling lives.
As children we very much want to please our parents then our teachers and later as teenagers we want to please our peers mainly because we want to belong and even fit in. We step into predetermined roles that in a large measure come to define us. Between 30and 40 years of age, we go through life being guided by our ambitions, desires and aspirations.
After 40 most of us throw away the cultural and society conditioning and embark on a journey to find our own way of expressing our uniqueness in the world. Through our identities and vocations we express who we are.
The Merriam – Webster dictionary defines Self –awareness as an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality. The psychologists refer to this state as a state in which oneself becomes the focus of attention. It involves being aware of the different aspects of the Self including traits, behaviours and feelings. It is about understanding your own needs, desires, failings, habits, why you feel what you feel and why you behave in a particular way and everything else that makes you, you.
“ I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am , the more I will respect myself.”- Charlotte Bronte.
Self-awareness is a challenging and a lifelong effort. Through the experiences we go through: loses and achievements, failures and successes and how we respond to them and our interactions with other people and how we respond to them , help us to explore and understand ourselves . We find the Self- the inner you. We act on what we get to know about ourselves and use it to change ourselves for the better. The inner you has to be constantly renewed and healed by connecting to the mind, soul , and heart .
The Benefits of self-awareness/Knowing yourself.
“ I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” – Hermann Hesse
Knowing your inner self is essential for you to live a more meaningful and satisfying life. It helps you become more objective about yourself. Other benefits include:
- Having a clear sense of purpose- you get to know your purpose and direction in life. You get to know what is important to you and what you hope to achieve.
- Self-acceptance- you understand that you are not perfect but have strengths and weaknesses. You recognize the form of your own beauty, whether it is the beauty of your body, mind or your character. It helps you to gradually become honest and authentic.
- You build strong relationships- the more you know and understand yourself, the more you get to understand others and the more you can influence them positively.
- Experience greater well-being. The more you are in touch with your soul, the more you recognize the great worth within you, you begin to respect and have reverence of oneself.
- Happiness- you align your thoughts, actions with your core values.
- More creative and productive- When your mind, your soul and heart are in harmony, you are more focused, imaginative and creative. You create things out of who you are organically.
How to increase Self-awareness.
The psychologists advise us to increase our self awareness by practicing the following every day:
- Devote time to yourself- everyday spend time with yourself by reading, writing, praying and connecting with yourself.
- Mindfulness practice- pay attention to your inner state and external experiences occurring in the present moment. It can be done through training or by practicing meditation.
- Keep a journal- Record your thoughts, feelings, ideas and important decisions. It helps you to process your thoughts and to connect with yourself at a deeper level. It helps you also to track your progress in life.
- Train yourself to become a good listener- Listen beyond the words. Listening to others makes you a better listener to your own inner voice and you become your own best friend.
- Feedbacks- have the courage to ask what others think of you- at home, at work and ask the friends you consider important to you. As you learn about yourself, you also learn about others and how they respond to you. Use the objective feed back to change yourself for the better. The more you accept yourself, the more accepting of others you become.
Researchers have proved that the best way to get to truly know yourself is to disconnect from it all; people, gadgets and be alone with yourself.
In the Bible, on several occasions, Jesus Christ would go off alone to pray and refresh himself.
A day before he chose the twelve disciples, he went up a hill to pray and spent the whole night there praying to God.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Carl Gustav Jung.
As a daughter, wife, mother, friend, medical doctor and member of my community, I used to find it difficult to make time for myself. As I grow older, I have found it easier to find time to give to myself without feeling guilty. I developed it gradually after I recognized that I was not indispensable, neither could I be available 24/7 nor do everything. I learned to prioritize to free up time to focus on the 20% most important things in my life. I learned to delegate tasks and to empower family and friends to do things for themselves. I have learned to set boundaries and limits to safeguard myself against burn out.
I regularly give to myself by reading the Bible, reading novels, listening to good music, country and oldies tunes. I am a keen gardener too. I tend to my vegetable garden and small orchard. Right now I have a graviola/soursop tree bent with spiky green fruits. I cannot wait to eat them and share a few with friends.
Walking about in the bush in the village is a privileged experience that enables me to connect with the beauty of nature and to find my place in the universe. It feeds my soul.
My best time with myself is when I wake up as early as 5am to write a chapter for a novel or a post for the blog for two and half hours. By that time it is peaceful and calm as most people are still in bed and the deafening noises of the boda bodas– motorcycle taxis, are also silent. I try to pack in as much as I can before the sunrise. Thankfully, the ideas flow freely. I am strongly focused as I paint on the day’s blank canvas using all the colours of the rainbow. I tend to be more productive and effective at this quiet time. At that moment in time, I am fully conscious of who I am and what I am doing.
I have come to understand that all human beings are born to be creators of things including their own lives and that the most magnificent works are created only when the mind, soul and heart are working in tandem. The works themselves are an expression of who we are at that moment in time. When the mind and soul are at odds, we live a life of struggle. Many people pass through life not knowing who truly they are and what they want out of life. Sometimes the people around us influence us to the extent of suffocating who we are or the choices available to us are limited. We miss out on expressing our wholeness- not expressing what is most unique about each one of us towards making a better world.
“ We are alive or dead according to the condition of our Souls.”- James Hillman
The Soul is the most creative and transformative part of ourselves.
And Ralph Ellison said: “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.’’ Being in touch with your Soul awakens your imagination and this drives you to find meaning and beauty in your life. Life ceases to be a struggle and instead things flow easily.
According to Wikipedia, the multilingual free online encyclopedia, One of the mottos inscribed on the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece was : “ Know Thyself.’’ The ancient Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato often referred to this motto in their works. Essentially it served to draw the attention of the worshippers entering the temple to the fact that : When you know and understand yourself then you are able to understand other human beings better.
After all, much of our lives are created collectively not individually.
Do you set aside “Me Time” everyday to get in touch with your Soul? Have you started creating beautiful things authentically from your Soul?