Last year I embarked on a significant process of self-reflection and what I discovered about myself changed my perspective on life.
It didn’t take long to identify myself as a ‘people pleaser’. I had low self-worth and used to place my value on what other people thought or money.
I realised that I regularly minimised myself for the benefit of others.
Looking back if I could give my 21-year-old self some advice it would be this: Get to know yourself.
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu summed it up best when he said: “Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom.”
My recent journey of self-reflection and self-awareness made me realise that the power of having these tools would have hugely benefited my younger myself.
Everyone spends time working on their physical self in the gym or some other form of exercise, so why not spend time working on wider aspects of yourself?
We all have our own challenges, in my case, questioning my own ability at times, and I believe getting to know yourself can help you manage inner conflicts better.
We live in an age where people are constantly looking externally for solutions to their problems, whether that be success, other people’s opinions, money, fame (which has been enhanced by social media) but not many people are looking internally for the answers.
If you’d have said that to my 21-year-old self I’d probably have laughed at you and told you to ‘calm down and have a beer’.
I think having a higher self-awareness leads to you questioning more things around your life.
For example, I can see from my younger days a lot of ‘close relationships’ were based around going out drinking but in hindsight there was no substance to those friendships.
As a result I spent too much time with people and in environments which were unfulfilling.
Don’t get me wrong, I love networking and meeting new people, but I’ve learnt to be more in tune with how I am spending my time, especially whilst running a new business.
I can see a lot of other people face the same challenges as me.
They have a lack of depth across a number of their relationships whether that’s business or personal because they have a lack of self-awareness and therefore struggle to articulate themselves or struggle to have those challenging conversations.
I’ve had some difficult conversations recently which has led to much more healthier relationships and some relationships now ceasing to exist.
For me self-reflection has had a huge impact in all areas of my life.
Here’s how I would articulate to my 21-year-old self how getting to know yourself can improve your life:
Making better decisions on time and energy where it is spent. Further to this, decisions, which are not driven by ego. You’ll be surprised how many people make decisions from the ego which can negatively impact their personal or professional life whether that’s immediate or long-term. Making decisions from the self will create more happiness and effectiveness.
Becoming more balanced
I have only recently realised not to put any expectations on people or situations/outcomes. Just because you would operate in a certain way whether that’s loyalty, kindness, etc. that does not mean you should expect the same of others.
Once you stop putting expectations on people or situations whether that’s family, friends, colleagues, peers, you will find yourself less disappointed and more balanced.
I have found that a huge driver for happiness by not expecting because it doesn’t leave room for disappointment.
I used to put a lot of expectation on others/situations and when they didn’t materialise like I thought they would I’d be hugely disappointed. I’ve now realised to place less expectation/attention there.
Stoicism is something I have come across recently and it’s been very insightful for me.
Through understanding myself better it’s enabled me to understand what my values are. This in essence has enabled me to have better communications with family, friends and professionals.
Through self-reflection I realised I was a people pleaser and used to focus on supporting others without much thought for myself.
This allowed me to become more conscious of creating relationships that were reciprocal and setting boundaries with those that were just getting in touch to take.
Being able to articulate yourself is key and setting boundaries means spending more time with aligned people and being more focused where you spend your time.
I used to have a habit of saying YES to everything and everyone which meant I was everywhere! Now I am more focused on where I spend my time and who with.
In summary, my advice would be: get to know yourself better so that you can create more fulfilment in life, have less inner conflict, put less worth in external places and have more resistance to spending time in environments that don’t particularly serve you.