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75 Questions for Cultivating Self-Awareness

Ask More Questions - Positively Present


Self-love is one of my favorite topics to write about, but it’s occurred to me lately that I haven’t spent a great deal of time writing about one of the foundations of this important topic — self-awareness. Self-awareness is conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires, and it’s presence is essential for loving who you are.

You might be thinking, But I know who I am! Of course, we all know ourselves on some level, but self-awareness is something we should— and can!— always be contemplating. Because we’re always growing, changing, becoming, to truly know the self, we must constantly be curious about who we are.

One of the best ways I've found to gain a better understanding of the self is the practice of asking and answering questions. In 2017, I had a wonderful little calendar from Flow Magazine that featured a question a day, and it served as a daily reminder of the importance of questions. Contemplating these questions helped me to gain a better understanding of myself throughout the year. I’ve missed waking up to them this month, so I decided to create my own little list — some of my favorites from the calendar and some that I thought of myself — to inspire self-awareness exploration this week. 

Writing these and reflecting on them was such a great exercise for me, and I hope they inspire you to think about the world (and yourself!) a bit more deeply. 

  1. How do you currently feel about yourself?
  2. Do you engage in activities to escape your reality?
  3. What do you think you could never, ever give up?
  4. Do you believe every thought you think?
  5. Who (or what) always makes you laugh?
  6. Was there a turning point in your life?
  7. How do you spend the majority of your time?
  8. Do you feel inspired by someone or something?
  9. Are you good at being in the present moment?
  10. What was the last thing you purchased?
  11. Do you often remember your dreams when you wake?
  12. What’s on your to-do list that never gets done?
  13. Would you move to another country?
  14. How would your best friend describe you?
  15. Do you consider your childhood a happy one?
  16. When did you last feel disappointed?
  17. Do you have any (or many) guilty pleasures?
  18. How do you feel when faced with change?
  19. What do you think happens when you die?
  20. Do you believe in giving second chances?
  21. What is your greatest strength?
  22. Do you always say what’s on your mind?
  23. How do you cope with stress?
  24. What would you tell your younger self?
  25. How often do you learn new things?
  26. Do you enjoy spending time with others?
  27. What is your favorite time of day?
  28. How often do you ask others for help?
  29. What is your biggest weakness?
  30. Are you good at establishing boundaries?
  31. What’s the best day you’ve had so far?
  32. Do you frequently make wishes?
  33. What would your ideal career consist of?
  34. Where is your favorite place to be?
  35. Do you say “yes” or “no” more often?
  36. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
  37. How open are you with others?
  38. What is currently worrying you?
  39. Do you enjoy spending time alone?
  40. Which sense do you use the most?
  41. How would you define the meaning of life?
  42. What questions are you asked often?
  43. When was the last time you made a change?
  44. Do you enjoy talking about yourself?
  45. What does the word “birthday” connote?
  46. Who do you call when you’re upset?
  47. How often do you procrastinate?
  48. Do you believe people can really change?
  49. What three words best describe you?
  50. When did you last see the sun rise?
  51. Do you think time heals all wounds?
  52. What is your relationship with technology?
  53. Are you good at letting things go?
  54. Do you prefer morning, afternoon, or night?
  55. What are you currently working on?
  56. Are you attracted to a specific type of person?
  57. Would you like to live in a different decade?
  58. What do you enjoy about adulthood?
  59. Do you think you have a big imagination?
  60. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?
  61. Could you live without the internet?
  62. Why do you get out of bed each day?
  63. When did you last make a new friend?
  64. Do you think your ego gets in the way?
  65. What’s the strangest thing you’ve experienced?
  66. How would you describe your personal style?
  67. What do you like/dislike about your gender?
  68. Do you have difficulty sleeping?
  69. What do you want to learn more about?
  70. Can you accept compliments easily?
  71. What can you do really, really well?
  72. Are you living your life for yourself?
  73. What would you like to be remembered for?
  74. Do you feel connected to your culture?
  75. What does the word “self-love” mean to you?

I'm always looking for more thought-provoking questions. Have you come across any good ones lately that I didn't share in the list above? If so, leave them in the comments below!



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Keep Moving Forward: 5 Steps to Get Going



Lately I've been struggling a lot with motivation. There are so many things I want to do and make (and be!), and I've gotten to that point where I feel so overwhelmed that, instead of taking action, I just want to lie down, throw the covers over my head, and do nothing. (And, of course, whenever I do that, I feel guilty and terrible and even more overwhelmed.)

Indecisive about wanted to write about this week, I was sitting here (very unproductively watching endless episodes of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee) and it occurred to me that maybe this struggle — the frustration and disappointment that comes with feeling overwhelmed and, rather than tackling the tasks, doing nothing instead — is exactly the thing I should be writing about. So, rather than write about what I've done, as I often do, I'm writing today about what I plan to do to take small steps to make positive progress! 



The first step to tackling any problem, I've found, is acceptance, and I think that's quite true in this situation. First and foremost, I've got to accept where I am instead of frantically worrying about what haven't yet done or fretting uselessly about what I want to accomplish. The complaining and worrying and freaking out is (clearly!) doing no good, so I've got to start by accepting where I am — much as I dislike this particularly unclear and frazzled time in my life. Once I begin to realize that this is where I am (and remember that it's not where I'll be forever!), I bet I'll be able to feel just a tad less overwhelmed and a bit more able to take on what needs to be done. 



This step is actually what made me finally sit down and start writing. I was struggling and then I thought to myself, Why not try working backwards? Instead of writing and then creating an image for the blog post, why not look at the images you've recently created and see if you're inspired by any of them? Of course, the first one I spotted was the one I made for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — and the perfect prompt to remind me that, wherever I am, I can get started using what I have. I might have some limitations at the moment — both physical and mental — but I still have a lot that I can work with! 



I'm a chronic list maker (could you tell from my listicle blog posts? ha!), but the older I get, the more I notice that lists aren't always as productive as I think they are. Sometimes, as I mentioned, I look at that long list of to-do tasks and feel so overwhelmed I just snap my iPad shut and avoid them all together. This week I'm going to try making short, specific lists. Rather than something vague like "write next week's blog post" it'll be "write 5 tips about X." Getting specific and direct with my lists might (hopefully!!) me take more action. 



We all have limited amounts of will power that apparently diminish over the course of a day, which means it's important to get the stuff you really don't want to do out of the way first. I've recently gotten into the habit of starting my days out slow and working more later in the day, but this week I'm aiming to get back on a get-up-and-get-to-work schedule, tackling the tasks I dislike first so that it's more likely I'll get them done. 



Staying motivated, particularly if you feel like you don't have access to the tools or mindsets you need, is challenging (which is why there are tons of books on productivity). One method that worked for me for awhile was keeping a "Done" lists alongside my "To-Do" list, where I'd  track what I'd accomplished — however small! I'm going to revisit that one this week, and explore some other productivity habits (like the Pomodoro Technique, which has always intrigued me). We're all different (and we all change, too!) so it's probably a good idea to explore new methods when in a rut. 


Wish me luck as I try to get a handle on this — and feel free to share any ideas or resources in the comments section below. I'd love to know what you do whenever you feel overwhelmed with a mountain of tasks that you've been putting off for months. Advice and resources greatly appreciated! 


Exploring the Past to Understand the Present

Journal Positively-Present


When my parents moved to a new house last summer, I found myself carting boxes of my old stories and journals and art and terrible photographs (amazing to see the "good" photos that we saved and how they look like the kind I'd immediately delete on my phone today) to my apartment. I tucked them away neatly in cupboards and closets (ah, the joy of being a Virgo!), telling myself I'd spend time going through it, determining what I wanted to keep and what could be tossed. Of course, it's been out of sight and out of mind since then, one of those tasks that will randomly pop into my mind and then be pushed away by the notion that it'll take so much energy — both the physical and the emotional kind. Plus, I couldn't decide if it was, in fact, valuable to revisit these things. 

I spend so much of my time writing about (and trying to experience) the present moment, so the idea of diving headlong into the past, re-meeting all those old versions of myself, seemed like a bit of a strange one. Would exploring the past help me to become more present now? Would it drag me back to things I've forgotten (or tried to) in a healthy or unhealthy way? I'm still unclear about the answers, but I kept thinking about all of these old things, sitting close by but tucked away, and over the past few weeks pulling them out and reading and reflecting on them. Here are some of the things I've learned: 



So many of the things that seemed terrible when I was writing about them ended up working out fine (or, if they didn't, have gotten much easier to cope with over time). Revisiting these old pains and realizing how most of them are gone or faded was a nice reminder that, regardless of whatever difficulties you're currently going through, things will change and you'll survive. 



It was surprising to take note of how many similarities there are between who I was and who I am now. I was always writing and drawing in some form, which is a pretty cool thing to see, particularly in terms of the progression. I was always fascinated by quotes and lyrics, writing them in colorful ways in my notebooks and diaries. I was always trying to understand why things were the way they are, always searching for a better understanding of myself. (There were also some less-than-stellar traits that continue to linger and reading about them was an eye-opener.)



While I'm the same in so many ways, I've also changed and grown a great deal (as we all do). When we're living in the present with no record of the past, it can be easy to forget how much we've changed and grown and overcome. Looking back at the past has given me a greater appreciation for where I am now, and a hopefulness with regard to the aspects of life that I'd like to be different. It's taken time and effort, but I've changed a lot of aspects — and that means I'm likely to be able to make changes in the future too. It's weirdly inspiring to reflect on how far you've come, especially when you're able to read your own words about a specific time period. 



So many patterns kept popping up as I was reading and reflecting — some good, some bad. Honestly one of the most interesting things I discovered was how many of the same patterns I still embrace today. It was an eye-opener and made me really think about what patterns I want to keep up, and which ones I need to work on modifying. Even if you don't keep journals, you can spend time paying attention to patterns you keep repeating and explore whether or not they're useful for you right now. Just because you've always done it doesn't mean you always have to do it.  



Every memory you have is influenced by your own unique perspective — what came before it and what's come after it. Revisiting the past memories and my thoughts on them jotted down in real time reminded me that so much of what we hold on to in our minds as memories is really just a set of stories, some containing more truth than others. When you can read about them again, you can understand things in a new way. You can almost see through your old self and understand the emotions and how they might have influenced the memories. Exploring the past memories reminded me that memories aren't facts, an important lesson to keep in mind in the present. 



I long to reach out to my younger self and tell her not to worry. I want to tell her that it will work out — not always in the way you think or the way you want, but it will. I also sometimes want to sit her down and give her a serious talking to, showcasing all that I've learned and all that I wish she knew then. But that's how life goes: you don't know what you don't know. You do the best you can with what knowledge and wisdom you possess, and that's all you can really do. Reflecting on this reminded me that there is still so much I have left to learn and it's okay that I'm just doing the best I can with what I have right now. 



This is a small lesson, but an important one. As I was sorting through the boxes of old notes and photos and silly little cards, I realized that the things with the most value were the things that people spent time writing a lot on. Any card that just had a signature went in the bin, but all of the handwritten love letters, the notes passed back-and-forth in high school (pre-texts!), the silly little drawings my best friend and I created as kids, all of those things still really mean something and give me not only insights into myself, but into the people I've been surrounded by. Which brings me to the next point... 



Honestly, I wish I had written more down, created more art, documented the really important moments (those always seem to be missing a lot because I was so in-the-moment with them that I couldn't imagine ever forgetting or wishing I could see it in writing). While I know writing and art-making isn't for everyone, I do think there's something valuable in just jotting down a line or two during life's interesting experiences. It doesn't take long, and it can help you better understand yourself (and whatever you've been through) in ways that memory alone just can't do. Plus, I really do think that getting all of my feelings out on paper or on a screen was really useful for me in the moment (a kind of at-home therapy), which makes it both a tool for reflection and for mindfulness.  


I'd love to know: do you keep (or did you keep) a journal or diary? What are your thoughts on revisiting it? Do you go back and look at it? How does it feel when you do? Or do you prefer to get it written down and then forget about it, using it only as a tool for the present? 

Also, a fun exercise if you don't keep a journal: imagine that each year of your life is a book (like I've done in the image above). What would the titles be? (This is actually a lot harder than you might think, but it was a fun little introspective activity that I'd highly recommend!)



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