This is a guest post by Johanna Schram.
The questions we ask shape our perspective on the world and our beliefs about ourselves. While some questions have clear-cut answers, most of our internal questions are more of a lifelong prompt for exploration. We can get stuck when our desire for certainty gets in the way of our curiosity.
Some of the questions I commonly ask myself are rooted in fear. They focus my energy on evaluating how well I’m measuring up. Part of me believes that if I find enough right answers I can protect myself from failure, rejection, and anxiety.
I’m learning to reframe these questions to shift from a place of fear to a place of possibility. Of course, I still ask limiting questions on occasion—I think we all do—and I’m grateful to have people I trust to help me notice the questions I don’t realize I’m asking. When I ask better questions, the smallness of needing answers opens up into possibilities for exploration and opportunities for connection and growth.
Who am I supposed to be? becomes Who am I?
Before I spend time with other people, I search through my closet trying to choose which outfit will come the closest to matching their style. When someone asks me what I do, I tailor my response to fit their idea of success. I listen for my friends’ opinions on books, music, and movies before sharing my own.
In my fear of not meeting others’ expectations, I’ve searched for my identity outside of myself. I’ve continually changed to fit the differing opinions of who I should be. Shifting to ask who I am doesn’t mean I’ll find a definitive answer—who I am is complex and evolving and at times contradictory—but it does bring me back to a path of discovering what is truly me instead of striving to fit someone else’s mold.
When do you look to others for cues about what you should do or think? What changes if you ask which decision, action, or opinion feels most true for you?
Am I good enough? becomes How can I make the most of who I am today?
I commonly feel like I’m an impostor. I wonder why anyone would read my writing when there are so many people more experienced, knowledgeable, and eloquent. Focusing on the ways I fall short keeps me from seeing what I have to offer. There will always be people further ahead than me, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing of value to contribute.
Honestly, I’m tired of spending my energy on trying to prove I’m worthy of being here. The fact is—I am here. I can spend my life trying to prove I’m good enough to do something meaningful…or I can go ahead and give my best each day.
What is one thing you know to be true about yourself today? How can you use that to make your corner of the world a better place?
Does this person like me? becomes How can I be present and engaged with this person?
Meeting new people and making friends doesn’t come easily for me. I want to be certain people will like me before I risk reaching out. If someone doesn’t like me, I assume it’s because there’s something wrong with me.
The truth is not everyone will like me and that’s ok. When I focus on gaining someone’s approval, I’m really just making our interaction all about me. As much as I want to avoid the pain of rejection, I care more about the quality of my friendships than the number of friends I have. I’d rather spend my energy truly listening and looking for ways to connect more deeply.
Who would you love to get to know? What would it look like to approach your next interaction seeking connection instead of approval?
We don’t need to find all the answers in order to live a rich, meaningful life. We become more engaged in our own lives when we start asking better questions.
What questions do you most commonly ask yourself? Do those questions demand certainty or open up space for possibility? What are some ways you can reframe them?
Johanna Schram is learning to value wrestling with questions over having answers. Join her at joRuth to explore what it looks like to shed expectations and live a more fulfilling life. Get curious with your free guide, Who Are You? 3 Simple Ways to Know Yourself Better.
Image: Dino Reichmuth