One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to be self-aware. It is to pause regularly, take several deep breaths and check in with ourselves—to check in with the stories we’re spinning, the actions we’re taking, the thoughts and feelings that are driving these actions.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to tell ourselves the truth. Because this is how we identify unhelpful habits and start changing them. This is how we build nourishing, meaningful, fulfilling lives. Which look different for each of us. And which sometimes requires facing facts and feelings and situations that aren’t easy. And maybe even really hard.
In the powerful book How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t: 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back from Happiness, author and coach Andrea Owen encourages readers to ask ourselves a variety of hard questions. Below are my favorites from the book, which I believe are vital to explore. Maybe you journal your responses to these questions monthly. Maybe you revisit them during different seasons. Maybe you schedule a weekly date with yourself, a time for you to reconnect to your inner life, as you sip a cup of tea and savor a delicious doughnut.
- When things become hard in your life, do you tend to hide out and isolate yourself?
- Do you need to do a “cleanup” of your current friendships, and focus on nurturing others?
- Are you following “inspirational” people on social media or doing certain things to “inspire” yourself to change—like posting pictures of a slimmer you on your fridge—which is anything but inspirational because it makes you feel terrible? What can you do about it?
- In what ways do you numb out? Why?
- Are you sabotaging yourself? For instance, maybe you’ve convinced yourself that staying in a toxic relationship is your only option. Maybe you’ve partied the night before a big presentation. Maybe you break up with a great boyfriend because you’re scared of getting hurt. Maybe the sabotaging is something seemingly small like staying up late scrolling social media, thereby ruining your sleep (and your mood).
- If you’re a people pleaser, what are you afraid of happening if you stop acting this way?
- What boundaries do you really need to set? What are you tolerating in your life that actually requires a boundary or walking away?
- What do you see as the opposite of “being strong”? Have you shoved down certain feelings to be “strong”? What are you afraid will happen if you aren’t strong or if people think you aren’t strong?
- Do you have any unexpressed anger? Where does it stem from? How can you deal with it healthfully?
The most special talks we have with our loved ones are steeped in truth-telling. Sometimes, they’re the talks when something is revealed. Always they’re the talks when both people are truly being themselves. There’s no pretense. There are no masks or filters. There are no interruptions or distractions. There’s no judgment. There’s just genuine interest and curiosity. There’s just heart and soul. And maybe some laughter.
When you’re reflecting on the above questions, consider doing the same: Be completely candid. Listen to what feelings, worries, what-ifs, yearnings, truths come up. And maybe other questions naturally come up, too. Try to be open to it all. Try to have a sense of humor or lightness (when you can).
And when your inner critic inevitably chirps up, think of yourself as a fascinating character in your favorite book, a character you’re simply learning more about. A character that’s doing her best to navigate this difficult and delightful, complicated and captivating, brutal and beautiful world.