I’ve written a blog about self-awareness and vulnerability for over two years. Before that, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life chasing self-discovery prompts. I love diving into introspective questions, and I believe firmly in the transformative power of this work.
Yet it wasn’t until I read Mindset Medicine by Mari L. McCarthy that I realized I had been neglecting a key player in the game. Something both obvious and severely overlooked by our society.
I’ve ignored the necessity of self-love.
Our Reaction to Self-Love
If you’re like me, it took you a while to learn how to be open with your emotions. Trust doesn’t come easy, and any self-expression feels better locked up somewhere.
Ironically, I don’t mind exploring my emotions privately. Hundreds of journal pages prove that I enjoy the internal pursuit of my feelings and thoughts. My creative work centers around the promotion of self-awareness. Therefore, my journey to be more self-aware led me to understand my own vulnerabilities and challenges opening up to others.
What I didn’t realize was how much trouble I had opening up to myself.
Mindset Medicine doesn’t just mention self-love. It helped me understand that self-love is at the foundation of our self-work. One of the journaling prompts even instructs you to write, “I love myself,” and then say it to yourself out loud.
How silly, my default mindset said when I reached the prompt. Until I had trouble writing the words, let alone saying them aloud. In this precise moment, when my stomach knotted and my shoulders tensed up, I knew just how important this work was.
Poisonous Influences on Our Mindset
Mari’s first book, Journaling Power, helped me acknowledge the deeply-ingrained messages that plagued me from my childhood. My perfectionism, competitiveness, and need for productivity still impact me on a daily basis (just to name a few).
In Mindset Medicine, Mari expands on other cultural influences that impact our perceptions. To me, it wasn’t a shock to read how media, technology, and social media all affect our perceptions. Nor did I find it surprising when the book talked about how much cultural norms become internalized.
The way in which Mari explained the impact of these influences, however, taught me something I didn’t expect. Before reading her book, I viewed these cultural influences as something to fight. You know, imagine grabbing some weapons and heading to battle.
Now, I understand that it’s less about an armed attack and more about a strong fort. I don’t need to armor up and run toward these harmful messages. Instead, I merely need to build up a fortified foundation of self-love, and subsequently, self-respect.
If you think about the differences between these two metaphors, it becomes clear. The former requires quite a bit of energy and potential harm. The latter? Well, the latter allows you the time and space to grow, explore, and seek all that you may want.
Which leads to the next big lesson Mindset Medicine gave me: wanting.
The Excitement of Wanting
As a female, I’ve been conditioned to put my wants and needs behind those of others (and fortunately, this is changing in our society - but slowly). Still, I think all genders can identify the inherent shame that comes from wanting something, and the whispers of “I don’t deserve this.”
One of my biggest takeaways from reading Mindset Medicine was changing my outlook on wanting. Mari showed me that wanting can be exciting, not guilt-ridden or “selfish.” She encourages everyone to “remember the joy of wanting that came naturally to you as a child.”
Too often, I hide my wants behind action-item goals. These desires quickly become cloaked in “should’s” and societal expectations. Even when I started my blog, I struggled to find the balance between what I wanted and what I felt I should achieve - a conflict I’ve faced throughout my life.
Mindset Medicine gave a very simple formula for wanting:
Self-love + WANTING = Excitement
Mari writes, “when you give yourself permission simply to WANT something, feelings of being unworthy or undeserving of it will simply melt away.” In doing so, we create more space for joy and excitement.
As I read this quote, I thought back to my difficulty in writing, “I love myself.” It didn’t take me long to realize why my math didn’t quite add up in this life-changing equation.
Questions to Get You There
All of these life lessons would be enough to have an impact on me. However, Mindset Medicine goes further than merely teaching its readers. It guides you to undertake this “self-love revolution” - and Mari leads you with a devotion and tenacity that makes you excited to do the work.
One of my main beliefs is that it’s not my job to give someone else answers. Individuals must discover them for themselves. For this reason, I named my blog My Question Life (and it’s filled with questions for the readers to find their own answers).
Had Mindset Medicine told me what to think or how to feel, I might’ve been less excited about it. However, Mari understands this crucial philosophy - and she puts it into action. Her book is filled with questions and journaling prompts that helped me discover what I wanted to do.
In fact, one of her resounding ideals is that “should” has no place in self-discovery. Instead, we can all develop a “could” mindset filled with self-driven possibility. Mindset Medicine guided me to unlock some of the possibilities I want in my life. And through my own discoveries, I begin to learn how I can create them.
My favorite line of questioning, though, comes later in the book. While Mari gives example questions, she encourages you to create your own list of self-empowering questions. Not only was the exercise eye-opening in itself; it gave me questions to go back to whenever I need a boost of inspiration or reminder to focus on self-love.
Conclusion: Transformative Insights
You can read Mindset Medicine and take away a few powerful ideas. Or you can journey through Mindset Medicine - taking time to consider and answer the journaling prompts - and completely transform your outlook on life.
If you follow the guide of Mindset Medicine and do the inner work, you will experience a positive mindset shift. You’ll also develop skills and tools to continue the work (as self-awareness is a never-ending process).
What’s more, you’ll begin to build your fortified foundation of self-love. I know I did.
Author bio: Kara McDuffee is the writer and founder of My Question Life, a community dedicated to helping you discover yourself and find the answers you’re searching for. She gives you the questions you need to become more self-aware and vulnerable in your everyday life. To read her posts or download her free eBookThe Art of Being Self-Aware, check out her blog.