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the journey of self-awareness

A couple months ago I had a deep conversation with a friend about our individual life plans and how we grew up. We attempted to unpack our insecurities and how they’ve impacted our career goals. I was really struggling with mine. For example, I said that I was insecure about my singing. My friend asked why that was the case. I said it was just because I cared too much about what other people thought of me. He probed more and asked, “But what really is the root of that insecurity... why do you care so much about what people think of you?” At the time, I couldn’t answer.

I was frustrated and disappointed in myself. Frustrated because I couldn’t find the answer. Disappointed because I thought I knew myself. If I could describe my emotions, it felt like when you're at the park, casually riding your scooter at a fairly fast pace, suddenly the front tire gets caught on a small rock, and the next thing you know you're stumbling on the ground. (FYI this actually happened to me when I was 7 LOL). It took me a minute to process because I was caught off guard. Next thing I knew, I was crying. I thought I was self-aware but I realized in that moment that I’ve only just got through one layer of it (That was God humbling me haha).

I admit, I can be prideful sometimes, and I've realized overtime that it was because I did things on my own for most of my life. I started working when I was 15 years old, I've been paying for college on my own, I've went through my problems alone. In the past I was even prideful in my knowledge of the church (even though I literally knew nothing) just because I grew up as a Catholic, going to CCD, RCIA, serving in ministry; I thought that because I've been around for a long time, there was nothing new to learn (booooooy was I wrooonnggg). I came across this article, "Signs of Pride" which I highly recommend you check out. It emphasizes that we all have some hint of pride in all of us, it just varies on topic. Some of us have a Pride of Spirituality, a Pride of Power, a Pride of Knowledge, or a Pride of Appearance. Pride is poison for the soul. It hinders you from growing in self-awareness. Of course, it's important to have a sense of self-worth but it's important to know when to draw the line because too much of something, is never good for you. Having a prideful heart can prevent you from being honest with yourself; acknowledging not only your strengths and potential, but also your flaws and imperfections.

I realized I had a problem with pride when I found myself saying,

"you are better than this,"

"you don't need anyone,"

"you already know the answer."

But self-awareness taught me that I am where I need to be, everyone needs someone, and I will never know everything, and that's okay. Further expanding on self-awareness, let me first give you my favorite definition of it, as said by author Mark Manson:

In his book, "The Art of Not Giving a F*ck"

Manson compares self-awareness to an onion and breaks down the layers:

LAYER 1: A simple understanding of one's emotions. "I'm angry... I'm really f'n angry"

LAYER 2: An ability to ask why we feel certain emotions. "Why am I angry all the time? What's it doing for me?"

LAYER 3: Our personal values, the WHY we care. "I'm angry because I feel like I'm being constantly disrespected... Am I though?"

Lemme tell you, when I read this part of the book, I cried LOL. I got through layer 1 and layer 2, but layer 3 hit me like a bus. I didn't come face to face with layer 3 again until I had that conversation with my friend. Getting to the root of my insecurities and understanding how/where I've become so self-conscious and fear-driven was a heavy load to unpack. I'm going to be real vulnerable here so buckle up.

Aside from lacking stability in the household growing up, I realized that there was a specific time period that I’ve intentionally tried to forget about because it was a traumatic experience for me.

I was in middle school and I had a teacher.

He was my leadership advisor in middle school. Some people have a really good relationship with him but unfortunately that wasn't the case for me. So I decided to take up “leadership” as my elective course instead of AVID or Band because I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my older brother. I wanted to be a leader too. I went into this program expecting to learn so much and be able to come out of middle school ready and fully equipped to take on high school. But those two years just made me feel inadequate.

Long story short, I've tried my best to just forget about this because thinking about it still brings a knot in my chest. But I realize now that in order to me to tackle layer 3, I needed to unpack this experience. I understand now why I’m so afraid of failing, why I am such an overachiever, why I had spent majority of my high school years striving for perfectionism, and why I always felt like I had to prove myself. This teacher ruined me. He looked down on me. No matter how hard I tried to be better, it was just never enough. He didn’t teach me how to be a better leader, he just told me everything that I was doing wrong. Eventually I was convinced that I couldn’t be a great leader. I’m not good enough. I’m incompetent. I’m adequate. If my own teacher says I can’t be a leader then how can I?

I know growth is supposed to be uncomfortable but I'm sure I wasn't supposed to feel this way. Rather than being built up, I felt like I was constantly being brought down. This “leadership” advisor conditioned me to believe that if I was smart, I would get things right the first time. He said that I was just like my brother and unfit to be a leader. I've already had to deal with other people looking down on my family so this added to the fire. This leadership teacher added that if I was a true leader I would know when to make sacrifices, like wearing my yellow shirt, staying in for lunch instead of hanging out with my friends, knowing how to lead a class period. Mind you, I was only 12-13 at the time and I knew NOTHING about leadership but I wanted to learn so I took up these positions anyways. I believed that this was the cost of wanting to be a leader.

He's the reason why I've been so afraid of those who held leadership positions. I was afraid of my employer for a good while because I thought he would say that I wasn't good enough either. Middle school is where my self-sabotage and imposter syndrome began to manifest. I felt like I NEEDED to give all of myself and overload my plate to show that I cared. Even if I was burnt out and disregarding my health; I wanted to prove that leadership teacher wrong. That is so unhealthy. I had to unlearn and relearn what it meant to be a leader. I had to unlearn and relearn what it meant to show that I care. I had to unlearn and relearn what success meant to me.

Unpacking this experience helped me to understand a lot about myself. It made me understand why I love the way I love, why I'm so quick to give appraisal to everyone but myself, why I make it a priority to make sure that people know how much I appreciate them. I didn't realize how deeply rooted my fear of failing is and how important success is to me. Fears prevented me from setting goals for myself and believing that I could pursue a career as a creative. It also added onto the pressure of stability. I used to believe that financial stability/security = success which is why I always felt like I needed to become a doctor. I used to always be at a battle between the medical field and the creative field but I've come to the conclusion that I think I'd be saving lives if I wasn't a doctor haha. Also, success is following what I love.

Fear stopped me from even starting. I didn't jump into my career at all. Yeah I'm majoring in communications and I've been dabbling in music and art for a while, but I never intentionally committed myself to it. I wanted to stop being afraid of putting myself out there in the world and not care about what other people had to say about me. I wanted to get rid of my jealousy. I wanted to stop comparing my journey to others. So what did I do when I recognized these bad habits in myself? I read more books, talked to people, prayed more, read more into God's word.

I needed to heal and that meant addressing it.

I needed to give up, to grow up.

I needed to want this change for myself.

I needed to change my environment.

In his book entitled “15 Invaluable Laws of GrowthJohn C. Maxwell mentions the Law of Trade-Offs which urges us to give up to grow up; to give up on the things (like pride and fear) that hinder us from moving forward and achieving our dreams. Reading more self-development books like The Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson, Make Today Count by John C. Maxwell, and the other book I previously mentioned, they helped me gain a better sense of direction and realistic success measuring. They helped me recognize what I should and should not be caring about, most especially when it comes to reaching my full potential in ALL aspects of my life, not just my career. I needed to work out of my bad habits and discipline myself to build better habits. That started with changing my environment, what I surrounded myself with, what I allowed in my headspace and living space, etc.

I've listened to podcasts from Steven Furtick, and WHOA that's a good podcast by Sadie Robertson. I've watched interviews from Brooke Ligertwood and vlogs by Girl and the Word and Matt D'Avella. I'm sure there are many other self-development books, podcast, and bloggers/vloggers that leave a great impact, but these people have helped me refocus on things that truly matter. Another book, Anonymous by Britt Ann Chole, taught me how to embrace the hidden seasons of my life and recognize that God uses this time to prepares us for true spiritual greatness. As Chole says in her excerpt, "In these sacred spaces, God grows in us an unshakable identity, an accurate portrait of Himself, trust in His timing, and a disciplined imagination" (2011). God bless all these people for using their God-given gifts to make a difference in the world. I hope they know that they've changed my life.

“the difference between where we are and where we want to be is created by the changes we are willing to make in our lives... change is personal, change is possible, change is profitable… the loss of a trade-off is usually felt long before the gain”

-- John C. Maxwell in 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

Maxwell reminds us of the importance of change. If we want to be better then we need to commit to it. I don't know about you but when I read those sentences, I was like, "you don't need to be so loud John" LOL but hey, I needed that accountability. He went on to further share the importance of knowing when and what to trade in life a.k.a Law of Trade-Offs. We need to give up some things to grow up. Therefore I've decided that:

I am willing to give up financial security today for a potential tomorrow:

investing more into myself and my career

I am willing to give up immediate gratification for personal growth:

disciplining myself and keeping focused on heaven

I am willing to give up security for significance:

being vulnerable and sharing my story to whoever wants to listen

I am willing to give up addition for multiplication:

focusing on what I can do WITH others rather than FOR others

All of this didn't just happen in one night. It required a lot of time, energy, and care to tackle the layers of self awareness. Honestly, I'm still learning and I'll always be learning. This growth is what I've prayed for. I’m definitely not where I want to be yet but I acknowledge how far I’ve come since middle school. I’m thankful for everyone who has supported me, guided me, prayed for me, challenged me, and most importantly, loved me through it all. I know my worth doesn't come from the validation of others, but from the Most High. I'm most especially thankful to my friend for unconsciously planting the seed in my mind to delve deeper into understanding my insecurities. At the time I was too focused on being frustrated, but I can see how God used all these experiences to teach me how to choose faith over fear on a daily basis. That this life isn't going to be easy and that this world will try to convince us that we're unworthy but the truth is that we are made worthy, we are made good, we are enough, and we are God's masterpiece.

If you’re navigating through your insecurities, I just want you to know that you definitely are not alone. If you have a dream but you're afraid of failing and disappointing others, I understand all of that. A mistake that I’ve made a lot is beating myself up for not knowing things earlier, for not being confident enough, and giving people power over my life. I needed to release that. We’re not all going to get things right the first time. There will be people who expect perfection the first time but just remember that nobody is ever perfect. It really is okay to not know everything. It’s okay to feel upset that you don’t know everything. It's okay not to get things right the first time. It's okay to make mistakes. It really is okay. You have to choose what you’re going to do next despite these feelings. Ask yourself: Will I go through it or grow through it? What do I need to give up to grow up? What layer in the self-awareness onion do I have yet to unpack? Do I want to unpack it?

It isn’t easy to dig deep into your past and try to get to the root of everything but the liberation that comes after understanding it and releasing it, is life changing. You will shed a few tears here and there, maybe a lot of tears, but that will make space for new things to come. You may not be where you want to be yet, but find time to acknowledge how far you've come since then. You're still healing, you're still learning, I see that you're still trying. If you've read this far, thank you. I hope you know that I believe in you and ultimately, God believes in you; so believe in you. God doesn't make terrible things, and he made no mistake with you. If you ever need to talk about anything, I'm here to listen and lend a helping hand. You weren't made to go through life alone. I wish you the best of luck to you and your journey in self-development <3


Here are just a few reminders that I've come across from @wetheurban that helps me in my journey, I hope it helps you too:

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