There are many articles on how we can become better listeners to others. (I’m actually writing a short piece on this very topic.)
But I think it’s just as important to focus on listening to ourselves, actively listening to ourselves.
Just like we might not fully listen to someone else, we might not fully listen to ourselves, either. Which can chip away at our well-being, self-care and satisfaction.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
Listening to ourselves helps us make decisions that are truly right for us. It helps us cultivate habits that are genuinely nourishing.
It helps us set emotional and physical boundaries, boundaries that are respectful and honor ourselves. It helps us respond to our needs and take better and kinder care of ourselves.
Here are six ideas for listening to yourself.
- Practice a body scan. A body scan is a valuable and simple way to reconnect to your body. It helps you focus your attention on your body, pinpointing any tension and then releasing it. Here are several guided body scans to try.
- Set an alarm. Set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour. Ask yourself how you’re feeling. Are you tense? Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you anxious or angry or hurt? Are you stressed? Are you distracted? Identify what you’re feeling or experiencing. Then ask yourself: What do I need right now?
- Be present. It’s hard to listen to someone when your mind happens to be somewhere else. The same goes for listening to yourself. Be in the moment. Avoid ruminating about the past or trying to forecast the future. Avoid multitasking. Focus on the here and now. Use your five senses to absorb the moment. Give yourself your full attention.
- Write it down. Jot down your concerns, thoughts and feelings. Simply start with: “What I want to tell myself is…” It might feel funny to have a conversation with yourself. But it’s also helpful to tune into your ruminations and emotions. Remind yourself that you’re listening. You are open. You’re ready to hear what’s really going on.
- Keep digging. Truly listening to someone means not making assumptions. So one way to turn that around when thinking about yourself is to keep asking, “Why?” Don’t assume something at face value, even about yourself. Dig deeper. You might learn that the reason you think you’re upset isn’t the real reason after all. Which not only helps you better understand yourself, but also helps you move forward and take the right steps for you. So consider: Why am I feeling this way? Why am I behaving this way? Why do I want this? Keep asking “Why?” Keep digging deeper, and you just might make an important discovery.
- Empathize. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes helps you better understand where they’re coming from. And doing so makes you a great listener. Practice showing that empathy to yourself. This probably sounds like a silly suggestion since you’re experiencing whatever it is firsthand. Of course, you fully understand the pain or pleasure. But often we don’t empathize with ourselves. Often we bash ourselves for feeling certain feelings, for not getting over a situation, for being too “weak.” We don’t give ourselves permission to feel our feelings. We don’t give ourselves permission to comprehend what’s going on. Have compassion for yourself. Have compassion for what you’re feeling and experiencing. If self-compassion is hard for you, check out this post, which lists how-to posts at the bottom.