“Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.” –Mr. Rogers
The new year has just arrived. And as we begin to peer into what 2020 will bring us, we may also be considering what changes we want to make in our lives. Goals for fitness, vacation plans, career shifts, and all those pesky little resolutions we are so excited about in January but that quickly fade away in February.
But perhaps there is a bigger picture for us to consider––a higher level of functioning that we could take part in. In addition to the newest fad diet that we’re going to try, and the new flossing regimen we swear we’ll stick to, we could also consider learning about ourselves and allowing heightened self-awareness.
Humans are complex beings, and we’re given ample opportunity to create and foster (internal and external) dysfunction. We develop opinions and beliefs from life experiences and what we’re told/taught that become engrained in our psyche and therefore our reality–even if the roots are false and fabricated. So we turn into conditioned little robots who suffer from narrow minds and judgemental hearts, which often lead to bad behavior (road rage; trolling on social media; abusing, shaming, and stereotyping others; etc.).
So what if, in addition to our typical new year's goals, we try to also gain some perspective on who we are individually, and why we do and say the things we do and say. Why do I get angry when (fill in the blank)? Why do I treat people this way? Why do I think, feel, and believe the way I do?
Increasing our self-awareness means we have to start asking ourselves tough questions and telling ourselves the truth, and it’s not always fun or easy. In fact, it can be a painful and embarrassing process. We have to open mental doors that we shut a long time ago. We have to take responsibility for our actions, which may include asking for forgiveness, or rebuilding a burned bridge, or even stepping away from a toxic relationship. We tend to get comfortable with our dysfunction, and begin to see our unhealthy thoughts and behaviors as “normal”. We overcompensate for our insecurities and lash out or get defensive when we feel threatened, even if the threat is only in our own heads. And we choose to protect our egos instead of examining our emotional triggers and asking ourselves what’s really going on inside.
So this year, let’s consider creating space for self-exploration. Perhaps we can open up just a bit and let some light shine in, dust out the cobwebs, crack open a window for fresh air, and start looking around. What’s going on in there, in our hearts and minds? What do we see? What is serving us, and what’s not? What’s keeping us from becoming our best selves? And do we need some professional support to help us get there? (Note: There is no shame in working with a therapist, and in fact the experience can be positively life-changing, liberating, and healing.)
For 2020, my hope for all of us is that we may…
Lean into discomfort
Open and explore our hearts and minds
Be brave enough to make changes when something isn’t right, or when we’re hurting people we love
Make learning a goal, instead of putting everything and everyone in tiny, biased boxes
Take responsibility for ourselves and our actions
Aim for self-awareness
Choose to be kind
Stop expecting others to change, and focus on our own growth
Strengthen healthy boundaries that support our emotional and mental well-being
Resist the temptation to persecute and ridicule others, and move forward from a place of compassion
Make more room for love and generosity, turning from judgment and shame
Allow ourselves to grieve when the need arises
Be good role models for children
Take care of animals and mother nature
And be better in 2020 than we were in 2019.