Photo Credit: Joshua Earle, Unsplash.com

Written by Luke Iorio, President of One Idea Away and iPEC
June 21, 2019

“My inner self really didn’t match my outer self. People always saw me as ‘so calm’ and with a soft voice. But inside, there was a lot of turmoil and stress. I was holding tight all the time and I was hardly breathing . . .”

– Wendy Quan, Founder of the Calm Monkey, on the One Idea Away Podcast

I was at the pinnacle of what I’d been working over a decade to achieve–and I remember the moment when I came face to face with this issue: my inner world wasn’t lining up with my outer one.

The thing is, this issue, this inner struggle had been there for a long time. It’s not like it just came up out of the blue. Questions of “is this all there is?” and “what’s missing?” would be accompanied by fleeting, unsettled feelings that, I would now say, were a lack of purpose, meaning, and joy, were all there. They would dance between the background of my mind and the pit of my stomach.

And then they’d vanish. Why?

Because, just as Wendy Quan, Founder of Calm Monkey, discussed on the One Idea Away Podcast, we keep busy, we keep pushing, we keep doing what we think we’re supposed to do because that’s what we see everyone else doing.

The busyness, activities, and rushing from one project to the next is as much distraction as it’s perceived responsibility. I was downright gifted with the ability to make sure I had just enough projects going at all times that I never really had more than a fleeting moment to acknowledge how unsatisfied I really was.

What I saw in these forms of distraction is that they were keeping me from acknowledging the disconnection I was truly feeling. The questions and feelings that would pass through my mind, heart, and gut were glimpses of a deeper discontent that was brewing.

Please Don’t Wait for the Wake-Up Call!

I’ve reflected on this so many times: why do we wait until life smacks us around?

There’s a long list of psychological reasons and patterns that we could go into when answering this, but there’s one answer that helps us change course sooner every time.

The answer is awareness.

  • Being aware of what we’re feeling . . . and honestly and vulnerably acknowledging it.
  • Being aware of the deeper messages that our inner voice is trying to convey . . . and sitting, quietly, to hear and feel that message.
  • Being aware of what we’re holding onto . . . and being honest that it’s changing whether we like it or not (so it’s better to face it for what it is than deny it).
  • Being aware of what we really want . . . and connecting to those experiences and what truly matters–with our whole heart and whole selves.
  • Being aware’s the beginning point for all change; and self-awareness is the foundation for us understanding ourselves and the way in which we want to navigate change, be more conscious in what we choose going forward, and getting comfortable and confident in who we really are and how we wish to show up in the world.

I waited until I was on the edge of burnout and an existential crisis to finally dig in real deep and get radically honest with myself about what I was feeling and experiencing. Please don’t wait that long, if at all possible. Start your inquiry and reflection practice now.

Whether you’re just tuning into a few of those inner stirrings, whether that inner voice is starting to get a little louder with its questions and ponderings, or whether you’re just ready and know it’s time for some change . . . start building a foundation on self-awareness.

How Being More Aware Can Bring Connection

Everything we experience in life is based on how we “see” it.

That’s worth repeating:

Everything we experience in life is based on how we “see” it.

We’re the sum of all our experiences—all our beliefs, values, relationships, successes, failures, conflicts, and more. All of these form literal connections in our brains and nervous systems, which impacts the way we perceive all present and future situations. Effectively, this is the subconscious lens through which we view life.

I personally find it helpful to think of that lens as a filter—because instead of a pure, clean, completely clear lens, it’s more accurate that we filter out and filter in certain information based on how it relates to what else we’ve been through in our lives.

This filter disrupts the connection to our true, essential nature—the self that exists underneath all the layers of pleasing and displeasing experiences; underneath all the likes and dislikes we’ve formed; underneath all the expectations of others and the “should’s” we accumulate, and underneath any of the fears, worries, doubts, and anxieties that keep us locked into a no-longer-good-enough status quo.

When we look and become more aware of what’s in the filter, we can clear it out and we can then allow more and more of our true nature to shine through—more congruently connecting our inner and outer worlds.

Being More Aware Brings More Honesty with Yourself

I found a lot of things in my filter, but chief among them was that I was holding on—holding onto the expectations of others as if they were my own; holding onto my own desire not to let anyone down because I didn’t want to feel their disappointment; holding onto my own image of how life was meant to be and ignoring that life was trying to show me something different. I was holding on to what I thought needed to be.

My filter was also keeping me in my head and disconnected from my emotional and physical self. I had all the signs and messages but my filter kept my head swiveled in another direction so that I wouldn’t fully feel or be aware of what I was actually experiencing.

After all the uncovering and exploration, I realized the hardest part was simply turning towards the discomfort and acknowledging it was real. I’m not saying the rest was easy–not by any means–but it was the fear that the disconnection truly existed that kept me from really looking at it. And the funny thing is, once I looked at it, I felt like I started to fully see myself while also more clearly seeing the false pursuits, goals, and expectations that had led me away from myself.

Once I could see the patterns, they just didn’t hold the same control over me. It was like the magic trick had been revealed and the illusion gone. It was from that place of clarity, of expanded awareness, and of feeling a connection to that genuine inner self, that my choices got more obvious, my actions and behaviors more aligned, and I felt like I was now living more aligned to who I truly am—more so than I had in decades.

The bottom line: It’s time to live inside out. Start at the center of who you really are and build life outwards from there.

Photo Credit: Joshua Earle, Unsplash.com