In this episode, Lola Sodunke of Joy In Purpose Podcast shares her wisdom and insights about self-awareness and how it can lead to a greater connection with God.
By listening to our conversation, you will learn about:
- Self-awareness and its importance
- Setting boundaries and learning your values and beliefs
- Ways you can become self-aware as a Christian
- Involving God in your self-awareness process
Transcript of Episode 31
Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD, episode 30. Today, I got the opportunity to sit down with Lola Sodunke where she talks to us about self-awareness. She did a great job incorporating how God is involved in our self-awareness process as Christians and our Christian community that we’re around. I really hope this interview blesses you today.
Carrie: Lola, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lola: First of all, thank you for having me on the show. I’m really excited to be a part of your, this episode is a little bit about myself. So I will say that I am a child of a Nigerian immigrant. So I came to the United States with my parents.
I came with my parents. I was 12 years old. So I have what will be considered a bi-cultural upbringing. So being Nigerian and living in the United States, I am a fourth-year doctoral student in a counseling psychology program. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve gotten opportunities to work with clients. We’re dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma. I’ve also got into the experience of administering psychological assessments to understand client’s strengths and weaknesses, and then potential problems and cognition or emotional reactivity. And most importantly, I really like administering psychological assessments because it also helps inform treatment recommendations.
I’m very passionate about the field of psychology. So I like doing community outreach at my church and just providing opportunities for people to ask questions and provide psycho-education and mental health topics.
Carrie: Awesome. That sounds really good. So are you hoping once you get your doctorate to focus on psychological testing?
Lola: Yeah, I would like to because I really like how we can integrate that. Like I said with treatment recommendations and even for the older population, it’s helpful for assessing diagnosis for dementia, for the different types of dementia.
Sometimes some people have TBI traumatic brain injury to see where they’re at and then make sure to make recommendations to help improve their quality of life.
Carrie: Right. On one of our first five episodes, we talked about assessment and about the importance of that and the difference between anxiety and OCD. Why it’s important to differentiate those in terms of getting the treatment and help and support that people need.
So that’s really awesome that you’re going to be contributing to that. Today, we’re talking about self-awareness, which I guess is a big concept. So how do you define that?
Lola: Yeah, it is a big concept. I guess for some people it could be overwhelming. I became passionate about this topic because I realized how people become sufferers wherein therapy you see that light bulb moment.
I also noticed that it can also be a reason why people come to therapy when they realize some things about themselves that they would like to change. So self-awareness is a skill that we can work on. It’s basically a way to be able to understand yourself, understand other people, and understand how other people view you.
So when there’s something called internal self-awareness, think about being able to look at your personality. So looking at yourself as objectively as you can. Even though we have our own blind spots and biases, knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, your thoughts, your beliefs, your motivations. What emotions do you experience on most days?
Are you still one that is generally sad? Always anxious. Sometimes we just go through life and we’re just going. Self-awareness allows you to be able to pay attention to different parts of your life. You can focus on my feeling fitness-wise. How am I doing psychologically with my relationships, with finances, with friends, if you have kids with your kids, with your spouse.
So self-awareness is being able to look at yourself as objectively as you can. There’s also something called external self-awareness. Like I was saying earlier, external self-awareness is how other people feel about you. As much as some people might say, they don’t care what other people think. We also know that no matter how smart you are, if you don’t have a good social network, you’re not going to progress much in life.
You might be good at your job, but if you don’t have a good relationship, they don’t see you as a good leader, you might not get promoted in your job. So I’m not talking about when people just don’t like you because they don’t like you, but where people and we’re tribal, so we are made for human connection and social connection.
So it’s important to also know not to be hyper-focused on it to also to have people view you. Are you telling that maybe you just sit there and you’re smiling, but then you think you’re having a good day? So you’re just being yourself and throughout the day, people are like, are you upset? Are you okay? Because they’re interpreting your body language and your facial expression is different. In your mind, you’re happy. You might even think I thought I was smiling. Other people see it as if you’re frowning. Self-awareness, there are two components to it. How you see yourself and also other people see you. There’s a healthy balance and there’s an overboard, or sometimes you could be in a group in a social group where the social norm is gossiping, but then internally your values telling you that you don’t gossip.
You know that you don’t fit in with that crowd so you don’t associate yourself to that. Sometimes there’s a social norm, there’s a social group and it’s toxic. So being able to also navigate your own beliefs, your own values, and then navigating the values of this other external social group and seeing does it align with you?
Because sometimes some people they’re part of a group and because they’re so self-aware of the group and they want to please the group. They’ll just go along with the group. So there’ll be the one there’ll be gossipy, but internally it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t align or doesn’t align with their values.
So it’s important to know where you stand with how you view yourself and also how you view other people. And to some extent, how they view you. It’s important.
Carrie: I agree with that. Let’s kind of break that down a little bit. I think one of the things that we learned from this pandemic was that in America we’re such a go, go society.
A lot of times we don’t take the time to just sit and maybe self-reflect and check-in with ourselves. How am I actually doing? Am I stressed right now? What are the signs that I’m stressed right now? How does that manifest in my body? And then I think too about what you said about other people and how they perceive you.
One of the things I had to learn earlier on in my life was that I have a thinking face. And that my thinking face really disconnects me from the people that are around me. And actually, they think that I’m mad, but I’m not mad. I’m just really lost and kind of deep in thought. And that actually inhibited some of my early client work. Someone came out with me and was able to give me some feedback on my session and found that was really helpful. Another friend from church who said, “you know, I wondered when I first met you if you ever smiled.” So then it was my effort really like, I probably need to smile more, especially when I’m around other people.”
And it wasn’t that I wasn’t happy, but that was really how I was perceived. And maybe I think maybe I wasn’t fully as happy as I am now, but I wouldn’t say necessarily that I was in a depressed state or anything of that nature, but people could have perceived me that way. And I think this is important in terms of anxiety and OCD.
Oftentimes we also have misnomers about how other people see us like, “Oh, well, those people think I’m a bother” or “I really shouldn’t speak up here because then they’re going to see me as too aggressive or mean.” Oftentimes that’s not even how people are perceiving the situation. If I set a boundary, people are going to think that I’m mean. That may be true in your family system, but it may not be true in the larger societal context, which is kind of what you were saying there a little bit earlier.
Lola: Absolutely. This is why it’s important to know your own values and your own beliefs because it’s not just about other people. First, it starts with you.
What do you value? What are your own beliefs? How do you see yourself? What is important to you? I gave an example earlier about gossiping. If gossiping is not something that you want to engage in, even if you are in a group of people and that’s what they do, they might not like you but you know that’s not something that I want to do. It’s the same with setting boundaries.
What is the most important thing to you? It’s important that I go to bed at a certain time. So you stick with that time. Sometimes you think that other people are going to be upset, but then you also have to give yourself time to stick to that boundary. To really see that other people are upset or maybe they were just using you and monopolizing your time.
I just have to realize I have to let certain people go. You have to have a balance in what do I think of myself? How do I view myself? How do I want to be in this world? And how do I want other people to see me? It can be tricky and it takes time. This is what I encourage people to do on their own. And when they’re still having issues with what they to seek the help of a therapist. We are always objective. And sometimes it was saying it out loud “I like to go to about a certain time.” And then Frank always likes to talk till midnight. After seeing it, I realized my boundaries are important for my own well-being and engaging in that. Another example that you give that was really helpful was you talked about how a client shared something with you or a friendship or something with you.
So those are like two people that their opinion was important. If a friend from church that they’ve already known you for a while. They know you’re a good person. I know they’re saying something to you. So you’re able to take it in and say, okay, they might be right about this. And this is not what I’m thinking. So I can change it. We want our client to know that, okay, this is my thinking face. It’s not about you. I’m thinking. I’m processing. Maybe thinking of the next question to ask you and things like that. Also, the people that we talked to that this feedback confirms is also important. I can help us to navigate where we want to make the changes and what changes we want to make.
Carrie: Right. Is this person giving me feedback because they’re trying to help me? And it helped me improve as a person or are they trying to tear me down or make me kind of go the path that they want me to go on. I think those are helpful questions for us to ask when we’re receiving any kind of constructive criticism.
I’m curious for you to put kind of like a spiritual lens over this. How do ourselves as Christians becoming more self-aware? Do you feel like that leads us to greater connectivity with God?
Lola: You know what I think that’s a great question. I don’t think that you should go into self-awareness and leave God out of it. As a matter of fact when people ask me how do they develop self-awareness? I say it’s a skill that can be developed. Start in your prayer time. Ask God to open your heart to what he would like for you to change about yourself. Also, some of us are only focused on the negative. We don’t even recognize our strengths.
So going to a prayerfully where you take your paper, your journal, your pen, and even start with your strengths. Ask him to open your eyes. What are my strengths? Because some of us, we pick ourselves apart with our anxiety, with our worry that we don’t even know what we’re good at. So look what your strengths are.
What are the things that other people have said that you’re good at? Write down your strengths. What are your weaknesses? I need them to address those weaknesses because sometimes I put focus on our weaknesses. It’s like there’s grace. Even start with one thing at a time.
What are scriptures that are aligned with the thing that you’re trying to change, and just also invite God into it. Invite your Christian circle, your support group into it. And also, like I said, go to someone that you trust. It’s easier for some people to be more self-aware than others.
So sometimes we have to ask a friend, trust a friend, not just anybody. Trust a family member. And if you’re someone that you feel like you’re sensitive to criticism, tell them that so that they can use that in their feedback to you. “I’m really nervous, but I want to grow. I don’t want to stay the same.”
What are some things that I can change? What are my strengths? my weaknesses? You tell me one strength. Tell me one weakness. If you feel like you’re going to be overwhelmed. You can also ask them what are ways that you think I can change. How can you hold me accountable? So, this is why we can rely on our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever you want to share, whatever you’re working on, they can hold you accountable and be prayerful about this. Sometimes you’re focused on one thing. Maybe on giving back to other people. Maybe you’re someone that has internal self-awareness, you’re good there, but when it comes to reaching out to other people, making sure that you’re being kind, you’re being patient, you show other people grace. Maybe that’s something that God wants you to work on. So I would say be prayerful as you’re navigating stuff for when it’s and what to work on and also invite your brothers and sisters in Christ to hold you accountable. Someone that you trust, that you have a relationship with that you trust. Be gentle on yourself. Like I said, you can start with one strength and one weakness. We’re all working progress. So don’t feel like, “Oh my goodness. I have all these weaknesses.” Many of us have a lot of weaknesses and just take it one step at a time.
Carrie: I absolutely agree with that because I think some of the clients that I work with have multiple issues or multiple diagnoses. They have a lot of stuff that they’re working with. And so always starting small. The small changes in our lives and the slow and steady progress. That’s going to be the most sustainable.
But I like what you said really about allowing God to reveal those things to us in prayer in terms of behaviors that we might need to change in our lives. Oftentimes just having clients be able to develop the tolerance to sit with things that are difficult is really important. Sometimes we’re in a lot of pain and we use unhealthy ways to get out of it, whether that’s stuffing, whether it’s exploding.
Whether it’s just complete avoidance like I’m going to pretend like that’s not actually there. Do you feel like maybe knowing some of those things, the ways that we get out of self-awareness, do you think that that’s helpful for us as well?
Lola: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give an example there. People don’t want to hear any bad news.
Someone is like, the old teacher that you knew, something she’s going through, something that like, “No, I don’t want to hear it.” It’s like they put a blinder on. They just want to ignore. I don’t want to hear any bad news, only good news. You have to ask yourself. Okay. That’s good for the moment, but it’s not good with helping you build relationships. Self-awareness is paying attention to the patterns of your life. What patterns do you gravitate to? How do other people see you? Maybe when you’re by yourself you’re cool, but other people see you as angry as exploding. It’s important to know your patterns, but like I said, it takes time to work on those things, to move away from them. But even recognizing those patterns is powerful because then you can look at yourself in an objective manner and say, do I like being like this? Do I want to continue in this way? And then the next step is, what can I do about it? This is where your community comes into play and then seeking therapy to help you with that.
It might make you feel uncomfortable to know that while I am one of those persons that when someone does say something that might be sad news or bad, I just ignore it. And I just don’t want to hear. I just shut them down. How does that make that person feel? I don’t even come off as self-compassionate. It might make you feel bad in the moment, but the goal is to work on it and to improve because it’s going to help you to connect more with other people and help you to have more fulfilling relationships.
Carrie: Absolutely. I think what you’re talking about is especially true in very intimate relationships. If you will have a hard time being self-aware and you have a spouse or boyfriend, girlfriend, that’s probably the person that you could ask first tell me one strength or one weakness. If you’re not married, just a very close friend that you spend a lot of time with.
It really knows you because oftentimes when we’re in relationships with other people, that’s where we notice our differences in terms of how other people approach situations. And we can become really frustrated by that because they don’t approach situations the way we think that they should or the way I like. They don’t do it the way I would do it.
And then it causes us to kind of look in the mirror and go, “Oh, well, why do I approach this situation this way?” or “Why did that make me so distressed when they acted in that manner? And that those types of times are really good for self-reflection. Anytime that you get really worked up about something or you have a conflict in a relationship instead of avoiding that really kind of trying to be curious about it and be reflectful on yourself as well as the other person. How were they impacted when I shared something? How was I impacted when they shared something? That’s good.
Lola: Yeah, absolutely.
Carrie: Do you feel like that it’s possible for people to be too self-aware because someone might say, “well, you know, in Christianity we really just need to focus on the needs of others and being giving to them. You know, I don’t want to focus on myself too much.”
Lola: Okay. Yes. Okay. I really liked that question. I think that sometimes we can be too focused on certain areas of our life. Like I said, some people know their strengths, some people know their weaknesses. I’ll give an example. Let’s say you’re prepared for a presentation as you’re about to get up, you realize you forgot to add an image to a slide and that’s all you’re focusing on. Oh my goodness. And you’re nervous. You’re focusing on your heartbeat. You’re focusing on the peak you have in your stomach. You’re sweating. In that moment, I will ask someone to pay attention to what’s going on in their body. Why don’t we try external self-awareness?
Are people in the audience connecting with the topic? How come you’re not noticing the person that is not in their head? The other person that is raising their hand to ask a question. So you have people who are focused more on external self-awareness. They care about pleasing other people more than what is their values and their abilities and their motivation.
So I think as Christians, and I think it’s the same criticism with this personal development. As a Christian, I would never tell anybody to focus on something without including God into it. We all have our own area of growth and you have to be willing to be open to what area of growth God wants you to focus on.
There’s some people that they’re so self-aware that they only notice the problem in certain situations. What about the positive things that are going on? They can tell you the problem. They can tell you the problem with the particular project and maybe they’re right about those problems that will come up in a particular project. Maybe you don’t have the answer to that problem and still want the answers to that problem. What about the good things that are coming out as a result of this? I think with anything we can pay too much attention on it, but the best way I can answer this question is to say, bring God into it.
There’s also a healing that comes in when you’re focused on yourself and focus on being the best you. You’re also more gracious to other people if you’re more patient with yourself. You’re more likely to extend that grace to other people by being patient with them. If know that you have flaws and weaknesses, you’re also able to be gracious like they have flaws and weaknesses.
Like the Bible says. I’ll put it this way before we correct someone else’s wrongdoing, it’s important to you to correct our own wrongdoing as well. And to be able to make sure that we’re making those changes in our life. When you know that you’re a human being and you’re a sinner, it’s easier for you to be able to say, you know what. I have baggage too. I have things I’m working on too. So I’m not perfect as I’m trying to correct you in what you’re doing wrong or whether I think that you could be doing better.
Carrie: Absolutely. Grace is one of the topics I’d love to dive into the podcast at some point in time. I absolutely agree with what you said, that when we are able to receive grace from God ourselves, it’s so much easier to give grace to other people like it has to flow through us and out of us. That’s very good. I know that you have a podcast. Um, can you tell us a little bit about your podcast?
Lola: Yeah. So my podcast is titled Joy In Purpose. The name of that podcast came about because on this path of fulfilling your purpose, whatever it is, some people are at a stage where they’re like, I don’t even know what my purpose is.
We all go through disappointments and failures and good times as well. I noticed that sometimes when we go through road bombs or we’re facing people telling us no, it can really bring us down and make us question ourselves. So that’s why on this journey to purpose, on this journey of navigating our purpose and fulfil our purpose, there’s going to be disappointment along the way. So my podcast is talking about the journey of purpose and just finding the joy in purpose, finding the joy within ourselves in purpose. So I invite other people to talk about their journey of purpose. Just talk about what I call their purpose stories.
And I also curate conversations related to purpose and mental health.
Carrie: Awesome. So at the end of every podcast, I like for our guests to share a story of hope because our podcast is called hope for anxiety and OCD. So this is a time where you received hope from God or another person.
Lola: This past year, 2020, and even this year, societally, we’ve all gone through a lot. And for me also with my program, there’s a lot of work, dissertation papers, classes. Just this year has just been stressful, just a lot going on. And the previous year too. Recently, I got awarded a scholarship from my program and the scholarship was determined by the faculty and they picked myself and another applicant to receive the scholarship for the summer semester.
And I am so grateful for that. So in the middle, a lot of things going on. To me, it felt like, “Wow, hope.” That’s hope. It just really made me look up and just be appreciative of God and his faithfulness.
Carrie: Yeah, it’s just always so good. And when you’re in that moment of provision of like, oh God came through for me in this situation. It just gives you encouragement that next time you’re facing another situation that he’s going to open a door, come through for you.
This has been a really great conversation on self-awareness and I really appreciate you being on the show and sharing your wisdom with us. We wish you the best in your studies.
Lola: Thank you very much. I’m glad that you had me on to speak with your audience. I really appreciate it.
I hope this interview causes you to be curious about how you can become more self-aware and what that looks like in your process.
Something I realized that I forgot to tell everyone about is that we now have hope for anxiety and OCD t-shirts. Isn’t that fun? I designed this t-shirt on Teespring. And so if you go to our hope for anxiety and OCD website, and then click on the store, it’ll actually take you to an external site when you click on the t-shirt.
I don’t actually print them here or mail them out or anything like that. There is another company that does. I did order one just so you know, I wanted to feel it and see how it looked. The color is great. The printing is high quality and it’s a super comfortable shirt. So if you are looking for a way to help promote the podcast, or you just want to add a t-shirt to your collection, you’re welcome to go onto www.hopeforanxietyandocd/store. You’ll also find my ebook on there as well, which helps you find a therapist that’s a good fit on the first try. Thank you so much for listening.
Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By The Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing is completed by Benjamin Bynam.
Until next time, May you be comforted by God’s great love for you.