By Sachiko Uchida
Take time to really ask yourself “how am I feeling?”
For many of us, if we are not careful, we can get so hyper-focused on other people’s perspectives, emotions, and what is generally going on AROUND us, that we can lose track of the essential connection within ourselves. Throughout my career in communication media, my desire for connection was clear. I was a radio personality from the age of 18 until 41, and in my work I always focused on bringing out the best in the people whom I interviewed. It became a habit for me to seek the good qualities in a person, always choosing to see the positive side. However, I struggled to separate my work habits and my private life. I stopped listening to my inner self, and stopped trusting my gut intuition about situations and people. I became impressionable, busy listening more to others than myself.
I grew up watching my mother’s codependency, which is not uncommon in Japanese culture, in which we often pay attention to other people’s feelings instead of our own. For me, this habit would leave me feeling depleted when I wasn’t tending to my own thoughts, feelings, and needs.
I struggled with emotional boundaries as a result of not being aware of how I was feeling. I had a tendency to pretend everything was okay, even when it wasn’t. I got ‘good’ at ignoring and burying my emotions, hoping they would just go away. I ran into a lot of relationship problems throughout my life because of this tendency. Overall it was not healthy for me to focus on making everyone else happy and ignoring my own inner promptings.
So, I finally decided to be compassionate towards myself, and make a kind inward gesture by really asking myself throughout the day: “How am I feeling?”
This question became a form of self-care. I became more conscious about being present with my feelings, eventually even getting curious about them. I read a lot of books on codependency and trauma, and dove deep into my personal healing. Now, I’m obsessed with the “Compassionate Inquiry” method by Gabor Maté, M.D. because he really teaches the importance of connecting with our authentic self in the present moment. If I neglect to ask myself important questions, such as, “What do I really want?” “How am I feeling?” “Is this really good for me?” “Is this person’s behavior acceptable?” “Is this how I deserve to be treated?” I end up accepting what someone says or does sometimes only out of fear of not being liked, or of losing someone. Now, I am trying to focus on what I think and feel, and to practice expressing myself, especially with more challenging negative feelings, like saying “NO”.
I think healing really starts with awareness. For me, the trick is to be VERY aware of when I am not speaking up or when I am suppressing my emotions.
As much as I love telling stories of others, my new goal is now to be the best interviewer of myself. I no longer worry about how my standards will effect someone else, and I take time to check in with my innermost feelings — and it feels good.
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)