I talk a lot about living your best life, and that is because I believe in that. Some people are totally satisfied with their life as it is, and I think that is fine. I also think there is always room for personal growth, there is always room to learn something more, and to be open to the possibility that there are still some amazing ways for us to live, to serve, to enjoy, and to experience life. Recently at work, I either have taken or will soon take a series of assessments that have proven to be very insightful into my leadership style, communication style, and just my overall personality. I make the analogy that these assessments remind me of what I have learned from astrology and reading a bit of Jungian psychology—but I digress. (To see this week’s YouTube video, click here: https://youtu.be/qFK1G-WO118)
Self-awareness is a very broad concept, and we won’t have the time to cover everything regarding this topic. This is more of a starting point (or a reminder) for a very very very important journey with yourself. Self-awareness has been vital in my own life in many ways. There was a point where I can honestly say that I only knew myself on a surface level. It can be terrifying to go deeper within and face yourself, but it is so important. Marianne Williamson said, “It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” Pema Chodron, “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” It can be difficult to take an honest assessment of who we are but it is worth it.
It is important work to do because we spend our whole lives with ourselves—more than with anyone else. You might as well like the person you are; you might as well like your own company. I believe that when you have a deeper understanding of who you are, the good, the bad, and the ugly lol, that it also helps with self-esteem, and with the ability to stand firmly against the harsher criticisms and projections from the outside world. I think it prevents you from being absorbed into people and situations that are not right for you because you have a deeper understanding of your values, and what feels authentic to you. I have also found that becoming more self-aware has actually helped me in other areas of my life, and has helped with my external relationships. When I know myself, it makes it easier to explain to others what are my expectations, what are the things that either hurt and disappoint me, or what are the things that make me feel loved and appreciated.
The dictionary definition of self-awareness is “the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” Add into that, “the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection.” I would sum this all up as, “Do you know who you are?” If I asked you that question right now, what would you tell me? Would you tell me your job title? Or perhaps associate yourself with another role? Would you tell me where you were from? Maybe your zodiac sign because you know I have an appreciation for astrology? LOL. Telling me any of these things is great, but I am asking you to go even deeper.
I liken this “going deep” to an ancient mythological story. In Sumerian lore, there is the story of the Goddess Inanna. She is beautiful, powerful, and smart. Her people refer to her as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She had everything she needed in her life, and it was a pretty satisfying life as it was. However, as is often the case in modern day, sometimes something happens that flips our life upside down, sometimes, like Inanna, we get the call for our own personal initiation into the deeper mysteries of life. Sometimes life challenges us to move outside of our comfort zone and grow.
Inanna got the call for initiation. She heard it calling to her in subtle whispers, and even when dissuaded by worried friends, she knew there was a deeper part of herself that she had to connect with. She had to go on what is known as her “descent” into the underworld to face her sister Erishkegal. I have heard one mythologist say Erishkegal was not really her sister, but a representation of her shadow self that needed to be faced. Before Inanna leaves for this journey, she puts on or carries seven items that show her power, wealth, beauty, and stature. She puts on her crown, a blue lapis lazuli necklace, another double strand of lapis beads, her warrior’s breastplate, her cape, her gold bracelet, and then she carries her lapis measuring rod.
On her journey she has to pass through seven gates, and at each gate something has to be removed. When she finally makes it to the underworld, everything that she thought made her who she was had been removed, and she was left with just her naked self. She had literally been stripped down to her core. In a sense, this is representative of the things that build up our ego. Sometimes when we are stripped of all the things that we think make up who we are, when that part of us has died, we are forced into our own personal descent. What happens when we are in that space is that we realize our own strengths, we realize who we are and who we want to be. Often we realize what truly matters to us. The story of Inanna’s descent is a long and poetic one, but it is also a story about personal transformation. Eventually when you descend, you must ascend, and it is on the rise that we realize that we are no longer who we once were. We are generally stronger, more self-aware, wiser, and more compassionate to others and ourselves. When Inanna ascended, she truly became the Queen that she was meant to be.
I faced something similar many years ago when I went through a painful divorce. I was younger, and had planned my whole life. There is a saying that, “man plans, and God laughs.” So it was truly horrific when everything started to crumble. During that time, one of the things I realized was that I had not spent much time alone with myself throughout my life. A textbook extrovert who loves people, I was with either family, friends, or a romantic partner. Because of this, I had never really done much introspection and reflection. I remember the awareness one day that I was by myself. I was alone in my apartment, and I felt the weight and gravity of loneliness. I sank into despair and a very deep depression.
There are many tools including therapy that helped, but even in therapy I had to do the work of facing myself. My therapist often gave me the assignment of looking in a mirror right at myself, and having conversation with myself. I also had to look in the mirror and tell myself that I loved myself, and that seemed to be the most difficult part of the task. The first several of these mirror sessions resulted in deep tears. This was my personal descent, and it was my dark night of the soul. Echkart Tolle said, “The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.” Ram Dass also said, “The dark night of the soul is when you have lost the flavor of life but have not yet gained the fullness of divinity. So it is that we must weather that dark time, the period of transformation when what is familiar has been taken away and the new richness is not yet ours.”
And so it was that in my personal descent I was truly able to learn a lot about myself. What did I enjoy doing? Who was I if my job title or my degrees got stripped away? What were the things that I loved about myself? What were the things that I felt vulnerable about sharing with others? What were my interests? Did I have any interests? Were my interests truly my own, or were they things that I had picked up from other people to fit in or people please?
I also took a bunch of personality quizzes, which I love, lol, and did a deep dive into whatever I could learn about myself. It was very informative because I didn’t focus on why did I? Or what ifs? I think learning from the past is great, but we cannot stay there. Life is for moving forward, not making ourselves prisoners to the past. A funny anecdote, I leaned that my Myers-Briggs personality type was “ENFP.” This is one of the 16 personality types from Myers-Briggs, and it accounts for 5-7% of the human population. We are the “Campaigners,” the true “people-person.” I was scrolling through social media one day and my cousin posted about her MB type. It was “INFP.” The introvert to my extrovert. One of her friends said she was that too, and I literally said, “This friend of my cousin’s will one day be my friend too….” and that is literally how my friendship with Tiffany began. I don’t know if it is the personality type, but since the time we met she has been a wonderful friend. Because we do have an understanding of our personality types, I know when to let her introvert. I am literally also surrounded by introverts in my own life, and becoming more self-aware has allowed me to respect their boundaries, and understand when they need to recharge. If my younger sister and I go out, we have a code for when she has “peopled enough” and needs to go home. So what are my tips for becoming more self-aware?
Celestial Goodness tips for becoming more self-aware:
1) Do not be afraid of what you will find when you go deeper inside yourself. You may be surprised to find that you are endlessly fascinating. I hope that when you dive deep within yourself, that you find a reservoir of serenity, strength, love, and compassion for yourself and others. Meditation is one way, but there are others. Research what works for you!
2) Become curious about you. Even asking some of the most basic questions. What is my favorite color? If I had to eat one food all day, what would it be? Plantains definitely lol. If I could sit and talk with five people from the past who would they be? Hmm. Bob Marley, my grandparents who have passed away, Nanny of the Maroons are a few. LOL!
3) Look in the mirror. Literally, look in the mirror and talk to yourself. I found this to be one of my most useful tools from therapy.
4) Ask the people close to you for genuine feedback. Make a safe space for them to give their feedback. Don’t hold it against them if they say something critical. Try to understand why that came up.
5) Do a SWOT analysis. In business this is, “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats,” for a business plan. You can tailor this to you. What are your strengths? What are your areas for development? What are some opportunities that you can take advantage of to either make progress on your dreams, or get to know yourself better? I would identify threats as character traits that could impede your progress. Once you identify them you can do better.
6) Take personality tests, or see someone whose job it is to do assessments like this. Clinical Psychologists or coaches come to mind. Some tests include Myers-Briggs, the Dharma Types, and DiSC assessments. You can find many free ones online.
7) Identify your values, passions, and things that are important to you.
8) Say “Yes” to life. When you say yes to new experiences and events, you will find either that you like it or you do not. That can help you become more aware…
Once you do these things, ask yourself the question of what you learned. How can you use what you learned to make your life and the lives of those around you better? Better communication, better understanding, and a better sense of self?
Before we part for this week, I want to share with you one of my favorite poems, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It is called “The Invitation.”
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company, you keep in the empty moments.”
I do hope that you take the invitation and find out something amazing about who you are. I have faith and hope in the treasures that are within you. I hope you pull them out, polish them up, or leave them raw if you choose, but I hope that they make your life feel meaningful and remind you of the love and beauty that yet remains. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be an amazing one indeed. Thank you!