This holiday season, spend some moments with yourself just like you are planning to do with your other loved ones. Take the time to listen to what your inner voice has to say.
This is how I learned to listen to myself. When I was 15 years old , my father got transferred to Greece for his work. Our family packed up the house where we had always lived. Within weeks we were in Athens. I had never even travelled overseas before. This experience changed my life forever.
The Greeks do many things very well and one of them is they take the time to connect with their friends and family every day. No day would be too busy not to take the time to share a coffee, and stories with your people. It is never complicated: something to drink, a little table and chairs. And voila: you connect.
At the international high school that I attended, I met my friend Mary, a beautiful, smart, humorous and vibrant Greek from New York. Mary taught me the art of sharing stories and listening. Our friendship was built brick by brick, one story at a time, first in Greece, then in the many countries and cities where we visited each other over the years. We listened to each other’s stories: the good ones, the sad ones, the humiliating ones, the super funny ones. We built trust and our stories became deeper, more personal. Some stories I kept safely tucked away until I could sit with Mary somewhere in the world. I knew she would really listen to me.
She earned my trust because she listened and honored what I said. She didn’t use my stories against me.
This is how I learned to really listen to someone. I applied what my friend Mary taught me to my self-talk. I began spending quiet time with myself – just me and me, no distractions. Asking myself questions and listening for answers. I also started keeping a journal where I could tell myself everything.
This was a huge turning point for me. I had lived most of my life before that time disembodied, not really living within myself. I could go long periods of time without paying any attention to myself. I gave myself attention only if I was sick. I didn’t know who I was, how I felt, why I made decisions or acted in certain ways. I could not have told you what my self-talk was. I didn’t listen to myself. I didn’t ask questions.
I was a complete stranger to myself. I treated myself like someone you avoid at all costs. Imagine if you came to spend the evening with someone and all they did was watch TV and ignore you. That’s what I did everyday. I did everything I could to blot my self-talk out: outings, wine, music, books, movies.
I didn’t know that it was an option to have a good relationship with myself where I lived inside, talked to myself and listened as a good friend would. I certainly didn’t know that I could speak to myself in a way that would make me feel loved, connected, wanted, and good.
This season, I invite you to sit down quietly with yourself in a space where you will not be interrupted. Show yourself that it is important to you to get together with yourself. Pick a spot that you like. Bring a cup of tea. Take a deep breath, and center yourself. Now ask yourself some questions, one at a time and listen for an answer. You can do it in writing or in your heart.