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healing

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Know Thyself: Awareness Comes First


Something I’ve been tossing around and chewing on for quite some time now is the concept of self-awareness and its role in the psychology of change, healing and wellness. My slight obsession with it came as the result of my search for meaning and understanding around the elusive, hard-to-grasp topic of self-love. Something I speak often about, and also something, I would argue, we all want to feel, but aren’t entirely sure how to go about accomplishing.

 

To me, then, it became apparent that before self-love, before self-compassion, and absolutely before self-understanding, there must be something else. Something more substantial and foundational. Something that would catch you as you fall and provide a landing net of sorts to direct you through your darkest and most pivotal moments, and what I’ve found is that it is self-awareness.

 

As I’ve become more enamored with this idea, I’ve come to believe that self-awareness is one of the most important traits a human being can embody, because without it, we will never really know ourselves, and therefore anyone else – essentially, leaving us devoid of the connection we’re hardwired to seek. Without it, we also become destined to continue loops of mistakes, behaviors and habits in perpetuity, equaling ourselves to a mouse on a hamster wheel (laughably of course). Whether its diets we start and fail endlessly, relationship arguments we rinse and repeat or an inability to find a meaningful career we enjoy, all of it points back to the same thing: the lack of self-awareness to change it.

 

But why does this matter? Why should we want, or need, to change the parts of our lives that don’t appear to be working in our favor? Well:

 

 A. Because they aren’t working (obviously)

 B. Because generally, we aren’t always the ones doing the “choosing” of these patterns, habits and beliefs, meaning the software we’re operating on is somewhat outdated, un-useful and un-applicable to who we are, what we want and where we’re going.

 

Sometimes this software comes from our parents, sometimes the culture we live in, sometimes its just an amalgamation of all our life experiences, but nonetheless, it’s often not directly chosen, and therefore, not directly applicable, leaving us stuck in a weird, self-perpetuating cycle we rarely stop to question, let alone change.

 

The key to any kind of lasting change then is simply awareness. Awareness of self and the ability to introspectively mine your inner landscape for information you can then use to move forward, both incrementally and insightfully. To understand your feelings, emotions, thoughts and motivations and then act accordingly. In other words, to “know thyself,” as was subscribed in Ancient Greece, written with conviction on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, is to understand the world around you, as the world around you is a reality of your own making.

 

However, it is here that I find it equally important to throw in a word of caution. Because, for all that I speak of self-awareness, I do find that it can easily become pathological in nature, and therefore, occasionally, negates its own purpose. Let me explain…

Often times, as we become more aware of ourselves (perhaps through counseling, prayer, meditation, or something else entirely), we get a bit obsessive with viewing our life through this new lens. When I, as a newly self-aware person, start to notice all the ways my behavior, beliefs and habits of thought affect my daily experience, it’s easy to myopically zoom in on all that is ME and forget that the reason I wanted to become aware in the first place was so that I could more easily interact with the world around me. I see this evidenced time and time again as clients, friends and family (including myself at one point) become ever-obsessed with finding the next level of ascension, the next layer to peel back or the next roadblock to uncover. And while I clearly promote and agree with knowing oneself, I think it’s worth mentioning that the reason to know oneself IS to be more happy. More free. More content. So, if awareness is leading you away from those states of being, it’s perhaps time to reconsider your approach.

 

 So, how to cultivate awareness without simultaneously getting caught in self-absorption? More awareness. And I say that laughing, with a smile on my face, yet entirely serious. That’s it. Simply to know that this could possibly, potentially be a problem is enough. Simply to know that you are eating handfuls of chips straight from the bag because you are stressed is enough. Simply to know that you’re over-reacting to something your husband or boyfriend said because it triggered your abandonment issues is enough. Simply to know that your feeling irritable and snappy because you’re scared is enough. Its enough just to know. Because once you know, you can’t unknow. And one of those times, after you’ve known it long enough, you’ll make a new choice that IS directly applicable, and you will have started the process of change so organically, you’ll hardly notice it’s presence.

 

Start by asking questions. Who am I? What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Where am I going? Why am I feeling this way? What happens when I feel this way? Who would I like to be instead? Is there a reason for this behavior? Do the way I see myself and the way others see me match? Do I care? Who is doing the thinking here? Do my thoughts matter? What are my habits around X? What are my patterns around Y?

 

Ask. Ask. Ask. Get curious, then sit back and watch the answers unfold. They will. They do every time. And eventually, if you ask enough questions, you’ll get a really good answer.

 

THIS is why I self-awareness is key to change. Key to self-love, key to transformation. It is a powerful, foundational, absolutely necessary and vital component to obtaining all that you seek. And the best part is, you can start right here, right now, today – for free.

 

Until next time,

Sy 

 

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Helping Friends and Family Adjust to Your Healing Path

Today, I want to talk about something that often brings people (including myself in the past) quite a bit of pain and disconnection. Often, when we decide to take control of our health, and begin the beautiful journey back to vitality, we think it will be a road covered in rainbows and daisies, and that everything will be perfect once we reach our destination. There is a great deal about regaining one’s vibrancy that DOES bring joy, happiness and contentment, but what is less talked about, (yet, I feel equally important) is that it can also be a shedding of one’s self and one’s old, familiar territories, which can be unsettling and sometimes even painful.

 

As you step into a new life, you are awakened to new possibilities, new ideas, new beliefs and new paradigms that were previously hidden to you. If you’re currently experiencing this unfolding, you’ll know how rewarding, exciting and challenging it can be. Many people talk about feeling like their soul has been rejuvenated after a long, dark winter! Naturally, as humans, when something good or exciting happens to us, we want to reach out and share with our loved ones and bring them along for the ride. In fact, according to research professor and author, Dr. Brene Brown, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” Which explains why we feel so ashamed when the people we’re most excited to share with end up rejecting the shifts that are bringing happiness and health into our lives.

 

Telling friends and family about your health concerns or dietary changes can be intimidating. It’s often a heavy subject and for some reason brings up a lot of pain, shame, blame and judgment. This can make it hard to want to stick to your new habits or, on the flip side, be around those friends and family members who make you feel badly. I don’t know about you, but experiences like this and the emotions surrounding them left me feeling very alone and very confused during a time when I was already feeling unsteady and unsure in my new shoes.

 

Sometimes, we aren’t even that excited, but have newly begun down a path that seems to be working for us and are just willing to stick it out for a bit. Wherever you are on the continuum, the fact remains that not everyone you meet or choose to spend time with will understand your new habits and some may even criticize, judge or find frustration with you. You see, these people have come to love and know you deeply, and just as much as change can be scary for the person IN it, it can be frightening to those on the outside as well. Sometimes our loved ones’ fear losing US, sometimes they fear being judged for their own struggles and sometimes they simply fear the unknown (don’t we all?!). But, it doesn’t have to create shame and blame and we certainly don’t have to make it a fight every time a family dinner rolls around.

 

After having been through my own ups and downs with loved ones, I finally figured out how, and where, my new lifestyle fit into the mix and wanted to share with you guys in case you’re going through something similar. It might not get solved right away and may take some finesse, but eventually you’ll find a new rhythm with your tribe, and maybe even welcome in some new soul family along the way! With change comes challenge, but with challenge comes clarity and strength – you’ve got this.

 

Tips for Helping Family and Friends Adjust to Your New Lifestyle:

1.     Have a chat. Often, we hide things we don’t like in dark corners where they seem scarier than they are. Ever seen a coat rack in the dark and thought it was a burglar? Well, then you get my point. Flip on the lights, and it’s not so scary anymore. What I’m suggesting is a metaphorical “flipping on” of the lights. Like I mentioned above, change can be scary. Bringing out the emotions surrounding it can really help to knock down barriers and build bridges of understanding. Perhaps there is a certain family member or friend who really seems to be irritated or having a hard time. In a gentle and loving way, ask if you two can have a chat and ask them why they seem to be having such a strong reaction to your new habits. While some of the things they have to say might seem hurtful, really dig deep and see if there’s anything you can learn. This isn’t a time for you to defend and argue your right to take care of yourself. In fact, doing so usually just puts even more of a wall between you and them. You know you have every right to care for yourself in a way that feels good. This conversation is more about opening up the doors of communication and making sure that both parties feel heard, loved and connected despite differences.

Now, I’m not saying that this kind of conversation is always easy or that it’s a sure bet to go well. Sometimes the person across from you is really just projecting their own “stuff” on to you and will lash out. But, in my experience, usually that person loves you and wants things to work out just as much as you do. Most people are more flexible than we give them credit for when swords are put away and vulnerability is present. And really, at the end of the day, what do you have to lose??

 

 

2.     Don’t expect others to accommodate your new eating habits or shift entire family functions. In a perfect world, everyone would see how amazing dietary and lifestyle changes can be and we’d all skip happily, and healthily, off into the sunset holding hands….eh, or not. 9 times out of 10, it will take people a looooong time to come around or get curious, and honestly, they may NEVER take interest in your new life. As painful as it can be, it’s really ok. It’s YOUR life and YOU feeling good is what matters. But in the same sentence, it is YOUR life and no one else’s. Therefore, if you have special accomodations that need to be made, it’s your job to ensure that it happens.  Sometimes other’s will be understanding and more than happy to adjust – great – but for those times when it’s not really an option, try these: Make your own food to bring to an event, offer to help prepare and arrange food for get-togethers, speak up with restaurant ideas when no one else seems to be picky, keep snacks handy in your car, purse or diaper bag and last, but not least, don’t be afraid to speak up about sensitivities or allergies.

 

 

3.     Have reluctant or confrontational friends and family over for a home-cooked meal. Sometimes people simply aren’t caught up on or even aware of what different dietary strategies look like. It’s easy to get caught up thinking that everyone follows the same guidelines as you or knows what “Paleo” or “Gluten-Free” means, but that’s usually not the case. Things we don’t understand can be intimidating and intimidation can cause us to withdraw or put up a fight. By inviting loved ones into your world, you give them a taste of what your doing and let them see that it’s really not such a big deal after all if you switch out bread with potatoes and margarine with butter. No doubt, most people will be happy to see that you are, in fact, still eating reguar ol’ food and having a good time.

 

 

4.     When traveling with friends or family, take a little side trip to the grocery store so that you know you’ll have what you need in any event. It can take a tiny bit of planning, but trust me, it’s better than stepping off track so that you don’t make a fuss and end up feeling terrible throughout or after your trip. I’ve definitely done that a time or two and, instead of feeling better, felt disappointed, sick and resentful. The trips I have loved the most are those in which I stay the course and keep my health a priority so that I can fully enjoy the time away. You can even explain this to others on the trip if they begin to wonder. I usually say something along the lines of “trust me, it’s better for all of us if I can regulate my food intake, so that I can be the best travel companion possible,” along with a little laugh and joking tone. While it might sound cheesy, it’s true! I really am able to show up better for everyone around me when my body is well taken care of, and it’s worth a little trip to the store.

 

5.     Last, but not least, sometimes there will be that one friend or family member who just won’t come around. As sad as it can be to come to an impassible road, you may have to prepare yourself for acceptance. It’s ok to feel pain over this and it’s ok to be sad. Let yourself feel the emotions of loss and disconnection and then move forward knowing that it’s you who really needs to be ok with your choices, not them. I get it – that sounds harsh and it doesn’t always feel good right away. But, the more confident and healthy you become, the more this will resonate with you. It’s not out of anger or blame that we have to let these relationships go, but out of love and respect for your body and their journey as well. They may understand someday, and they may not – it’s not up to you. We can hope, and work to communicate, but we can’t force acceptance and unconditional love from someone. This is when having a “soul family,” or people around you who support, understand and, are maybe even on, your journey can do wonders. You ARE a part of something. You ARE important and you ARE loved. Remembering this can take away the sting of losing someone and help you to know that the universe has your back and is waiting on the other side for you to step into your light.

 

I hope sincerely that everyone surrounding you is loving and open to your changes. Your health IS important and worth it. But, if not, it’s also my hope that you can use some of this advice to help you move out of the shame game that is often so destructive to progress and peace. Until next time.

Much love,

Sy 


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