I'm part of a women's group that meets monthly. We talk about everything, but it's a group with purpose. We process what's happening in our lives, we explore our core values, we have tough conversations about what's holding us back, we support each other through the difficult times, and we nudge each other to take risks to live the lives we desire. We share meals, take turns hosting, and rotate who leads the conversation each month. I feel so lucky to be part of an amazing group of women like this who want to intentionally to walk through life together.
Our facilitator this month brought several prompts for us to think about, and we were supposed to speak to the one that called to us the most. There were phrases such as, "First, honor the divine." Or questions like, "Why not now?" I knew the one I would choose immediately when I saw it: "Metamorphosis is the process of intentional destruction."
This concept doesn't just speak to me right now. I FEEL it in my bones. I have been intentionally destroying some paradigms in my life that have gotten me this far but are no longer serving me. And this kind of breaking down in order to build something new is not neat and clean. It can't be planned out. It feels messy and disruptive and murky. And I'm really uncertain about what will happen next. At several stressed out moments, I have asked, "What the heck am I doing?!? Why would I blow up my life like this?"
I was describing this to one of my mentors, and she asked, "Is it that you are blowing up your life, or is it that you are at the early stages of transformation? What would nature tell you about what you are experiencing?" Nature tells us to get purposefully messy before beauty emerges. It tells us we have to cause a little chaos in order for the new path show itself. Or, in a very unscientific description of the process, we have to make bug soup in order to have what's next.
Because it is intentional destruction it means that we HAVE to go through this phase in order to get to the next. There's no clean way through this. The only way out is through. And so we have to destroy somethings that we know or believe or are holding on to for the next phase of our lives. This is how emergence happens.
This is natural and occurring around us constantly. What if we handled this the way nature does, easing into our intentional dissolving without really knowing what might happen? What if we let go of the outcome and just let it be? The caterpillar has no clue that it will become a butterfly. The tadpole doesn't know it will become a frog. They don't have a choice in their change. It just is.
What paradigms are you bringing down in order to bring out the new? What are you decomposing so that something can grow? What transformation in your life is asking you to let go and ease into it? What do you need to move through in order to have what's next?
I've been thinking a lot lately about the things that stop us, the things that prevent us from taking the steps to get what we really want from life. There are very real things in our external world that hold us back: time, money, access, gatekeepers, systems of oppression, etc. These things can be frustrating and harmful in and of themselves. But we also face internal barriers that compound these external barriers that prevent us from moving forward. Our internal barriers are the messages going through our heads that tell us we are not good enough, or that we should be afraid, or that we should doubt things about ourselves and our abilities that we intuitively know.
There are a lot of ways that we develop these messages throughout our lives. We mess up. We make mistakes. We are harsh, unforgiving critics of our past actions. We start to look for all the ways these messages can be confirmed by our relationships and in our careers. We hear or interpret these messages directly or indirectly from people we know and often love. Especially for women and people of color, these messages are reinforced in the media and popular culture. They are institutionalized by what is taught in schools or what we learn in our jobs. With years of practice, we get really good at sending ourselves messages that we are not enough and too much at the same time. We are not smart, not good-looking, not worthy, not anything. We are bad people, bad friends, bad parents, bad at everything. We are too loud or too big or too small, too everything. Who do we think we are to possibly want something else out of life? Over time, we might even come to believe these messages to be true.
The difference between whether or not these messages are true is the difference between self-consciousness and self-awareness. We do ourselves a disservice when we confuse these two things or when we let our self-consciousness get in the way of developing our self-awareness. To me, self-consciousness is the judgmental assessment of our feelings, thoughts, and behavior. We over analyze and over think until we get stuck, can't move forward, and convince ourselves of all the things we can't or shouldn't do. We listen to the messages that are overly present in the external world until they are internalized and become what we believe about ourselves. We feel self-consciousness in our bodies like the ways in which we experience stress, and that can have long term impacts on our health and wellbeing. Self-consciousness actually blocks our ability to be in touch with our bodies and what we need. Symptoms of self-consciousness look like:
The thing about self-consciousness is that these messages are not always active thoughts. They are often hiding out in our subconscious. Rather than interrogating them as to whether or not they are true, we let them dictate our behavior so that we are passively engaging with life, rather than proactively taking steps to live the life we want.
On the other hand, Daniel Goleman and others have described self-awareness as the nonjudgmental assessment of our feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Self-awareness is tapping into what our bodies are telling us about what we are feeling. With self-awareness, we act consciously rather than passively. We raise our thoughts and feelings to a level of conscious reflection where we are able to pause and ask "Where did this message come from? Is it true?" And it's in that place in the pause where we get to choose how we react and move forward. We are now driving our thoughts rather than our thoughts driving us. Outcomes of self-awareness look like:
Over time, we can even replace those old messages that no longer serve us with messages that keep us proactively engaged in our lives. Increased self-awareness leads to greater efficacy and knowledge that each step we take is leading us closer to our purpose. The more we are able to pause and reflect on what we are really thinking and feeling, the more we are able to make conscious decisions for how to move forward, rather than letting our self-consciousness decide our behavior for us.
The next time you are feeling self-conscious, pause. Take a deep breath. Notice what message you are telling yourself in that moment. Reflect on where that message came from. Then really challenge yourself to think about whether or not it's true. Try this several times over a week or so and notice if you start to take different actions because of your increased self-awareness.