Self Care and Self Awareness
“You can’t take care of yourself until you know who you are” is a concept that I’ve lived by recently.
There have been a variety of different things that have happened to myself and my family over the past few years - some good, some bad and some just downright challenging - and through it all, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever have before. And I’m 32. I’ve learned a lot about how I process (I am very much an external processor), my personality (I’m an introvert - SURPRISE) and how I interact with others (I’m very much non-confrontational and a people pleaser to a fault).
Something that I didn’t realize until recently is that we are always changing. Our bodies, our personalities and our souls are changing because of the experiences that we go through and the environment that we live in. I knew that this was true about our bodies - we age, we gain and lose weight, we lose elasticity in our skin and pigment in our hair. It’s obvious, as we look at pictures from our past that we have changed. Sometimes significantly, sometimes it’s barely noticeable. However, there’s no obvious way to tell that our minds and spirits are changing and evolving. There is no litmus test to easily gauge our mental well being; it takes far more digging and isn’t as simple as just stepping on a scale or noticing the greys appearing around our temples.
And because it’s not as obvious, we don’t often check in. The busyness of life doesn’t really allow it. We go on with our daily lives, taking punches and detours as they come without actually taking the time to evaluate how they affect our thoughts, emotions and actions. There’s an element of intentionality that needs to be exercised in order to remain emotionally healthy (something I’m trying to get better at myself). There’s maintenance required, but because it’s not easy (and because often we don’t want to dig deep) we don’t commit to it. We tell ourselves that we’re fine and that we can handle the stress that life hands us, but that does us a real disservice. Everyday we experience wounds being inflicted upon us while we simultaneously address different wounds that are in the process of healing (or scarring without being tended to).
So, like I mentioned in my last blog, self care is going to look different to every single individual on the face of this planet, depending on a variety of factors. Season of life and personality type to name a couple.
So where do we start? Let’s figure out who we are. There are a variety of great resources for this, but my favorite three are The Myers-Briggs personality test, The Love Language Test and The Enneagram. These few tests connected the dots for me in a way that nothing else had.
I've put links below to FREE versions of these tests, so they’re not as comprehensive as the ones that you pay for. Certain things can be slightly inaccurate, but if 75% of it rings true, I think that counts for something. However, if you're looking for this test to tell you that you're Beyonce, you might be slightly disappointed because there's only one Queen Bey. Also, be sure to run these results by someone close to you - a spouse, family member or close friend. There may be some things that these tests reveal that you may not agree with, even if they’re true.
The Myers Briggs: If you’ve heard people refer to themselves as ENFJ, INTJ, or ISFJ, this is what they’re referring to. It’s a personality test that determines how people interpret their world and surroundings. According to 16personalities.com, these letters determine how we interact with our environment, where we direct our mental energy, how we make decisions and cope with emotions as well as our approach to work, planning and decision making.
Personally, I’m an INFP and that came as a complete shock to me. Mainly the introvert part. I’m generally very loud, friendly and appear to be outgoing. Yes, these traits can all accurately describe me, but that doesn’t mean that they are true 100% true all. of. the. Time (note the emphasis). More than I enjoy being outgoing, I love being a fly on the wall, longing to people watch at parties and not be expected to talk (which I guess can be considered rude? Whoops). More than I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city, I love being alone by the beach with a pen and a journal. Yes, there are times when I LOVE being in a room surrounded by all of the people I know, or wandering through the crowded streets in Manhattan, but I have to mentally prepare for it, and I probably need to take a nap afterwards.
You can take the Myers Briggs test over at https://www.16personalities.com/
The Love Language Test: This test is based on the book, “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, and he says that we tend to give love out in the same way that we like to receive it. The 5 love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and receiving gifts. I think it’s important to know how we receive and give out love because it’s something that we do on a daily basis. If we’re able to figure this out for ourselves (and the people around us) we can know how to more effectively communicate with those who are in our lives and therefore save ourselves the headache of blindly guessing how to love our friends and family well. Interpersonal communication is complicated, but knowing love languages takes out a bit of the guess work. It allows us to hone in on what actually works.
My top two love languages are acts of service and receiving gifts. Unlike my Myers Briggs, I feel like this makes so much sense. Being a mom, I think that most of my life consists of cleaning up after and doing things for tiny humans, so if my husband for example wants to show me that he loves me, a good way might be by doing the dishes or laundry. Or by buying me flowers or my favorite tea or lotion while he’s at the store. These actions don’t need to be extravagant to be meaningful.
You can take the Love Language Test at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
The Enneagram: My husband and I have been geeking out over the enneagram for about a year now, and now it’s your turn. This is definitely more involved than the others, but will reveal to you more about yourself than you can even imagine (I’m not even kinda playing). Integrative9 states that, “The Integrative Enneagram creates self-awareness and uncovers the patterns of behavior that sub-consciously drive and motivate us to act in certain ways. When we make these patterns and motivations conscious, we are able to transcend them and develop richer, more supportive ways of being”. Nailed it.
Honestly, at first I HATED the enneagram. It kept giving me the same score over and over and over and I was pissed because I thought it was inaccurate (enter: reality check). I’m a 7 (specifically a 7w8 for those of you who geek out over this stuff like I do), which can be described as “The Optimist”, “The Joyful Person” or “The Enthusiastic Visionary”. Those all sound like delightful results, don’t they? Yes, but I was in denial. I thought I was more of a pessimistic realist, so this didn’t seem to fit. But the more than I read about it (and the more times I took the test) I realized that the title might not always fit how I feel, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Hi, I’m Rhianon and I’m an optimist. Apparently.
You can take a free version of the Enneagram at http://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php (There are others that look prettier and are more detailed, but this one definitely gets the job done. I mean, it gave me a 7 again so there’s that).
So my advice? Go ahead and take an hour or so to complete these three tests. Maybe tonight instead of settling down with a glass of wine and Netflix, take care of yourself in another way by making some herbal tea and grabbing a journal. Read up on your results and write them down (as well as specific things that ring true for you in the description) and determine how they affect you in your relationships, in your job etc. Was there any crossover between the tests? Did they say similar things? Whether you only write a few things down or pages upon pages doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re starting to figure out who you are and that’s worth celebrating.