One of the most valuable things that came from the Leadership in the Himalayas program is the opportunity to better understand myself. This greater sense of self-awareness of my strengths, weaknesses, my behavior under pressure, what I like, what I don’t like, etc. are all essential to me a living a fulfilling personal, professional, and academic life. Finishing college after I turn in my final paper and feeling overwhelmed at all the paths that lay before me, leaning on the trust I have developed within myself through the four global experiences I have participated in is what is helping me navigate my uncertain future.
Having a heightened sense of self-awareness is vital for developing as a leader because you understand when to step in and let your leadership shine, and when to step back to learn from others, ask for help, or give others the opportunity to learn. I was reading a few articles that explained what self-awareness actually is and how to cultivate it. What was striking to me was that introspection as we traditionally think about it does not actually lead to heightened self-awareness. This is because many of us focus too much on asking ourselves why? questions. Since we’re never really able to explain our subconscious, this often leads to rumination on our past failures and causes us to make false narratives about ourselves in our head. Instead, psychologists suggest we focus on how, when, and where statements that examine our behaviors. This mental tool is very reminiscent of mindfulness as you learn to become more aware of how your thoughts, feelings, and physical body are being affected in the present moment.
Reframing self-awareness in this way, I have been able to learn more about myself in a more honest (and kinder!) manner. For example, using my experiences in India as a baseline to answer the question, “In what situations did you struggle the most?” I would respond saying that I struggle in situations that are high pressure, like the WAFA training. I struggled with test anxiety in school, on my driver’s license test, and also on the CPR test. Does this mean I’m dumb and incapable? No, just in high pressure situations, I need more time/help/accommodations, and that’s okay. Knowing this, I have learned how to prepare myself for these situations when they will inevitably arise in my future. On the other hand, if someone were to ask me, “What’s one thing you really enjoyed?” I would reply by saying that learning new recipes was really enjoyable because it exposed me to new ways of cooking and provided me with a creative activity that I was able to share with others. When I begin my job search, I’ll look for employment opportunities that will let me use my creativity and love for learning.
Even though people can never be fully self-aware, being able to objectively judge ourselves and seek feedback from others who have our best interest in mind is a valuable skill to bring into all aspects of our lives so we can be better to ourselves, loved ones, colleagues, and fellow students. I’m excited to continue to incorporate this skill into my day-to-day life, especially now that I am preparing to leave the unstructured life that college provides and begin another chapter that hopefully feels even truer to myself.