Getting to know yourself is a lifelong journey of one discovery after the next, lessons forever unfolding. There may even be times you surprise yourself after withstanding hardship or accomplishing greatness with strength you never knew you had. One of the many useful skills for self discovery that can be practiced daily is knowing what you need.
Knowing what you need can be hard. Isn't that strange to think about? You know yourself better than anyone else and yet it is hard knowing what you need. I believe this starts at a very early age. Throughout our childhood, our parents and the media tell us what we need. As adults, we have society, social and other forms of media, influencers, and marketers telling us what we need. So when are we supposed to learn from ourselves? How are we to truly know?
Reflection. Figuring out what we need can be in hindsight. Taking a few minutes to stop and reflect on what decisions we've made recently and how well that worked out can help us understand the cause and effect. Remember, you can only look at the cause and effect within yourself. What happens outside of us is largely out of our control. Journaling is another powerful tool for reflection. There are plenty of journaling prompts out there for the taking or writing can just be about nothing and everything. Reflect on feelings AND concrete facts or information. This is so important because sometimes our feelings can be misleading.
Meditation. There is a lot of noise that we must navigate daily. Not just traffic noise but noise on the internet, noise in our heads, and noise from whatever else we chose to consume. It can be difficult "hearing" our inner voice when there is so much else going on in our brain and thoughts are busy. Meditation helps us get quiet and strengthens our ability to focus on one thing and one thing only: the breath. With a clearer canvas, we may be able to better feel what is in our hearts.
Visualization. If going within feels absolutely disorienting, a great visualization exercise is to imagine we are looking at ourselves from a bird's eye view. If thoughts tend to be very self critical, imagine looking at yourself as a child to harness a more nurturing feeling. Looking at yourself, what does this person need in this moment? What will help them thrive and grow? Some words of affirmation? A walk? Rest? On the other hand, what would not be supportive for this person? Would would be potentially harmful or counterproductive?
In this episode of the podcast Ten Percent Happier, Katy Milkman describes a study in which people who wrote advise to someone else about how to get through something really challenging had more success with navigating the challenging task themselves compared to those who did not participate in the writing activity. I loved this finding because it supports the idea that we all have inner wisdom that develops with experience and knowledge.
Coaching. Although our family and friends may be supportive people, sometimes their idea of support is advising us what to do. Often times, this is what THEY want to do, not necessarily what we want. Seeking out guidance and information from reputable sources such as various therapists, doctors, health care practitioners, and counselors can help our understanding. Professionals who can help us piece together the information that we have noticed about ourselves serve as a guiding light for when we aren't sure what they mean on our own.
Knowing what we need takes work. It takes paying attention. It takes curiosity. It takes learning. It takes trial and error. It takes courage. With this knowledge, we can better advocate for our well-being and make decisions that express self-love. From self-love stems love for our community and our planet. It is worth doing the work.