Monday Must: Understanding Yourself
I’m Sam Shuter, a fine artist, creative director, facilitator, advocate and overall a happy, and goofy person looking and loving to connect with others.
In a world that is constantly looking to put itself in a carefully branded box, my confused and curious self has spent far too much time wondering where I fit, but not what I am capable of.
Take personality tests
Years ago, I was introduced to personality tests, more specifically, the Myers Briggs, resulting in four simple letters, defining my personality and decision-making process in four simple words, with a not so simple meaning behind each of them. I now proudly, but still skeptically, share with friends that I am an “ENFJ” – Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging; “Type 2-Wing 3” (Enneagram) and my top character traits being “Futuristic”, “Positivity” and “Activator” (Gallup Strengths Finder). What a mouthful!
As someone prone to anxiety - I live! Graciously and gratefully. My desperate attempts at operating in a “black and white” state of being are (to feed my false sense of control) often slammed down by this knowing in me, this ongoing parallel in my life that truly feels that anything goes. I struggle with, but am actively trying to welcome, the grey area as a seeker of mental rest. An anxiety-exhausted mind’s need for compassion and closure by learning to live without it. Life keeps cracking open this window, trying to suck me right through it and into the terrifying unknown and some days I feel it could be the death of me.
Here are some personality tests to get you started:
Don’t let others put you in a box
Scientists and psychologists are still assessing the findings on nature vs. nurture, and I do wholeheartedly believe that much of our brain function is pre-determined upon our inception, but don’t sell yourself short. You’re going to come across all sorts of people who will try and tell YOU, where and how you fit. I moved to Toronto from Montreal with my family when I was 12 years old and I am often asked if I am a “Habs” or a “Leafs” fan—no one likes it when I say “both!”
So much isn’t about us, but people trying to relate to us. It’s often about people’s own experiences and circumstances at the time of their origination and should not be applied to you out of context, or as a way for someone to further their subliminal agenda of controlling you and their relationship to you. Sure, there is true science at hand as far as how we process information and what we’re physically capable of doing to a point, but if you feel in your heart of hearts that the “narrative” no longer reflects the next chapter of your story- don’t be reluctant to go against the grain that’s been sown for you, or to challenge the beliefs you’ve been trained to adhere to during your upbringing.
Protect your energy
Many of us are so automated we don’t even realize when we’re subconsciously trying to balance another’s energy or muster up enough of our own that we develop these personas as a means of surviving moments or levelling up to create a balance of energy in any given situation. I wear many hats in business, but now more than ever in my life, am I trying to wear only one face.
My sister has taught me a lot about protecting one’s own energy and setting personal boundaries (and full transparency I used to judge her for it). She would shy away from family events when she was not feeling up to it or feeling like she wasn’t able to be her authentic self. I, on the other hand, would show up in spite of whether I felt up to it or not. Showing up and participating were messaged to me during my upbringing as a “should”, regardless of its benefits and oftentimes, this lesson leaned more on the desire to create a false sense of harmony and an irrational demand for respect. Life demands so much from us, and yes- it’s really nice to be able to amp up a friend or know how to calm a situation down (and sometimes that DOES require a little more “strategy” than usual), but I’ve learned if you’re able to honour your own energy without sacrificing who YOU are and how you actually feel, you’ll not only be more authentic, but you’ll likely be even more effective and enjoyable to be around.
Seek help when you need it
One day I shared with my family doctor that I wasn’t sleeping well. I couldn’t shut off my inner voice and kept noticing a reoccurring feeling of rawness in my shoulders; what I now know was acid build-up in my muscles from tension due to anxiety and stress. When do you feel your best? When or where are you most at peace and how often can you get there? Having a special place or activity is nice, but likely unsustainable in your day-to-day life- and after gathering enough courage (and quite honestly from being fed up) I was able to share my feelings and experiences with a professional, and of course my friends, so I could get help. I was also proud that I helped myself.
I took an eight-week Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course at CAMH back in 2015, and while admittedly, I did not complete much of the assigned homework, it started me on a path of my own personal awareness and enlightenment— followed by a 10-day Silent Meditation Retreat, which was followed by a lot of yoga and reading and re-reading books such as “The Power of Now”. But it didn’t cure me. It did, however, give me a much better sense of self, quality of life, and helped me appreciate some of the attributes I would often deem a nuisance. It allowed me to create space and understanding for other people whom I love and care for in my life who are silently suffering, too.
It is not just the sensation of pain or discomfort that you begin to recognize (and try to stop in its tracks as it creepily crawls its way up your nervous system), but the one where you’re totally blissed out. The “no feeling-feeling” where you’re SO present that you forgot to think about, negotiate with or resist it at all. For me, this looks like swimming in a lake, editing and sharing videos of family and friends, daydreaming or discussing ideas. When my mental muscle is feeling most strong – it’s wherever I am, and quite simply it is the ability to just be in that place with those people—listening, seeing and observing without fear or judgement.
Take things day by day
I didn’t just use to struggle with Monday—I was having a tough time with most of my week. Even after a long night’s sleep, I still didn’t want to get out of bed. It took me some time to realize that much of my problem, especially as such a social and visual person, was quite simply a state of overwhelm and loneliness. Not knowing where to start and struggling to do so on my own. I feel grateful every day that I get to be creative and make artwork as my living, but as we know, every coin has two sides. The tougher side of this role for me at this time is not having a creative partner. A peer, someone to help me turn the ignition on the days I wasn’t feeling strong enough to do so or to help me with tasks that I find a bit more challenging.
After much of the self-help as listed above, and quite honestly, from really just wanting to “take back my power”, I decided to flip the coin. Monday is a fresh start, as is every day. It is the gift of opportunity that lays ahead and I no longer wanted to allow my ego to make me feel as if life is happening TO me, but that I’m choosing to get up and do X, Y, Z. And with practice, I am beginning to feel more and more comfortable in this grey area, accepting that I am surrounded by people and the beautiful ability to collaborate and engage at any given moment, thus propelling me forward into manifesting the life of my dreams. Which with pride (and much reflection of course), I can say I am actively living because I haven’t given up on ME. I can do with less, and I would most definitely like to experience more, but I will no longer shame the greatest day of the week ;)