You have more to do with your problems than you might think. Therefore, you must own your part. That’s why you must Examine Thy Self – here’s how.
I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would argue that humans are extraordinarily complex. Full of endless wonder and curiosity, packed with amazing intellectual ability, and gifted with an incredible amount of self-awareness.
Wait, what? Self-awareness? I know I feel it too, those who are walking around, oblivious to the world around them. How can they be aware? While it’s certainly true that one’s degree of their own impact on the world varies from person to person, it’s not what I am talking about. At least not entirely.
No, what I am talking about here is something deeper. I am speaking of our inability, or in some cases, unwillingness to examine ourselves. Think about it. When was the last time you tried to get to the root of why you behave the way you do?
For all intents and purposes, we are stuck defining ourselves on a surface level. What does this mean? Well, in part, it means that we allow our lifelong experiences to shape who we are. We just fall into a mold and let the mold shape who we are and who we become.
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Do you, for example, feel the need to have everything go your way? And if so, how does it impact your life? See, everything that impacts us ultimately impacts those who must share our lives: friends, family, co-workers, etc. What’s interesting about this is the loop our behaviors create. So, if you’re forceful and blunt, you might see more conflict with others around you. The question is, how does this impact your happiness and those around you? Ultimately, I feel like humans need to get better at being more self-aware so they can have a more positive impact on their quality of life.
But how does one achieve this? Well, the short answer is, it’s not easy. However, it can be done. One of the biggest challenges is knowing what’s making your life miserable. And if you stop and think about it, you are always at the core of your problems.
Firstly, we should learn to ask ourselves questions that confront our behavior. What do I mean by confronting your behavior? Well, all I mean is making self-evaluation normal and common in our daily lives. It’s always best to start off by understanding that we all need improvement. In my view, we get there by regularly evaluating ourselves.
My personal example:
Growing up in the nineteen-eighties was a different time. Yes, the rumors are true; we had hours and hours of outdoor adventures, were guided home by the beacon known as the streetlight, and Saturday cartoons were king.
However, it was also a time when punishment was an integral part of your upbringing. It was the gold standard for the time for everything from bad grades to snapping back at an adult. It didn’t matter which adult; it was assumed that you were the problem.
And if that weren’t enough, people being critical was commonplace. For example, if you weren’t focused and going at the pace of the majority, off to the office with you.
I was just such a kid. And the attack on my character was relentless. So much so, I became terrified to move sideways. And as you might imagine, I acted out.
I was a march-to-their-own-drum kind of kid, and in those days, it was seen as opposition. Add childhood depression on top of that, and there you go. A problem child was born.
Everything I did, I was in the principal’s office for; every time I tried to be better, work harder, I wasn’t doing it well enough, or I was doing it completely wrong. So, I did what many children do when they don’t understand their emotions, I yelled and rebelled.
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Regardless, though, everything that happened to me was a result of my behavior and had nothing to do with the education system, which was the thought process of the day.
Although untrue as a fairy or elf, it nonetheless caused so much controversy that I had zero control in my life, a feeling that would have long-term consequences. In fact, I have never felt like I have had any control over my entire 47 years.
You can read all about my life’s journey through school, depression, anxiety, and PTSD in my book, The Road To Mental Wellness.
So, what are the long-term consequences? And furthermore, what’s the under-the-surface meaning to it all? Well, had I not been a thinker, I would have to say that I would have walked through life being controlling. See, having a lack of control all one’s life can equal working hard at trying to have some. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to me.
Now that I know this was the source of my behavior as an adult, I have been able to quell the desire for trying to control the environment. But for many years, I was oblivious to the fact that it stemmed from my childhood experience. How does one learn this?
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Well, simply stated, examine yourself; learn about what makes humans tick and seek therapy. Therapy can help uncover the source and help you heal from it. “Oh! This is why I was always wanting control?”
While these elements are essential, there are others just as important. Such as:
1. Purposefully taking 15-20 minutes a day to think about what factors are creating unnecessary chaos for you. In other words, what is your role in it? Even though confronting our part in the dramas in our lives can be uncomfortable, if we want inner peace, we must take it on.
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2. After a confrontation, examine your part in it. Did you start it? Were you finding yourself getting increasingly angry because things weren’t going the way you wanted? Maybe you always raise your voice every time your partner suggests a different place to eat, for example. All of these instances could mean you are to blame.
And when you think about it, it makes sense. If all your partner is saying is, “Let’s eat somewhere else,” and you get angry, they are not the problem.
3. You have more to do with your problems than you might think. Therefore, you must own your part. So, for example, if you really want to change, keep track of the number of times your behavior has impacted your life. In the case of the “where do you want to eat?” example, sit down with your partner when you are calm and ask them, “Can you help me keep track of the times when I do this?” Or better yet, start tracking them yourself. This can help you see that you indeed have a role to play in your daily challenges. Not only does it help you get to know yourself better, it also improves your relations with others. Perhaps most importantly, you can be freed from the childhood ties that bind you.
In the end, taking the time to examine yourself can lead you down the road to mental wellness and into the realm of taking responsibility. Trust me, there is nothing on this earth more liberating than defeating what is essentially the demon within.
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