Although I’ve always enjoyed spending time alone, I’ve never been good at figuring myself out. I am very empathetic and — perhaps not always so blatantly — but I never stop being involved with what’s going on around me.
I might not have a definite answer to whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert. You see me at a social event and I’ll be chatting to every single person in the room, you see me trying to get some work done and I’d rather isolate myself from any human interaction.
But I think that it is my involvedness with everything, as well as my outward focus, are what have been hindering my journey to self-discovery up until lately.
Let me explain. When I’m with other people, my mind is set on them to an extent that I forget my own needs in their entirety. When I’m alone, I (at least, used to) resort to quick pleasures (like overindulging) to distract myself from listening to my mind.
But luckily, a few months ago I finally embarked on the exciting journey of self-discovery and listening to myself: my mind and my body. Fast forward to today, and I refer to my regular practices as mindfulness practices.
It all started when I stumbled upon an MBTI test, which told me I was an ENFJ. I readily threw out $33 for a 169-page profile explaining my personality type. I would keep reading the profile over and over again hoping it’d help me find myself and become more successful and content. And it sort of did or at least made for a good place to start the process.
Later on, I took the Enneagram test and it told me I was 6w5. I didn’t believe the result at first because it said that fear is my base emotion, the information I deemed too negative to believe in. But as days went by, I started accepting that it could be true, I realised I experienced fear and anxiety far more often than I was ready to acknowledge at the time.
Around the same time, I started practising to what I refer to as mindfulness exercises. The first thing I did is I tried meditation. Obviously, I was not great at it initially and I actually wrote a long text on my first proper and self-initiated meditation experience that I never published anywhere (but I probably should).
Then, I met up with a friend of mine who suggested I try gratitude notes – i.e. writing what you’re grateful for every day or as often as you need it. This was during probably what was one of the darkest time of my life. And I actually try to be cautious with using terms like ‘dark time’ because I know that even at that time my life would be a dream for millions of people who suffer through much worse hardships. But nevertheless, it was a really dark time in my own life.
The latest thing I’m trying to incorporate into my life are some thoughts exercises I learnt from a wonderful (and free!) course by the Happier organisation and its CEO and founder Nataly Kogan, as well as from some articles here on Medium.
For the sake of maintaining this text’s readability, I won’t mention all of them now (but if you’re interested, you are more than welcome to ask me in person). But the one I really liked and which proved to be effective is the thought-reframing exercise. In essence, it means whenever you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, pause and acknowledge it, and then substitute it with a positive thought about yourself. If you, like I was, are sceptical about this, I suggest you try it anyway. Without exaggeration, it ended up opening my eyes to the amount of harsh self-talk I used to put myself through.
Learning all these little mindfulness techniques and exercises helped me appreciate what I have and focus on my strengths. But most importantly, I have also made significant progress in overcoming my anxiety!
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