Whether we are starting off with accomplishing a goal, figuring out what we want to do with our lives, or just feeling lost, we always ask ourselves questions. If we go to a therapist or life coach, they ask us questions too. The truth is, questioning is a great way to determine what is going on with ourselves. The problem is whether they are the right questions. This is so important, because if we don’t ask the right questions, we can be stuck with nothing changing.
I have clients come in and tell me what’s not working in their lives. They go through their stories and then ask me questions that they have been asking themselves for days, months, or even years, such as:
Why doesn’t anything work out for me?
Why does the same thing keep happening?
What am I doing wrong?
These types of questions just keep you stuck in the patterns you want to break. These questions keep you in victim mode. They don’t allow you to see past the “Why me?” But yet these are questions we ask ourselves, or ask others, most often.
It’s time to ask ourselves new questions. The right questions can make a HUGE difference in our lives. So keep asking yourself questions, just different ones.
What is self-exploration?
Self-exploration is figuring out who you are. It’s taking a close, honest look at your thoughts, feelings, patterns/habits and asking why do I have these? Are they serving me any longer? What motivates me? It’s looking for an inner meaning of why we do things.
When most of us do a self-exploration we describe ourselves as our roles, occupation and other external ways to describe ourselves. But a true self-inquiry is searching deep within for answers.
1. Whatever you’re feeling, thinking emotionally also shows up physically. Pay attention to how your body responds to specific thoughts, feelings, habits, etc. Our bodies let us know when we are stressed/angry by the tensing up of our shoulders and neck, the headache that comes on strongly, and the feelings that someone is inside of our stomachs wringing a wash cloth – to name a few of the symptoms.
2. Journal your feelings/thoughts – keep track of what is going on in your life by writing it down. We can learn a lot about ourselves by writing down the questions we ask, as well as our responses to those questions and how they make us feel.
For example: I had a client who kept a journal through her self-exploration. Some of the questions she asked herself, she didn’t have answers to but she had physical responses instead which told her a lot about herself and what she was feeling. Specific questions brought up anxious feelings. This allowed my client to realize what truly caused fear in her life.
3. There will be some challenges along the road of self-exploration. This is normal and to be expected. We have busy lives between, work, kids, taking care of our homes, socializing, etc. To solve this problem we need to find time to unplug and be in silence. This is the time where we can spend asking the questions, feeling the responses and keeping our journal. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time.
For example: I had a client who woke up 15 minutes earlier than her kids to self-explore. Some morning were more productive than others but she kept the consistency going and now it’s become part of her daily routine that she looks forward to. Whenever she has a problem that she is struggling with, she spends that time in the morning to work it through with the questions and journaling.
4. Self-exploring can be hard work – this is normal and to be expected. When I take some time to self-explore specific issues about myself, it can bring up painful past memories or even feelings of regret, guilt or shame. After my time spent with these emotions, I can feel exhausted and drained. But even with those feelings of exhaustion and shame, I come away with a feeling of accomplishment for putting the time in and learning whatever lesson I needed to learn which will help me to make the changes I need to grow and live a happier, healthier life. So, look at the whole picture on the days when you’re feeling drained and exhausted.
5. If you get stuck in your self-exploration due to past trauma or childhood issues, you can always continue your exploring with a therapist. He or she can help you get through the trauma in a safe environment. You don’t have to do it alone, if you don’t want to.
6. When I’m in self-exploration mode, I check in with myself daily. I ask: How am I feeling? I scan my body for any signs of stress/anxiety, etc. I listen to what I’m feeling intuitively. Remember – there will be both good and bad days. What goes up, must come down But what is down must come up. So roll with the punches.
7. Self-exploration is all about the “WHY?” It brings me back to when my daughter was 3 and 4 years old and her favorite question was “Why?” But more importantly, why do we stop asking “Why?” It’s a basic question that can help us find solutions to many of our problems. Ask yourself “Why?
8. Answer your questions honestly and don’t judge your answers. Self-exploration is not about criticizing yourself. There is no wrong or right answer.
9. Ask yourself how the answers to the questions are affecting your life.
For example: When I asked myself – what is my thought about money? My answer was I can only make a certain amount of money in the field I was in. I wrote this down in my journal, and a few days later when I re-read it, I realized that I had put myself in an income box. If I thought this way, then I would defiantly never make more money. I needed to step outside the box and take risks. If I kept thinking I couldn’t make more money, then I would remain stuck.
10. You will not always get an answer and that is OK. Sometimes you will just sit in silence with a question. Don’t push if you don’t know the answer. Just let it be. The answer will come or you’ll feel a physical response to the question. Sometimes we need a few days. Or sometimes we are not asking the right question.
11. Look for some of your typical “victim” phrases and when you see them ask yourself why? Why am I saying these phrases? Are they true? Are they realistic?
Some of the typical victim phrases I have heard:
I always fail, why bother trying.
I’m never going to change.
I’m afraid to express myself and confront others – what if they get mad at me?
Nothing ever works out for me – I have bad luck.
I’m sure you could think of many more, but this gives you an idea to get you going. When these thoughts arise, challenge them! And ask yourself, “What small step can I take today to change that belief?” “What new story can I tell myself?”
Diane Lang/Pazoo Psychology/Happiness Expert
About Diane Lang
Diane Lang is a therapist, educator and author with expertise in multiple mental health, lifestyle and parenting needs. Her passion for helping women find their place in motherhood and the workplace is reflected in her counseling, radio appearances, books (“Babysteps: The Path from Motherhood to Career,” and “Creating Balance and Finding Happiness”), and in her “Super Mom Series” speaking engagements.
Diane has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology, and holds multiple counseling positions. She is also…
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