As the new year unfolds, like many of us, I’ve found myself drawn into moments of deep reflection…
Aligning our inner growth
January was a time not just for personal reflection, but also for reviewing the journey of Essentially Human, the platform through which we’ve been sharing our insights and experiences. This period of contemplation shed light on the importance of aligning our inner growth with the work we do in the world.
Having worked with numerous leaders and their teams over the past year, I’ve come to a firm realisation that our inner work is intricately linked to the impact we strive to make externally. The last few years have taught me that our external reality is a direct reflection of our internal state.
If we want to see change, it begins with ourselves.
Let’s face it, humanity faces some pretty daunting challenges in the coming years: tackling discrimination in all its forms, ending war, reducing the harm of climate change, addressing inequality, and lifting up people stuck in poverty.
These issues often evoke feelings of apprehension and overwhelm in many of us, myself included.
I’m not sure we’d be human if it didn’t.
It’s often left me to oscillate between grappling with the enormity of global challenges and, at times, ignoring my feelings towards them. Until I arrived at another realisation:
“I can no longer exhaust myself trying to change the world in my head!”
No matter how hard I try, I can’t change the world alone. Bringing balance to the world has to be a collective effort and the best thing we can do to contribute is to heal ourselves.
Ignoring inner turmoil
Let me try and explain through my personal experience:
Back in 2015, I was both a dedicated and stressed executive on the brink of burnout. I was juggling numerous responsibilities and rarely gave myself time to pause and recalibrate. Despite outward success, I was unbalanced internally. I was immersed in a relentless pursuit of perfectionism and control, neglecting my well-being. I wasn’t easy to work with and eventually became disconnected from the people around me. I found it impossible to be present with the people I loved.
The consequences began stacking up – by which point my mental and physical health was in trouble. I had a chronic neck condition that required regular cortisone injections and I was being encouraged to seek professional help for my mental state.
At that time my focus was solely on my external world, improving efficiencies, systems and profitability. I rarely stopped to question what was happening in my inner world. I knew I was miserable but felt trapped with no way out. I’d done a good job of numbing, distracting and bypassing my feelings in order to function and perform – until one day I hit a brick wall.
At that point, I knew things had to change.
I had to change!
Waking up on the inside
My experience served as a wake-up call. Initially, I was keen to place the blame at the door of others and was reluctant to get help. However, life had put me in a check-mate position and for good reason. There was now only one place I could go – within!
I began on a journey to study psychology which helped me recognise how my emotional baggage influenced my behaviours and caused much of my suffering. I was forced to look at my struggles and start the process of healing. Through practices like breathwork and meditation, I began unravelling the emotional baggage I’d been carrying for years. I learned first-hand the profound connection between our emotional state and physical well-being. The chronic neck condition that plagued me was not just a physiological ailment; it was a manifestation of unresolved emotional turmoil. I’m pleased to report that I’ve since healed the issue without medication or surgery. I’ll talk more about this in a future blog.
How my past influenced my present
My journey led me to recognise that the stories from our past – those we have about ourselves and others – can continue to harm and hurt us decades into the future. My struggles with self-worth and validation were woven onto every aspect of my life, including my professional efforts.
How I felt about myself was mirrored in everything I did – the way I treated myself, the way I treated others and the way I chose to live my life.
As I delved deeper into my inner world, I stumbled upon a universal truth: our inner turmoil often manifests as external conflict. It dawned on me that if we aspire to cultivate more peace and harmony in our lives, we must first attend to the wounds within ourselves.
This sentiment resonates with a quote I came across during my exploration within:
“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken yourself.
If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.”
Our growth and transformation lies within
It’s natural for us humans to focus on creating change at a systemic level. However, we often overlook the foundational roots from which collective issues emerge – the individual. Meaningful change requires not only redesigning systems but also fostering mutual support for personal growth.
True transformation originates within ourselves, rippling outward to shape the world around us.
I firmly believe that understanding ourselves is the gateway to a new era. By cultivating self-awareness, we deepen our capacity for empathy. I’ve found that empathy becomes a natural by-product of an inward journey. It becomes our new default mode of interaction, laying the foundation for genuine connection and compassion in all our endeveours.
Our collective healing journey holds the potential to create more equity and peace and it’s a journey that begins within each of us. As I reflect on the escalating challenges, conflicts and crises around the world, I’m reminded of Joseph Goldstein’s wisdom:
“On the deepest level, problems such as war and starvation
are not solved by economics and politics alone.
Their source is prejudice and fear in the human heart.”
While my reflections may delve deep, I’m convinced that the real path to creating better work environments, a better society, and a better world starts with the challenging yet transformative journey of healing ourselves.
More from essentially human
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