Be uncomfortable because that is where the growth is.
We do not develop six packs or becomes a marathon runners without sore muscles along the way. Similarly, we cannot gain strength in our mental health without processing pain, sadness, and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. The past few months of 2020 have certainly prompted discomfort as we learned to live in new ways and sat with our thoughts and feelings about the world and the humans who inhabit it. It has also encouraged us to look at our belief systems and biases to see which side of important issues we fall on whether it is about healthcare, politics, following regulations, or racism.
When I was in grad school a supervisor taught me that even without speaking I show my personal judgements through what I wear, how I take care of myself, my skin colour, my gender, and how I present myself. He said as humans we all have judgment, the key is to be aware of it, review our biases regularly, and engage in self-reflection about these biases and how they show up in our lives. As a psychologist one of my jobs is to remain as neutral as I can and to encourage others to reflect and make their own choices and decisions about important topics and express these ideas in effective and respectful ways.
Self-reflection is a tool we can use in times of uncertainty, confusion, sadness, or anxiety as a way to check in and become more attuned with our thoughts, behaviours, and feelings. It can increase our capacity for empathy, emotional intelligence, improve our relationships and decision-making capacity, and help us become more aligned with our values. Through self-reflection, we can become focused on and uncomfortable with our own bias and beliefs and how they influence our behaviours.
This practice requires us to set aside time each day, or when we noticed discomfort or stress in our minds and bodies, to have a conversation with ourselves. To think about how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, what we might need more of, or less of in our lives. It also requires us to ask tough questions about what we believe in. Sometimes we need to do a values check. This involves stating our values and then assessing if we are living consistently with these values or if they are in conflict. Check out this link for a helpful list of values www.cnvc.org/training/resource/ needs-inventory.
If in this reflection you come across a values-conflict, own it. Own it, explore where it stems from and how it serves you in your present life. After that consider if you need to change some of your behaviours or relationships to once again reflect your values. Is an apology needed, do you need to engage in advocacy, are difficult conversations with others or promises to yourself required?
We as humans are opinionated, we can speak without thinking or act in ways that we regret. In these moments, shaming ourselves or others is unhelpful and usually makes the situation far worse. Taking time to own our actions, thinking about what is going on within us that prompted the behaviour, and focusing on finding consistency between our values and our actions can make a difference in our lives and those around us. If you find yourself in a conversation with and you notice discomfort or the need to defend, take a moment and reflect. This feeling might be a signal that something within you needs to be addressed.