Learn to understand yourself

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When we think about helping others, we rarely think about the importance of helping ourselves – it feels selfish and indulgent, says Ishbel Straker.

So how does it feel if I say that knowing yourself is even more important when helping others? “How can this be? What’s the relevance when I am supporting a grieving widow or when I am helping the couple whose marriage is in tatters,” you may be thinking. “Why is this the time to know oneself better?” One word… ‘trigger’.

The dictionary definition is to cause a strong emotional reaction of fear, shock, anger, or worry in someone, especially because they are made to remember something bad that has happened in the past.

When we are triggered, there are times we have no idea why, and it can feel like an unexpected blow.

This can lead us to act in a way we would not wish to, nor would have ever envisaged ourselves doing.

Hence the importance of understanding yourself! Of course, it’s not an entirely preventative measure.

Things can impact us without us expecting it but when we know ourselves better, we can feel more able to manage the emotion because we know where it comes from.

We can also plan to be kinder to ourselves when we know how we may respond to the impact, instead of forcing ourselves to soldier on.

So how do we know ourselves better? Take the time to reflect – reflect on your life, the incidents that may have been impactful.

Take time to talk, with a friend or a professional.

Talking about life and how we respond to the day-to-day issues enable us to understand ourselves better.

Taking time to challenge our thought processes and responses to daily life is also essential, and we can do this through journaling.

Consider your communication, how does your style of communication impact situations, where does this come from, who have been the positive influences? Then consider your coping strategies to stress – what do they look like and why? Could they be better? If so, how? These are pointers to enable growth and development.

They are tough questions to ask but are slow challenges to progress change in oneself, ultimately helping those around you.

  • Ishbel Straker is a Consultant Psychiatric Nurse, INP. She is the Founder and CEO of IStraker Consultants, a mental health service. Ishbel has worked in psychiatry since 2004 and one of her passions is the mental wellbeing within ministry.

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