On nearly every job interview I have gone on, it starts off with the same question. “Tell us about yourself.” It takes every ounce of strength for me not to cringe hearing those words exit the lips of my potential employer. Like most people (minus narcissists), I loathe talking about myself. It is not so much the desire to impress others, but just that I do not like looking at my character. By turning my third eye inward, it means that I have to look at my strengths, flaws, defects, relationships, etc. It makes me feel uncomfortable. The other reason I abhor this question is because I always find myself describing myself through my occupation and hobbies as opposed to my true identity.
It truly got me thinking though. If I were to strip my life of these external activities, what would be left? I based most of my lifestyle off of my job, my relationships, my education, and everything else around me. I identified with them. I used them to make me feel complete. There in lies the issue. If there was ever a time where I did happen to lose one of these items, then a significant portion of my identity now had a void. I became dependent on these activities to function and feel whole.
This meant the beginning of an arduous journey of discomfort and unfamiliar territory. It was essential for me to internally validate myself with no strings attached. I knew I would feel uncomfortable and mostly because I was doing something I had never done in my twenty plus years of existence. I accepted that I would feel awkward about “looking at myself” but it was bearable. It was not going to scar me for life or kill me to do so. If anything, I only had to deal with short-term discomfort for long-term benefit.
The next step was scratching away at the surface. When I have this conversation with clients or friends, I usually prompt them to look for common themes in their external activities. I suggest to look at what parts of them are consistent throughout all aspects of their life. Most of them look at me with a blank stare for a few seconds, and they mumble, “This isn’t easy.” After some prompting, the gears start turning. It becomes easier with practice and time.
To develop further insight, you must be willing to continue engaging in the conversation with yourself and reflecting periodically. Be honest with yourself. Look at yourself without judgment through an objective lens. Give yourself a reality check. Maybe even think to yourself, “What would I tell someone in this situation?” It is an internal form of checks and balances.
Now keep in mind that this will not happen overnight. It can take years. You are undoing decades of external validation and a society that thrives on it. You will start seeing the benefits shortly after you begin the process though. You will experience a rejuvenated fulfillment. It is like a thirst being quenched.
This is why I often say that there is no greater mental tool than that of developing insight. It allows us to understand ourselves and how we function. By comprehending our inner workings, it is easier to manage our external environment.
-The Caring Counselor
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