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Know thyself…love thyself
Q: How do you prevent your beliefs from holding you back?
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This week I was listening to a video lecture series by Professor Vervaeke (professor of psychology at the University of Toronto) called Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. In episode 4 - Socrates and the Quest for Wisdom, he talks about Socrates’ famous dictum - “the unexamined life is not worth living” and how Socrates makes “know thyself” his personal slogan for life. As explained by Socrates, it is most important to know one’s character because only by knowing one’s character can one be aware of one’s limitations.
In the spirit of knowing ourselves and women’s history month, we thought it would be interesting to examine some beliefs that we tend to carry with us and our experiences trying to break free from these mindsets.
Guilt. Guilt can be defined as when a person has failed to meet her own ideal of who she should be. This is a feeling that women feel in bucket loads, and something I feel immensely as a working mom. When I am doing a great job in one place why do I feel guilty about not being great somewhere else? I can't be in two places at the same time. How do I keep track of my son’s needs in school while also being there for my team at work? Should I go on this high profile work trip and miss my son’s IEP meeting? Is it ok to leave the kids with my husband to go on a two day trip with my girlfriends? Am I spending enough time with my mom when she visits from India? I know I am only able to give one thing my full attention to do my best at it. Compartmentalizing demands on my attention is needed. But these thoughts frequently pop up in my mind when I should be focusing on the task at hand. The constant tension of competing priorities can be exhausting.
Mindset shift: This year I am choosing to prioritize taking care of myself. Over the past forty plus years, I have been a great wife, mom and daughter while also being a great employee, manager, and leader. What I don't have practice with is being the best self for Mitali. It's about time I started practicing how to do that as I want to be living my next few decades as the best version of myself.
I don't need to feel guilty about choosing myself. I am not selfish for doing it. I am not afraid of other people’s judgment for doing it. I am going to live on my terms because I deserve to. I have worked hard to get to this place and I will enjoy it.
“...What is freedom?.....freedom is being disliked by someone. It is proof that you are exercising your freedom, and living in freedom, and a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles…One wants to satisfy one's desire for recognition. But conducting oneself in such a way as to not be disliked by anyone is an extremely unfree way of living, and is also impossible. There is a cost incurred when one wants to exercise one’s freedom. And the cost of that freedom in interpersonal relationships is that one is disliked by other people.”
We were going to write about the women that inspire us this week and instead we decided to shine the spotlight on ourselves. Because it’s important to take the time to acknowledge our uncomfortable emotions, recognize the work that we put into shifting our mindset and learn to love ourselves.
Self Doubt. I've lived with this for so long that it's a big part of who I am. With the passing years and on my good days when I feel grounded through my journaling and meditation habits, I can observe it, acknowledge it and go on in spite of it. But there are days when I get caught up in the swirl and question myself, question my decisions and the self-doubt can paralyze me from taking any action. It can pop up anywhere in my life - work, parenting, friendships, marriage, home etc.
I remember a moment in 2017 post-wedding where I felt at ease and was caught by surprise. It was the start of our honeymoon and I had finished saying good bye to all our friends and family that had traveled to our destination wedding. The quiet in my mind was startling because leading up to the wedding I had been questioning myself, doubting myself on every single thing including my choice of who I was marrying. I felt at peace. The self-doubt about my choice in my life partner had finally ceased.
I've faced similar situations many times at work. After spending 16 years building partnerships and negotiating one of a kind, strategic deals for a top tech company, one would think I would feel really confident about my abilities. However, I still sometimes make the mistake of giving too much credit to someone else's skills while placing too little value on mine. It helps build humility so not entirely a bad thing, but doubting myself often has a negative impact.
Even in the areas I feel very confident about - like parenting, I will occasionally doubt whether I'm being a good mom to little A. It goes between self-doubt about whether I'm doing the right things, making the best choices for her and guilt (the one Mitali references above) about not doing enough. As moms we are too hard on ourselves. Instead what our kids need is to see us loving ourselves.
Mindset shift: There are several things that have helped me tackle my self doubt. Some of them include:
Journaling: Writing down what some of my self-limiting beliefs are has taken some of the power out of them. Journaling has been a way for me to process my feelings and work things out. It’s a great tool to get to know and love yourself. Also, writing down 3 quick wins at the end of the day is a good reminder of all the things that I accomplished and am good at.
Take Action: For a few years one of my limiting beliefs was that I wasn't strong enough. Last year I pushed my body and my mind while walking on the Camino and persisted through the pain. With this came the knowledge that my body is strong and resilient. When the doubt starts to creep in, I keep coming back to this experience to remind myself that I have done hard things and persevered.
Support & Challenge: Surround yourself with friends that know you deeply and can be a mirror to you, showing you when the self-doubt is just fear and challenging you to push yourself to get beyond it.
Acceptance: Knowing that self-doubt is part of being human. It will come and go and I have to accept it, acknowledge it. Say hello .. there you are self-doubt. You may have a seat here next to me but I'm not going to give in to you. The same exercise works for fear, guilt etc. all those uncomfortable emotions we don't want to feel.