Podcast Transcriptions

Pursue What Matters

Episode 241: Self-Awareness Uncovers the Iceberg

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 Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
As humans, we have an unconscious life and a conscious life. But most of us are clueless about our unconscious life. And at the same time, we fail to appreciate how life under the iceberg drives our emotions, our thoughts and our behavior. It’s time to uncover the iceberg through self awareness.

Dr. Melissa Smith 0:18
I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we all have an iceberg, right? Think about your psyche as an iceberg. My first question to you is where do you need more self awareness? So do you consider yourself pretty self aware? Or do you kind of feel like you’re moving through life a little bit clueless about your behavior, your emotions, your thoughts, and why you end up making the same mistakes. So when it comes to self awareness, it really is a game changer. So we’ve just done this series, all on curiosity. And you can think about curiosity and self awareness as very similar, very similar terms. Curiosity is a path to self awareness. And so you know, everything that we’ve been talking about with that series is relevant here. And so if you haven’t checked that series out, please go back and maybe take a listen.

Dr. Melissa Smith 1:39
So today, we’re really going to be focused on how self awareness on covers the iceberg, okay, so, like I mentioned, you can consider your psyche, as an iceberg. And so, you know, for most of us, right, the top of the iceberg is what we see, it’s what we can identify pretty clearly. And it really represents our conscious awareness. So your awareness of your behaviors, your thoughts, and your feelings. But here’s what’s true, the vast majority of the iceberg is under the surface of the water. So, right, and that’s true of regular icebergs as well. And whatever is below the surface of the water represents unconscious material. So think about core beliefs about yourself, defense mechanisms, self sabotage, all of those pesky things that really undermine us. But can also leave us feeling really confused, because we’re not quite sure what’s happening. And that’s because we’re not aware of the bottom portion of the iceberg. And so self awareness helps us to bring unconscious material into conscious awareness. And you know, it can, so that we can be the drivers in our lives through reflection, through intentional action, and through clarity about our beliefs, values, and goals. And so when you think about self awareness, I want you to think of this as a turning toward your internal experience. And unfortunately, in the life that we live most of our lives, right in our society.

Dr. Melissa Smith 3:18
Most of our lives are designed to turn away from our internal experience. So think about screens, distractions, busyness, having too much to do too much stimulation, right? Just think about TV, everything. So all of these features of modern life, which are pretty cool, when done in balance, make it difficult to even identify our bodily sensations. And if we can’t do that, it’s hard to develop self awareness. And so self, self awareness happens as we slow ourselves down. And I mean, literally and figuratively, literally slowing ourselves down. So that we can connect to our internal experiences. So think about thoughts and feelings. And so that we can make intentional choices about our actions or behaviors that are consistent with our values. And so cultivating self awareness really is a game changer. And so if we think about self awareness, making the unconscious conscious, right, so you could think about lowering the water so that you have more awareness, you can see more of what what’s happening down below. In that unconscious realm. Now, of course, it’s an unconscious realm. So, you know, we can’t totally understand everything about it. But when we think about self awareness, and how it can really be a tool, it requires curiosity, compassion, and slowing down, right. I’ve already mentioned slowing down. And of course, Curiosity is something we’ve been talking about with the recent series. So we think about curiosity as opposed to criticism. and about yourself in the situation.

Dr. Melissa Smith 5:02
So for people who aren’t self aware, they they lack curiosity about themselves about others and about life. So something happens. And maybe it’s something that’s really difficult or really painful or someone’s really hurt by your behavior. If you’re not self aware, you have zero curiosity about it. And so often a response is, Well, I’m glad that’s over with and now let’s just move on, right, but we kind of move on, like an ostrich with our head in the sand. We don’t bring any curiosity to the situation we don’t reflect on, did I do something there that was maybe upsetting or offensive, or, you know, was missing some clues. So we don’t ever stop to ask ourselves these important questions. And, you know, our life is designed to to keep us moving. So we don’t ask those questions. And it’s also kind of painful to ask some of those questions, because it requires us to, you know, sit with some of those answers, like, oh, gosh, like, I really, you know, I was not kind or I was offensive in that situation. And so curiosity and self awareness, are really a call to, you know, taking responsibility for yourself and for your actions. And so, you know, we live in a society that really moves us away from responsibility teaches us that that’s old fashioned, we don’t need to worry about that. It’s totally false. But it’s understandable that we’re pretty uncomfortable with getting curious about our own behavior.

Dr. Melissa Smith 6:31
So the first thing that self awareness requires is that curiosity, be willing to be uncomfortable with yourself in order to better understand yourself and others and the situations that you face in life. The second thing that self awareness requires is compassion. So compassion as opposed to judgment. And this is compassion for yourself. And for the situation, right. And when we think about self awareness, you’re really, you’re really willing to look at everything. And sometimes what you see is painful, right? Because like I mentioned, it calls you to change it calls you to, to clean yourself up and to make better choices. And so this can be really painful. And, you know, it’s, it’s easy for us to resist that. But when we think about compassion, it’s not, it’s not placating yourself. It’s not saying like, Oh, you know, it’s okay, that you did this, not at all, compassion is all about care in those moments, while also taking responsibility.

Dr. Melissa Smith 7:38
So you could, you could, you could acknowledge, right, like, this is a challenging situation, you could also bring in self compassion in terms of recognizing that you’re not alone in this struggle, right? Like you have responsibility in this situation to improve it. But we know you’re not alone. And that is what it means to be human. Right? So this idea of shared humanity can be really helpful. The third thing that self awareness requires, is slowing down. So I already introduced this, but you must learn to quiet yourself. And again, learning to quiet yourself is one of the hardest things to do in our society. So how can you learn to quiet yourself. So first, have some screen free time, every single day, you can start in small bursts, if that makes it easier, have some earphone free time, every single day, you take time to be not to do and then allowing whitespace in your day.

Dr. Melissa Smith 8:41
So if you have every minute of your day scheduled, where on earth, do you quiet yourself? Where on earth do you allow in reflection? So we’ve got to have more whitespace in our days, and then you know, part of slowing down is reflecting on ourselves, others and our actions. So to ask yourself some really good reflection questions such as what’s working for me, right? Where do I feel like things are just going really well, I’ve got good relationships, we’re making progress versus what’s not working. So if you find yourself hitting up against the same brick wall again, and again, that’s a good time to get curious. That’s a good time to reflect and ask what’s not working? What’s going on here? Because you might be running right into a big part of your iceberg where you get caught in self sabotage, or defense mechanisms that really do not support you and your growth. Another reflection question you can ask is Where do I feel anxious? Where do I feel avoidant? Where do I feel angry? Where do I feel overwhelmed? These are such important questions and so they require you right? To get in touch with your emotions, right? Like I am boiling mad. What is that about and where do I feel that in my body and what do I understand about that? How much of that has to do with this situation at hand? And how much of this has to do with? Gosh, like I’ve been running high on anxiety, and I haven’t been engaging in self care. And so again, we want you to get curious, not critical as you answer these questions.

Dr. Melissa Smith 10:18
Okay, so now I want to finish up with our third main point, which is that self care is often the path that leads to self awareness. Right? So it’s easy to say, right, like self awareness is turning towards your internal experience. But if you have completely cut yourself off, from your internal experience, it’s going to take a little time, it’s going to take a little bit of effort to be able to cultivate more self awareness. And self care is that path that is the tool to really help you to be able to have more self awareness in your life. And so what do we mean when we talk about self care? So people use self care in lots of different ways, I’ll be clear about what I think about and what what I use in my clinical work and in my leadership, work, and in my own life, to really help me to be in a place of steadiness of stability, of security, and of self awareness. And so first is rest. Are you getting adequate rest? And for most of us, we know the answer is no, most of us do not get enough sleep. That is such an important factor.

Dr. Melissa Smith 11:27
Because if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your brain is just not functioning well. Your body is not functioning well. It makes it much harder to do everything in life. And in those cases, it’s much more likely that our unconscious life will take over. Right. So bad habits, defense mechanisms, reactivity, impulsive reactions, impulsive behaviors. And so if you can only do one thing, let’s let’s start with getting some more rest. So thinking about adequate sleep, naps, I’m a big fan of naps, short naps, so they don’t disrupt your sleep cycle. And then balance between work and leisure. So if you’re working all the time, I guarantee you, you’re not getting enough rest. And you you need a mental break as well from work.

Dr. Melissa Smith 12:14
A second component of self care is renewal. So being able to get in touch with your sense of purpose, around your work around your life. So, you know, some of the questions you can ask is, you know, why do I do this work? Like what’s meaningful about it? What where do I feel a sense of purpose? And I think this is a really good question. What kind of schedule helps me to be most effective in my life? So I’ve asked that question at different points in my career. And what I needed when I was younger, in my career is very different from what I need now in my career. And so just realizing that we want to be respectful of life and the challenges that we face at different stages, right. Also, the fact of aging, like it is a reality. And so you know, what kind of schedule schedule helps you to be most effective. And so being willing to take a look at that, and renew as needed and make changes as needed.

Dr. Melissa Smith 13:13
Another component of self care is relaxation. So we think about pleasurable activities such as massage, reflexology, meditation, paced breathing, reading a great book, watching a compelling show, relaxation is so important for the body to be able to reset.

Dr. Melissa Smith 13:31
Another component of self care is play. So we think about hobbies, you know, we think about unstructured downtime, mixing up your leisure activities, saying yes, rather than having a default of no getting outside of your comfort zone, and tolerating being a novice, that’s really hard for a lot of us, especially if we’re leaders, and you know, we’re achievement oriented, we like certainty. And we’ve been rewarded for that. So we want to kind of get outside of that comfort zone at times.

Dr. Melissa Smith 14:06
Another component of self care is balanced movement. So we think about exercise time in nature, walks, stretching, focus, breathing. Next, another component of self care is intuitive eating. So if you’re on a extreme diet, or you don’t have any sort of nutritional infrastructure in your life, you’re going to be in trouble, you’re not going to feel well. And again, that moves us to more reactivity to more use of defense mechanisms, right from from the addictions world. We think about halt that when with you, if you hit up against any of the features of halt will, which I’ll explain in a minute. You are more vulnerable, you’re more vulnerable to going back to your substance use you’re more vulnerable to being reactive, impulsive, have poor decision making. And so what is halt If you’re hungry, if you’re angry, if you’re lonely if you’re tired, right, and most of these things are physiological. And so the again, this is why self care is so incredibly important.

Dr. Melissa Smith 15:11
And then two more components of self care that I want to mention here today. First, the next one is spirituality. And so this includes worship, prayer, scripture, study, journaling, connecting to purpose, right, it doesn’t have to be part of organized religion. But a spiritual practice makes a big difference. And it really does open us up to not only more awareness of ourselves, but of the world around us. And then the last self care activity that I want to talk about. And this again, self care is that path that leads to self awareness is connection. So we think about affection, intimacy, friendship, laughing, crying, sharing concerns, receiving support, receiving help without guilt, and expressing gratitude. connection makes life worth living. And you know, when we are connected in deep, meaningful relationships, we will be self aware, because we will get feedback from those we’re in relationship with. And that will be helpful if we can tolerate the feedback, it will indeed help us to improve and to uncover that iceberg a little bit more. And so today with the podcast, we talked about how self awareness uncovers the iceberg. We talked about how that works, and what’s what’s in that unconscious world that we really do want to understand. So we think about some of the core beliefs we have about ourselves. We think about defense mechanisms, we think about impulsive behaviors, difficulty problem solving all of those things. And then we also talked about what self awareness requires and that’s for that’s three things, curiosity, compassion, and slowing down.

Dr. Melissa Smith 16:53
And then the last thing we talked about is that self care is often the path that leads to self awareness. And I reviewed several great self care activities that can help you if you’re ready to move forward on this and so head on over to my website, to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/241-uncovertheiceberg. So one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/241-uncovertheiceberg. So I hope you will join me on Instagram at @dr.melissasmith, I always have more resources tied to the podcast there. And if you’re so inclined, I would love it if you would give the podcast a five star review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. It helps people find the podcast and it helps me to know what’s working for you. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai