Who am I? And how do I interact with the world around me?
As we transition into midlife, it seems these questions must be explored again. Many elements of our lives have changed, and answers from earlier in life may no longer feel relevant.
Examining ourselves and answering these essential questions will determine how we experience our second half of life. Without an understanding of both, the clarity necessary to lead vital and purposeful lives may elude us.
Self-knowledge and self-acceptance are the keys to that clarity, and to acting with the wisdom gained from life’s many experiences. When we define ourselves by the norms that others hold – such as unrealistic expectations set by a youth-obsessed culture - we can lose the authenticity that anchors our true power.
Research shows that “self-care” is the very thing that fuels our personal power and vitality. Those who practice it – and consistently clarify and balance all dimensions of the self – are much more likely to have resilience, feel that their lives are meaningful and rewarding, and have a strong, trusting and reliable social network. High satisfaction with life, a benevolent personal life, as well as a much lower level of stress, also result from a consistent self-care practice.
Rediscovering Yourself Through Journaling
Clarifying your own personal needs can be as simple as paying attention to yourself and recording your observations in a journal. Think of it as a mini-research project into what balances your physical, energetic, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.
The self-exploration process undertaken to examine these needs involves the tool of meditative self-inquiry. It is the underlying foundation of yoga philosophy, many forms of meditation, and other self-development techniques.
The information collected provides the foundation for the two core elements of personal power: 1) the self-knowledge that builds integrity and creates personal boundaries, and 2) the self-acceptance that fuels personal responsibility and authenticity.
By understanding who you are and how you interact with others, you can be a better advocate for yourself and those you love in an ever-changing and fast-moving world.
Begin a 15-minute process of exploring yourself by creating a daily journal to record your observations and experiences. Make your journal a special one, dedicated to the specific intention of self-knowledge.
Take several minutes to quiet your mind, through meditation, yoga or some other centering exercise, and then record the following:
What sensations or discomfort are you currently feeling in your physical body? It can be as simple as an itch on your face or as complex as a persistent injury.
How do you feel energetically? Do you feel balanced, agitated or depressed? Are there any parts of your body that feel tingly or dull, sensitive or numb? Is your breath deep and full, or does it feel constricted?
What persistent thoughts or emotions are arising right now? Record them and notice if you feel them in a specific part of your physical body. How does each thought or feeling impact your energy?
Notice and record what arises in you from this exercise today. What insights have you had? What have you resisted? Then place your observations in a category such as worry, judgment, love, fear, etc.
Take a deep breath and visualize your heart filling with love as you inhale. Breathe with that visualization for a few moments. Does this feel easy/intuitive or is it a struggle right now?
At the end of each week of recording your observations, review and summarize your journal entries. What patterns can you see? Are there any physical issues or misalignments that must be addressed? What has been the emotional tone of your week? What needs to be released? What needs to be celebrated? Where have you struggled with judgment and fear?
The study of sensations, feelings and experiences allows a self-knowledge that can be used to define clearer boundaries, more self-acceptance and a more empowered presence in the world.
"Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his (her) eye first."
~ Saint Athanasius of Alexandria
Benefits of Resetting Your Boundaries
Author and research professor, Brene Brown, defines boundaries very simply: “what’s okay and what is NOT okay” in life or in relationship. When we don’t know or hold our boundaries, we let people get away with behaviors that are not okay with us, and this makes us feel angry, resentful or powerless.
As your priorities have evolved in your journey through life, your boundaries may also have changed. Your journal then becomes the foundation for your expanding self-knowledge, and the raw material for resetting your boundaries according to who you are now.
Self-knowledge and boundary setting give you the guideposts to manage your own personal integrity. A strong, purposeful person with foundational integrity is similar to a building with structural alignment. Like a sound building is more likely to stand during a strong earthquake, foundational integrity provides a much higher potential to live a vital and impactful life.
While integrity can be considered your own personal code of ethics, there are several core behaviors that define the concept. These include honoring your commitments and your word, taking responsibility for the impact of your actions, and making sure that your words and actions match. Integrity equates to being honorable, a man or woman of their word.
Over the next few weeks, continue to expand your self-knowledge by recording your insights and observations in your journal. Pay attention to any patterns you notice, and see if that awareness begins to spread to other parts of your day.
In Part Two of this series, we’ll take the information you’ve gathered, and explore how to turn the self-knowledge you’ve gained into the second core element of power: self-acceptance.