“He who looks outside dreams, he who looks inside awakes” Carl Jung
The question “WHY” has always been a critical, if not a core contributing factor responsible for how we learn and how we’ve come to understand the world. All the knowledge we have of the world today, the inventions, scientific breakthroughs etc came about by great minds asking that three letter word at some point. It’s a fundamental aspect of our learning process. That’s why as children growing up, we found this question being posed to us regularly, especially after saying something or behaving in a manner that wasn’t particularly pleasing to our parents or an adult. “Why did you do x when i specifically told you not to?… why are you being naughty?” And if your answer was equally as displeasing, or your reason for going against the rules that have been laid out didn’t justify your actions, a punishment of some sort will be handed out which is meant to teach you to take responsibility for your actions. By doing so the child learns that in life there are consequences for everything he/she does, and hopefully next time they’ll think twice before repeating it. From a tender age, a good parent tries to make us appreciate that it is our responsibility to reflect and ponder upon the motives behind our actions. And thus from this short but powerful word, self awareness is born and nurtured, subsequently forming the foundation for knowledge, understanding and growth.
“Self reflection is a humbling process. its essential to find out why you think, say, and do certain things… then better yourself.“ Sonya Teclai
Each time we pose this question to ourselves we get to learn something new about ourselves, no matter how minuscule or seemingly irrelevant that revelation might be. It opens up our minds and sometimes we might find that after that introspection, somethings we considered a fact about ourselves or a principle we once clung to is no more for whatever reason. We might find there’s been a shift in a core belief we once held and that might be the real reason for a decision we made that led us to pause, and ask ourself the big question. “Why” plays such a pivotal role in the belief systems and values we develop, even in how we come to view ourselves as we grow. This one magic word has been the key to the gate for many wonderful exchanges and many interesting in-depth conversations. However, not everyone is capable of asking themselves this question, it requires a lot of inner strength to dare to face yourself and be entirely true with yourself. Not everyone is an analytical thinker, and I dare say, in as much as we all might be conscientious beings, but our capacity to practice self reflection so as to discover the true root of our thoughts, actions and feelings varies widely.
I’ve found that questioning myself in my quiet moments is often the beginning of a stimulating journey of self discovery. It’s often the doorway to assessing whether I’m on a path merely to conform so as to be accepted by a particular person, society, or those around me. It has been the key to discovering and admitting to myself what truly matters to me. It allows me take a good look at my core values and principles, and if it so happens that they’ve shifted or evolved somehow, I can go deeper in trying to understand the reason for that change. I can subsequently ask myself follow up questions such as: is it ultimately a good thing, or something that will lead me down a wrong path? In any event, I believe that self awareness signifies growth.
Although I’m aware that my quest to understand myself at a deeper level, being comfortable asking myself “why” and giving myself a candid answer is something i pride myself on, I must admit that I’ve also come to the realisation that the benefits of this reflective nature reaches a plateau of some sorts and diminishing returns sets in. There’s a thin line between being a reflective person and being a person who over analyses and inadvertently over criticises themself. I’m guilty of crossing this line and I do so often especially when I find that I’ve behaved in a manner that contradicts certain standards or principles I hold myself to. I become obsessed with the “why”, with wanting to provide myself with a rational explanation and in some cases a justification even. And in the event that i fail to satisfy the “why”, I guess I resort to punishing myself with severe self criticism, the type that’s enough to crush your spirit, esteem and thwarts your growth. Truth is most of us are guilty of crossing this border, some more conscious of it than others and a lot of us fall into the pit of self criticism. e.g. of a sample thought process that might occur between me and my conscience that’s ultimately soul crushing…
hawah: why did u hold on to value abc for so long only to throw it away for xyz, who, clearly isn’t even worthy…
jonta: because you don’t deserve any better and you know it…
hawah: why haven’t you gotten any call backs for those applications you sent out
jonta: because you’re not good enough.
By trying to find an explanation or understand my action/inaction that went against everything I probably stand for, and fail to make sense of it or sense of myself, the why becomes a key to pandora’s box of self criticism and self shaming. Until much recently I’ve always felt like I needed to be in absolute control of my life, like I need to have an answer to every why i ask myself, like i needed to punish myself if I don’t come up with something rational and credible. I’d still apply the same harsh criticism of myself even when it wasn’t my actions that where in question, but probably that of another towards me. I’d somehow attribute blame to myself in the most cruel manner because surely, if someone treated me in a way that was untoward or even unfair, then the rational explanation, as far as i was concerned, is that I probably caused it somehow…because after all, there HAS to be an answer. After all… one cannot leave such a fundamental question as WHY unanswered. Surely to do so would be preposterous!
Lately I find myself questioning whether I need to figure out all the WHYs to every thought, action, emotion, sense perception or experiences even. Is it really imperative that I always have the WHY figured out? I’ve come to a conclusion and the answer is a firm NO. I don’t have to have EVERYTHING in my life figured out with every breath I take. As much as I realise that having the answers to some of my Whys matter relatively, I’ve come to appreciate that they don’t necessarily matter absolutely. Knowing who you truly are is what’s most important and foremost in your life, and in as much as questioning your self and self reflection is an important requirement for character awareness and growth, sometime you just need to accept yourself and appreciate that your true self is who you are in the present moment. Take yourself as you are now, sans doubt, sans endlessly questioning who you thought you were yesterday when you chose to turn left rather than right, sans pointlessly worrying about who you think you’ll be tomorrow because you branched left. WHY? Because i say so, but if you can’t take my word for it then do it for the sake of your sanity. You’ll find you’ve wasted precious time dwelling on days gone by or days that aren’t even here yet, neglecting to live in the moment that you’re presently in. The only moment that truly matters. The only moment in which you have total control of YOU, of your thoughts as they come, your words, actions, decisions etc, because its is the only moment you get to choose and affect who you are.
“stay soft. it looks beautiful on you” Nayyira Waheed
A reminder to be gentle with myself no matter what may come my way. A reminder that i can tell myself some home truths every so often but no be obsessive about it. I’ve come to learn, accept and appreciate that in as much as there’s a lot of good to be derived from self reflection, and telling yourself some hard truths, sometimes its ok to not have an answer there and then. Sometimes its ok to just accept changes in yourself as they occur and trust that as you grow, you change; your belief systems, principles and behavioural patterns change and thats ok. Trust that as you go through life learning and accepting, certain answers may come, but while you wait for things to fall naturally in place, have faith in yourself, trust your steps like a baby learns to trust his feet and the firmness of the ground beneath him, as he takes his first steps.
What I know for sure is that I shouldn’t be so demanding of myself, that’s not to say I wont set goals or standards and do my absolute best to achieve them, nor am I advocating for mediocrity. What I’m trying to say is that once you stop obsessing over needing everything to make perfect sense, or every person, place, situation to make you happy and surrender in accepting the present, and making decisions in the present, I believe everything will gradually fall into place and you start to experience peace of mind. I’ve come to accept that I may fall short of my expectations, I may contradict some values I believed to be at the core of my sense of self, I may let myself down and not reach certain goals, and like the baby who learns to walk, I’ll fall and scrape my knee but the key is trusting myself that I’ve got this and trusting that the ground beneath my feet will forever be firm. Trust without questioning so damn much. You will change, situations around you may change, friends may change but it’s all part of a process and it’s important to not lose sight of the bigger picture. Its ok to not have all the answers, and whilst you’re waiting for those answers, be kind, be gentle to yourself, allow growth to take place and the best way to nurture it is with patience and self love and continued love for others. The moment I made the decision to just BE and stop asking “why is this happening to me” at every turn then dwelling on it, I found peace. Is life going exactly how i’d want it to? No. Am I constantly floating with joy and happiness towards that castle on could 9? No. But if you were to ask me whether I’m more at peace with myself, with life and those around me? My answer is a resounding yes. And for a girl that’s had a long drawn battle with clinical depression that’s VICTORY!!!
(This is not the type of information I would have shared a year ago, not even with certain friends that haven’t been part of my struggle for fear of being judged, stigmatised or even ridiculed but I’ve come VERY far and proudly so. Besides these are real issues that we’re all susceptible to but one which the black community esp Africans prefer to pretend doesn’t exist, stow it away in a nice box of denials and tag it as a white persons struggle).
G * R * O * W * T * H
P.s: I’ll try not to wait another year to do another post.
And if you’re experiencing personal troubles, anxiety, self doubt etc try self help audios, or books. Will recommend books by Echart Tolle as a start. I just finished reading one of his books Stillness Speaks, which helped me gain a new understanding of relationships, nature, and the profound wisdom that is to be found in stillness.
In the words of Queen Bey…
Don’t play yourself!