The Value of Getting to Know Yourself

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It's a strange word, isn't it? It sounds like it should be all about you. Myself. Self-guided. And yet it also lends itself to another very salient word that’s all about others: selfless. 

It turns out that self is actually about others as much as it is ourselves, and this realization was driven home by my recent experience with the Carlsbad Student Leader Academy (CSLA). 

I still remember the apprehension that gripped me as I walked through the doors of the Servant Leadership Institute for my first CSLA session. I didn't know anyone, and I wasn't sure what to expect. However, I was quickly put at ease, and not just by the delicious buffet-style dinner. The evening began with friendship; all 30 of us high schoolers were asked to share information about ourselves with a partner at our table in only a minute — just enough time for us to realize we genuinely wanted to learn more about each other. 

That night was the beginning of the most introspective time of my life. For four weeks, we worked through a program called YouSchool, under the guidance of Josh Kirkhoff, our talented and passionate instructor. The program’s purpose? To introduce us to ourselves. 

I think we all realized how little we actually knew about ourselves as we stared at our huge YouSchool homework booklets, filled with pages upon pages of questions asking us about our role models, our hopes and dreams, our strengths and weaknesses. Over the next four weeks, we were given the compelling task of completing these booklets, sharing everything we wrote in them with the same partner from the first session of CSLA — bonding with others as we bonded with ourselves. 

YouSchool introduced us to ourselves, but in LeadSchool, we were taught how to introduce ourselves to others. In this three-week course, led by our accomplished teacher Alex Fairman, we learned how to use interpersonal interactions to aid our pursuits as servant leaders: how to hold ourselves with confidence, speak with poise and grow ourselves throughout not just by learning but by doing. In essence, we were trained to develop the tools we will use throughout the rest of our lives to lead with a servant’s heart and have meaningful impact on those around us. 

In ServeSchool, the final three weeks of the program, we were given the opportunity to apply our newly-developed skills towards the completion of servant leadership projects. We were presented with various service projects to work on for our city, ranging from determining how to prevent people from flushing insoluble cleaning wipes down the toilet (yes, that was a very popular option) to helping the homeless. I joined a team of two other young women to advocate for a better way to communicate and promote details regarding city finances to residents. It was during these three weeks that I realized how inherently self relates to others. When you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you’re infinitely more suited for helping others and giving them a chance for success than when you don't. If we could all take the time to truly understand ourselves, the world would be a better place. As we learned in ServeSchool, servant leadership is one of those rare pursuits that allows you to put others first and bring benefit and value to their lives while simultaneously gaining a better understanding of yourself. So, really, the term should not be selfless, but self-more. 

I think that all the CSLA participants realized this as we went on to successfully present our service project solutions to the city. Even after CSLA, I’ve continued to use the knowledge I gained to motivate, inspire and empower me throughout my servant leadership pursuits. My understanding of myself and of how to help others has continued to grow, especially as I founded a community service program called Bridge Carlsbad with 19 other CSLA graduates so we can continue to help our city flourish. 

But that's a story for another time…

Interested in learning more about the Carlsbad Student Leadership Academy or the concept of servant leadership? 

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Anisha is a homeschooled high school senior, actively involved in serving her community through employing the connections and leadership tools she developed during CSLA. She enjoys travel, and hopes to see the world while pursuing continued community service, writing, computer science and animation.