For the last few months, I’ve been pushing myself to spend way more time self-reflecting on who I am.
My issue has been the fact that I keep self-reflecting on Caterina Sullivan, young businesswoman, not Cat, the person behind the businesswoman.
As a public figure, I have found it difficult to separate myself from my work. When I think about the person I am, I think about my work and my hobbies. I think about what I ‘do’ not how I think and feel. And it’s been working for me on a surface level. But things like this can only work so long before they totally back-fire. And that’s the stage I’m dealing with now.
I haven’t been able to separately take time to self-reflect on Cat, who she is, what she’s been through and how that affects others, especially the people close to her. I have been going at such a pace, always focusing on the next big project or on getting my physical and mental health right that I have forgotten to check in with me and how I’m doing and check in with the people supporting me and how they’re doing.
I’ve been able to give a lot to people in very superficial ways — cook for people, take people to lunch when they’re down, listen as people bounce business ideas off me — but I haven’t been able to completely put my life aside and focus on how the people close to me are feeling on a deeper level.
And I’ve decided I need to fix that.
I write this today because I never want to see other young people fall into this trap. It is all too easy to self-reflect on our superficial goals, but it is incredibly difficult to self-reflect on who we are as people. We are not necessarily taught how to do that either as we are growing up. We are pushed to reflect on how our actions might be right or wrong — but not on our core make-up as human beings.
Being a public figure has changed a lot about who I am in ways I never expected. I feel the unrelenting pressure of always having my life together. I feel like there are so many people I cannot be vulnerable with because I have convinced myself that they expect me to be operating at a certain level, which is impossible for a human being to operate at.
Becoming a voice in the community at such a young age is a huge responsibility. And I know I am not the only young voice to feel this pressure — to feel that little bit of imposter syndrome, to feel like you have to be someone you might not necessarily be. It’s taken me some time to let go of a lot of that, and I am still not completely in a space of understanding that there is someone underneath the public figure.
There is even more pressure on all young people, whether they are activists and advocates or passionate individuals following their dream, than there was ten years ago with the rise of social media. Sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse, social media puts an intense amount of pressure on young people to have already figured out who they are and leaves very little room for meaningful self-reflection, unless you push yourself way outside of your comfort zone to do so.
These are my next steps, starting to understand true self-reflection. I don’t claim that I even have the faintest idea where to start, and I know that self-reflection and self-discovery is a different process for each individual person… but I encourage everyone to go out and find how best they can create time for meaningful self-reflection in their everyday lives. Google is a wonderful thing — look up techniques you can use, find interesting spaces away from your normal spots, use apps, write, read and most importantly, speak to other people about this. Self-reflection is often considered this way-out new age thing that people do — but it’s really not. Self-reflection is what creates empowered individuals with a strong sense of purpose.
I’ve committed to getting serious about actually learning who I am away from my work and my hobbies, taking time to self-reflect on Cat, not the businesswoman — because ultimately, the stronger and better Cat is, the more the businesswoman can flourish.