We are often blind to what our emotions are trying to tell us, and they are the basis for self-knowledge. It can be hard to pay attention when your head is piled high with tasks, appointments, and endless everyday worries that seem impossible to solve.
Yet, when we pay attention and develop a deeper awareness, we have everything we need to make choices that align our lives with our needs and desires.
It is impossible to say how much of this is a natural or an acquired ability, but it has been part of humankind’s evolutionary process since the beginning.
We evolved to be aware of our environment and learn from our experiences to create a future full of purpose. This means that, without self-knowledge, life could be filled with regret, leading to suffering. The longer you put off pursuing self-knowledge, the more times you’ll have to reinvent the wheel, which only makes things worse.
The process is simple. At the same time, it requires you to be patient with yourself. When you’re unsure, it takes time to figure out what you’re feeling rather than making a snap judgment that isn’t accurate. This is how self-knowledge makes you emotionally strong.
Here is your 3 part recipe to increase your self-knowledge and emotional strength.
Here is your 3-part recipe to increase your self-knowledge and emotional strength.
1. Identify your emotions.
When you are uncertain of yourself, introspection is the way to go.
Identify the emotions you are experiencing at the moment. What is your gut feeling? Your breath? Your heart?
Characteristics of an emotion include clarity, intensity, and pleasure or pain. If you don’t know what an emotion feels like, here are some examples for you to explore more closely:
Anxiety – The immediate irritation present when faced with a particular situation.
Disillusioned – The feeling that everything is not as good as it seems.
Excited – A state of intense arousal, often with an accompanying sense of joy.
Sad – A feeling of discomfort lacking clarity. It’s more like a vague melancholy.
Anger – Clear sensations in your body signal the need to take action and be defensive against certain situations.
Joy – The highest and most enjoyable emotion experienced by humans. It is a state of permanent happiness and contentment felt after great success or accomplishment.
It’s essential to be as specific as possible with your emotions.
This is one of the times in life where nuance matters a lot. Clarity about your internal state makes a difference. It’s too easy to get swept up in the immediate emotion and put it in a broad category when it might be much more subtle.
Take, for example, anger and sadness. Many people become angry when they’re sad. They don’t want to experience loss and instead become angry as a way of pushing the feeling away.
I had this experience when I moved across the country.
I didn’t want to move; I loved where I lived and often thought, “Man, I love it here.” But, when it came time to begin the moving process, I started to pick out all the flaws and justify why it would be better to live elsewhere. I pushed away the fond feelings for a place I loved to make it easier to focus on the future.
This process prevented me from acknowledging my experience of loss and the sadness I felt. Instead of letting go, feeling sad and being in the present, I was misaligned with myself. Ultimately, it made the transition more complex and it took longer than expected to settle into the new location.
2. Put your experiences into context.
Make a short list of 3 moments of your life that made you feel strong.
When doing this exercise, pay attention to the emotions present during each of the three experiences.
What emotions were present for these three events? What characteristics did they have?
Once you have this information, it’s time to contextualize it. Explain each of these three moments as if you were explaining your life story to someone new. This exercise requires a non-judgmental outlook – it’s just the observable information, not an evaluation of it.
It’s helpful to make a note for yourself on your phone, in a journal, or on a sticky note that you put somewhere so you can see it often. Reminders like this help you keep the emotion and experience in your mind so it becomes part of what you do during the day.
This is another way that self-knowledge makes you strong.
3. Determine what your plans need to be.
What would you do differently if you knew what your emotions were telling you?
Imagine yourself in the future.
If you knew what was going on inside of you at the time, would this future change?
What must you do to bring this future about, or how can it be easier or faster?
A word of warning.
Many people think they can skip over numbers 1 and 2 above and go right for number 3 to create a more aligned future. But it just doesn’t work that way. It would be much less painful and messy if it did, but it doesn’t.
Alignment takes time and reflection to know yourself and your needs. Don’t shortchange yourself by moving past this quickly. Most of us were never taught anything about emotions or feelings other than being told what is “appropriate” to feel for someone else’s convenience. There can be a lot of unpacking judgments in this phase.
Shaping your life into one where you draw on your sense of inner calm and self-knowledge makes you emotionally intense so that you can live your life in a fulfilling way.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggle of life and forget that we are all just one step away from creating our ideal futures.
No one is born with emotional mastery.
It’s a learned skill that you can master at any point in your life. The process is simple, but knowing more about yourself with each step takes time.
- Identify your emotions.
- Put your experiences into context.
- Plan for the future based on the two previous steps.
Self-knowledge makes you strong and able to handle anything with clarity, alignment and grace.