by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute
The times we are living in are exciting, ever changing and … confusing. People are busy. There are so many opportunities to experience so many different things. There is so much that demands our attention. And then technology usurps the rest of our time.
In years past, people had free moments here and there to explore the world around them and contemplate their place in it. A long walk from one place to the next, a few minutes while waiting on line in the supermarket, sitting on the train to work were all opportunities for quiet reflection. All that free time is now filled with cell phones, Ipads and other technology. Those valuable snippets of time are gone. And that many times leads to people not getting a chance to get to know themselves.
This is not a lecture about the pitfalls of ever-ready technology. But rather a perspective about the pitfalls of not getting to know one’s self.
(By the way, many business leaders are lamenting the loss of ‘being bored’ and its negative impact on creativity, and are encouraging people to carve out times to be bored so that they can be more creative and productive.)
By ‘knowing one’s self’, we are talking about what knowing what really matters to you, what drives you, what are your values. And also things like what relaxes you, what might trigger anxiety and how you might deal with that. What are your hopes for your life, your dreams and aspirations. And how you might get there. How do you envision raising your family.
This especially comes up in the area of shiduchim.
Shadchanim are reporting that when people don’t really know themselves, they come up with ‘lists’ of criteria for a match – based on what others tell them, or from society around them, rather than what is best for the unique person they are. And then when they meet people who match those criteria, it just doesn’t feel right, it. It just ‘feels’ off even though they can’t put it into words. And the shiduch fizzles.
This adds to frustration of the the daters, the parents and shadchanim who are trying to bring them a suitable shiduch.
Desperate parents and friends and shadchanim might make all those annoying comments – albeit from love and concern “You’re so picky.” “Do you even know what you want?” “She is exactly what you say you want.”
And the young people themselves might bring that anxiety into the next dating experience. Half expecting it not to work, they just may not be fully engaged in the date. Or they may withhold about themselves. And the other person senses that all.
If someone really doesn’t know his true self, he can’t really share and open up about what excites him, about his dreams, his passions. During successful dating, each one shares about oneself and then the other feels comfortable to share. And then the sharing gets deeper and more personal. But if he doesn’t feel that she is genuinely sharing about her inner self, then he won’t share either. And the dates are flat. And of course, the shiduch doesn’t progress.
Before dating, or at any point, it is important to take the time and head space to really think about who you are. This is not an easy process, but it is crucial. Here are some tips to help you begin the process:
- Carve out time to do this. Make an appointment with yourself. And then another and another. This cannot be done in one sitting.
- Figure out how and where you do your best reflective thinking. Some people relax best when sitting on a hilltop overlooking a peaceful nature scene. Others enjoy a long walk or hike. Some like to cuddle in their bed with a notebook and journal. Choose silence of relaxing music or nature sounds. Go to a spa. Whatever works best for you.
- Find someone to be accountable that you actually use this time productively.
- You might enlist the help of family, friends, mashpia or anyone else who is unbiased and caring. Someone who help you see your strengths and your limitations. Someone who does not judge your quirks or dreams. Someone from whom you can handle hearing your weaknesses and limitations, as well as all your wonderful qualities.
- You might find it easier to write down your thoughts free style (without worrying about grammar and handwriting and stuff like that) and then read it back later. Or you might create a list of questions for yourself and think about the answers.
- Reward yourself throughout the process.
- Make it a habit; this is valuable at all points in your life – as your family grows and changes, new jobs and opportunities, and RL tragedies.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What type of life do you want for yourself, your spouse and your family?
- What excites you? What frustrates you?
- What are your ‘buttons’?
- What are your priorities?
- What do you do when you have a few hours of downtime?
- What do you see is the role of your spouse in your life?
- What role would you have in your family?
- What type of marriage do you want and what would be your part in ensuring that?
Take the time to get to know yourself. It’s hard at first, but so rewarding!