While I’m not usually one to analyze rap lyrics, this Ice Cube song title deserves some out-of-context attention. It’s time we start taking this self-care phrase a bit more seriously.
I’ve seemingly always had an interest in self-awareness. I pursued an education in social work because I love learning what makes people – myself included – tick. Even in my teen years, I was a constant spout of knowledge gained from articles on mindfulness, psychology, and holistic health.
I knew what it took to “be my best self” – even if I didn’t necessarily feel like I was.
In early 2015, I moved away from friends and family and followed my heart to a city I thought I would want to call home. I felt confident in my decision. After all, things work out when you follow your intuition, right?
Well, apparently not. (Who told me that anyway?)
My new surroundings fell short of the paradise I expected, and I started to feel lost. I thought this move was what I had wanted, yet it constantly filled me with unhappiness and self-doubt.
In my head, I knew what to do.
I had filled my mental filing cabinet with ideas about mindful and healthy habits for moments just like this. But when the time came, I didn’t seem to have the heart to put anything into practice.
We all have those days, weeks, or maybe even months where we feel stuck in a rut. Our desires and dreams seem to have scurried off and hidden under a rock, and we’re left feeling lost and unsure. We try to reconstruct ourselves back into the person we thought we were, but things just don’t feel right.
That’s because certain things aren’t right.
It is an indication that we want more out of life and a self-imposed nudge to move us in a different direction.
In times of inner conflict and uncertainty, it’s especially important to tune into what our hearts and bodies are telling us. However, during such times, it’s all too easy to spiral downward into self-doubt, depression, and anxiety. We doubt past choices, fear the future, and destroy our present selves.
Here’s where Ice Cube’s advice kicks in. Before inadvertently wrecking ourselves, we need to check ourselves. If uncertainty and confliction are signs of a need for change, we need to assess our lives and ourselves to find where this might be possible (or even necessary).
This is an attitude assessment. It’s an internal check-in to examine personal qualities, thoughts, attitudes, and goals. Doing this kind of assessment entails spending time alone to ask yourself a variety of questions:
- How would I describe myself?
- How would I like to describe myself?
- What are my positive qualities and habits? Where can I improve?
- What personal attributes do I value? Why?
Keep in mind:
Instead of asking objective questions (i.e. “Who am I?”), allow for mental exploration (“How would I describe myself?”). This is a learning experience designed to explore deep thoughts of who you are and who you want to be.
Don’t expect immediate enlightenment. These questions take time to contemplate, as we usually identify ourselves by what we do or who we know. (This is why it’s especially difficult to feel a strong sense of self when you change careers, move to a new city, or go through any major life transition.) Be open and be patient with yourself.
This is where you assess your environment. A life-check looks at external factors that directly impact you: job, relationships, community, location. This requires a mental shift from self to situation.
Questions to ask:
- What benefits does my job/career offer me? What limitations does it present?
- How would I describe my relationship with my partner?
- What would my ideal (but realistic!) romantic relationship look like?
- What are some of my big-picture goals and dreams?
- How does my daily routine progress me in the direction of my dreams?
- How would I like my life to look? What changes are necessary?
- And, perhaps most importantly: what changes can I make today?
Keep in mind:
It can feel discouraging or overwhelming to see the gap between where you are and where you want to be in life. This is why, when you’re looking at big-picture goals, it’s important to focus on what you can do right now.
Take time to practice gratitude for where you are in life. If it helps, look back and acknowledge the positive steps you’ve taken in the past to bring you here. And remember: the fact that you are seeking self-awareness and development is a positive step in itself!
Act on this:
Why do you feel unhappy, lost, conflicted, or in a rut? It might be because your relationship isn’t offering you the connection you desire. Perhaps you’re bored of your surroundings or daily routines. Maybe it’s due to a lack of personal or financial freedom.
Start by getting a better idea of why you feel a certain way. Then, what are you going to do about it?
When I moved to that new city, I felt a general unease and unhappiness. What did I do about it? I blamed my surroundings. The city. The people. The weather. During that time, I had no problem seeing the gap between how I was living and how I wanted to live. But if I had delved deeper and asked myself some of the questions above, I could’ve worked out what steps I needed to take to bridge that gap.
If I had analyzed why I felt the way I did, I could’ve been much happier much sooner.
Storing mindful thoughts and habits in my mental filing cabinet wasn’t enough. And the same is true for you, my friend. What I need – and what I think we could all use – is a system to put knowledge into practice.
Doing self-checks and life-checks to determine the root of doubt or discomfort can increase self-awareness and enable us to use what we know to move forward.
So what questions will you ask yourself? What steps will you take to apply what you know? Let’s make a pact to stop blaming the weather and start empowering ourselves to change our lives.
Start today. Go on and check yourself.