Soul and emotions haven’t received enough attention when we were kids. Neither at home nor at school. Usually, there was only one correct answer to the questions and grownups weren’t curious about our innermost thoughts and feelings when asking how we were doing, what we thought or felt. I even sensed that they were afraid to get a genuine answer and hear something inappropriate, something confusing, unpredictable.
This upbringing has mostly resulted in me not always understanding why I think and feel then react in a certain way, so wasn’t mindful on how thoughts, feelings, behaviours and impacts on others are interlinked.
Although I have developed my worldview, guiding principles and values, there are situations and interactions where I still do not feel comfortable, I experience tension and I get into conflict with myself and others.
I admit that I have not received too much guidance to self-awareness.
I had quite many dreams that came true, so I thought I knew and understood life. As a teenager and then in college, I considered myself a rebel who questions almost everything, wants to better the world, and wants to be free. I was angry with the generation of our parents because we had to live in a dictatorship. Then, on a very lukewarm Saturday night in December, people got in the streets of Timisoara to make the dream of freedom for many of us come true.
Having the opportunity to visit Budapest several times during my youth and I fell in love with the city. I dreamed that one day I would breathe in its air day after day. In a few years I moved from Timisoara to Budapest. At the age of 27 I took the challenge of restarting my career in a new country, a new homeland, without savings or business ties. Making my dream come true was much more motivating than fear.
I also dreamed of more universal opportunities. That there are no boundaries, because why they would be, since we are all the same, only defined between boundaries and fences. In 2004, when Hungary joined the European Union, I was able to experience the partial realization of another dream.
I dreamed that I would travel the world, that I would run a company, that I would be an important person and a good mother, that I would have many children, a big family and always everyone would be healthy and happy, there would be no poverty and no war, and stray dogs find a master and children everywhere on earth grow up in loving families and become wonderful adults and build a wonderful, sustainable, inclusive, cooperative, free world and in some way I contribute to that future.
And these dreams are still with me today. I don’t want to give them up.
Those painful depths, crises that force a person to self-reflect, came to my life relatively late, around the age of 40. And only then, and slowly, very slowly, I gave myself a chance at self-discovery. This is perhaps even more difficult as a middle-aged person than as an adolescent or young adult.
The path to self-awareness has been amazingly difficult for me, it is not easy to face ourselves.
Have you ever tried to look into your own eyes in a mirror for at least five minutes? And have you seen the good and the less pleasing behind those eyes? Have you ever felt that odd grip inside your chest?
It is a similar feeling when one is confronted, for example, with being impatient with those who think differently, with different values, or with difficulty in bringing others close to oneself. It feels painful and sometimes cruel.
At times like this, I tended to and am blaming myself for the way I reacted without looking more closely at the feelings and thoughts that caused it.
As much as I want the opposite, I am still full of unconscious biases. Until I am not aware about them, it is impossible to dissolve them.
The last couple of years has shown that there is no better way for me to follow my dreams than to develop self-awareness, continuously and consistently, both on my own and with the support of a coach.
I have walked and still walk on various paths towards this goal, all of them full of emotion. I use several structural approaches to understand myself and strengthen my better part. I share with joy and hope the steps and tools that have supported and accompanied me on my journey so far.
Step 1: Recognize my personality traits and learn how others see them
- personality tests: MBTI, www.16personalities.com
- Johari window (also Nohari window) – Self-image and opinions of others, asking for feedback
Step 2: Awareness of my values, strengths, aligning my life and goals with them
- daily meditation
- personal coaching process
- SWOT analysis
- Generating inspiring, motivating life options: – What would it be like to…
- Articulating purpose, setting life goals and priorities – SMART goal setting
Step 3: Recognize and neutralize obstructive patterns, thought traps
- reflecting on the factors (buttons) triggering unwanted thought and behavioural patterns and related physical feelings
- personal coaching and meditation
- emotional intelligence exercises, awareness and recording of emotions (e.g., Mood meter application)
- practicing and recording new patterns that support and strengthen goals and self-awareness (e.g., 3 genuine compliments every day)
Step 4: Continuous improvement
- learning from others, role models – books, articles, personal conversations, movies, podcasts
- attending life and business coaching classes
- developing myself by developing others – coaching circle, pro bono coaching and mentoring, business coaching
- provide and request specific feedback on a weekly basis
- repeat step 1-4. periodically
It is by no means a complete process, it is not an exhaustive list of steps and tools, but for me it opens up new paths and opportunities step by step. I am grateful to all those who support me in this endeavour.
I learn from this process that I am the writer, director, and protagonist of my self-knowledge script. If at a certain point I’m not completely happy with it, I can rewrite it so I can organize and live a better life, a more meaningful one, one from which new dreams and new realities emerge.