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Column: Being self-aware is the key to good mental health

The last five years of my life have been transformational. And I know in my heart that none of what I have achieved would have come about if I hadn’t taken the brave step to become self-aware, writes Dil Wickremasinghe.

Dil Wickremasinghe Social justice and mental health podcaster of 'Sparking Change with Dil'

I FEEL GOOD… na-na na-na na-na na!

Now that I have put that song in your head, let’s take an honest look at mental health in Ireland.

For some time now, I have believed that our mental health is our most precious resource as it dictates how we feel about ourselves, who we are and can be in this world. This might seem an exaggeration for some but I am sure you will agree that if you feel good about yourself nothing will stand in the way of you reaching for your dreams and living a fuller and happier life.

Prevention is better that cure

The conversation around mental health in Ireland is still in its infancy and very much reactive to the increase in suicide and the amount of people struggling with depression, anxiety and stress. The conversation must evolve from being illness focused to being more proactive about managing our mental health as part of our daily routine. Why wait to take care of your mental health only when you are depressed, anxious or stressed? When it comes to our health in general we have learned that a preventative approach is far more beneficial than a curative one.

Self-awareness

The question is – how do we take care of our mental health? We know that exercising, eating healthy and getting adequate sleep helps. However, arguably the most important way to take care of our mental health is becoming self-aware. This is a concept that is not spoken about enough. Being self-aware is looking inwards and asking yourself – who am I, how do I feel about myself, who do I want to be in this world and most importantly have I become the person I wanted to be? As a human being it is your right to live your life in “the pursuit of happiness” and a good place to start would be to ask yourself what makes you happy?

My personal mental health story

I have been on my own personal mental health journey since I walked through the doors of One in Four in 2008. Until then I felt unhappy, unfulfilled and deeply unsatisfied but I put it off for as I long as I could as I was petrified of looking inward as I knew it was not going to be pretty.

I am reminded of a quote by August Wilson “Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”

I knew the only way I could make my “angels sing” was by confronting my past and my trauma of abuse. It’s not a coincidence that I entered the world of media at exactly the same time I became interested in self-awareness. For the first time in my life I asked myself what I wanted, what was stopping me and then set out in making it happen. There are many ways a person can kick start the process of becoming self-aware but I found psychotherapy to be the most useful way for me.

I went through a process of self-discovery where I retraced my steps all the way to my family and my relationship with them. During this process I explored my self-worth, self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-confidence and realized that I had a very deep seated belief that I wasn’t good enough which I suspect came from not fitting in as I was born in a homophobic family and conservative society.

The last five years of my life have been transformational. I know in my heart that none of what I have achieved would have come about if I hadn’t taken the brave step to become self-aware. I have learned from my own experience that it is in a place of deep self-awareness where our own human potential is unlocked and we then start longing to serve the world.

Be the change

If you are still reading this article I suspect that you are curious about beginning your own journey of self-discovery. There are many options available to you whether it’s through a personal development course, psychotherapy, counselling, mindfulness, meditation, spirituality… the options are endless but find something that sits right with you and go for it.

I am reminded of that amazing quote from Marianne Williamson “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

We have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to our human family to become self-aware and become better human beings as only then we can serve the world and be part of the change. All that’s left for me to ask is… what are you waiting for?

Dil Wickremasinghe is a social justice and mental health broadcaster of Global Village, Newstalk 106-108 FM, Saturday 7-9pm and Training Director with Insight Matters – Inspiring change in self and society through personal development, psychotherapy and counselling.

About the author:

Dil Wickremasinghe  / Social justice and mental health podcaster of 'Sparking Change with Dil'

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