March 14, 2023

Do We Feel Safe Enough to Discover Our Life's Purpose?


Is your search for your True Self and the unique calling that God has given you anchored in a sense of existential safety, or is it subtly driven by anxiety and fear? 

Many of us long to know who we are and leap ahead to tools of discernment and retreats without realising that a deep confidence that we are being accompanied by God and by our selves in unconditional acceptance and love is a prerequisite that needs to be in place first. In this episode I explain why that is.

Share this episode via this episode page.

(00:02:03) - Introduction
(00:05:08) - Assumptions
(00:06:23) - The Experience of God's Accompaniment
(00:08:51) - Accompanying Ourselves
(00:14:16) - 4 Layers of Self-Knowledge
(00:14:50) - #1: Intellectual Knowledge
(00:16:09) - #2: Experiential Knowledge
(00:17:35) - #3: Effective Knowledge
(00:21:41) - #4: Unitive Self-Knowledge
(00:26:23) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:28:22) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to my sharing in this episode, what struck you?
- Was there something that maybe particularly resonated with you?

- On a scale of 1 to 10, how safe would you say you currentldo you feel in this journey of trying to know who you really are?
- How safe do you feel in this process of trying to figure out who you are?

- Identify one way, in which you feel that you are maybe not safe enough.
- Is there some fear, concern or anxiety that is holding you back from really immersing yourself in this journey with an open heart? 


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Hello again, dear listeners. You know how when we are really looking forward to discovering who we are, or maybe what our life's purpose is, we often just run ahead and try and figure out what do I need to do to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my life so that I will feel like my life has meaning – has purpose. Or what can I do to figure out what's unique about me?

Sometimes, there's that desire that brings us forward. But we don't realise that the reason why we sometimes can't make very good progress is because there are certain things that need to be in place – which maybe isn't in place yet. 

So, in today's episode, I want to talk about one of the foundations that actually need to be in place before we can really fruitfully make this journey into being our authentic selves – making this journey into knowing who we are uniquely and what's our contribution to the world. 

You're going to hear me talk about heart posture, you're going to hear me talk about the sense of feeling unconditionally loved by God, as well as by ourselves and the confidence that we have – that we are being accompanied on this journey; no matter where it takes us, no matter how long it is, and no matter what we find out about ourselves. 

Okay, so without further ado, I invite you to listen to this Instagram Live that I did on what it is that we often don't hear about the process of discerning our personal vocation. And why is it important for us to feel safe enough before we can discover our life's true purpose.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life, and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Okay, so today, I'm having another kind of like ceased-by-the-moment inspiration to do a Live. I'm actually currently preparing for the launch of this year's batch of clients who are going through my signature program, which is called Clarity. 

So, what Clarity is about is, it's meant to be a good beginning to help people have a more solid foundation to begin to discern their personal vocation. Okay, ultimately, it's to help give them greater clarity – that's why it's called Clarity – about how to go about discerning their personal vocation.

But even then, I always tell interested clients that Clarity is really just a beginning. In fact, it's not even as much of a beginning as I would like it to be, but most people have no idea just how much is involved in this long process of discerning personal vocation. 

And that's why so many people are very frustrated. That's why so many people can feel like they've been trying to discern their personal vocation for years and years, and still feel like they're not sure if they're in the right place, if they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. More importantly, I think most people still don't have a good sense of who they are.

Okay, so who we are is distinct from what we do. A lot of times when we think about personal vocation, we are thinking about what are we supposed to be doing. What is God calling me to do with my life? 

But doing is never the fundamental thing. Doing is always predicated on our being. And if we don't have a solid sense of who we are and if we are not secure about the self that God created us to be, we will never be very effective at discerning what are we called to do. Okay, so we put the cart before the horse a lot of times and when we do so without even realizing, there's just so much. 

I was thinking about what I want to say to my clients during the Saturday's webinar when we launch this process. And I just thought, there's maybe something that I can share with those of you who are just following my content generally.

I mean, you can benefit from this – I think, just by thinking about some of the points I will make. And today I can't make all the points either. It's just putting stuff out there that may be helpful. 

[00:05:08] ASSUMPTIONS
So, one thing I think is a very important presupposition that we don't think about when we talk about discerning personal vocation – so, by presupposition, I mean it's kind of like the very underlying principle, okay? – Assumptions. We don't often talk about assumptions. We just want to know what we're supposed to do on the surface. 

So, for example, if you think about it, what do people do when they try to discern their personal vocation or where God is calling them?

People who don't usually go for retreats may decide they want to go for a retreat and they think that a retreat – or two or three – might help them gain clarity about what God is calling them to do with their lives, right? Some people may do a bit more – go for a more extended approach and start spiritual direction – which is great. You know, they want to learn how to hear God, maybe better in their life. 

But the effectiveness of, let's say, vocation, discernment retreats, or any kind of personal retreat and the effectiveness of individual spiritual direction, even – no matter how good a spiritual director you may have, rests on two other things. And this is what I think a lot of people don't realise. 

Okay, so the first is we need to be able to experience God accompanying us in this process, right? So, personal vocation or calling – so, we discern this calling because we believe that God, whom we're in a relationship with, is calling us.

But the posture – the posture of our heart when we go into discernment, can make a very big difference. If we feel like God is a task master or a king – very distant, very powerful, whom we are afraid of offending if we get the discernment wrong – we're not going to be very interiorly free, right? Our heart is – you know, we're kind of like in a posture of fear and anxiety.

Yes, the stakes are high if we are discerning our personal calling. But what are we so afraid of? What are we ultimately afraid of? Okay, maybe we're afraid that we will never be happy if we don't get the discernment right. But maybe sometimes subconsciously, we are not confident that God's love for us is always absolute and complete and unconditional – no matter how much we screw up our lives, no matter how dense we may be in the process of discerning our personal vocation.

And that will impede our ability to discern our personal vocation, right? And that's something that I've actually never really heard anyone talk about. People always talk about the very high level stuff. You know, even like, you know, the rules of discernment. All these things that we are supposed to know; how to pray, what the scripture tell us.

But, you know, at the heart of all these things, is the human person – is you, there's me – who has to integrate these things and act on them who is in relationship with God. And if that foundation is not solid, none of these other things are going to be very helpful. 

So, first is we need to be able to experience God accompanying us. And this is a God who is attuned to us – a God whom we can trust, a God who is not in a hurry, not in a rush. So, that in our own insecurity and anxiety, when we experience God accompanying us, we can slow down and we can be more at peace and we can rest in that love.

If we cannot experience God accompanying us in this process of discerning our call, we can't even really say that we're discerning because discernment is all about that relationship. Okay, so we need to be able to experience God accompanying us. 

And secondly, this is – I think this is even less talked about. I've never actually heard anyone talk about this in the context of discernment of personal vocation. And that is we need to be able to experience ourselves accompanying ourselves. Okay, we need to experience that – I am with myself on this journey. I know how to accompany myself lovingly, patiently. I know how to encourage myself. I know how to lead myself. So, in my relationship with God, I know how to.

I said it's even less talked about, right? Because I think most people haven't even thought about relationship with yourself. I know I didn't. I never did, until quite late in my own journey with the Lord and then I realised that not only did I not love myself, I didn't know how to accept myself. I didn't know even how to see myself. 

I basically had no relationship with myself, right? And as I grew in that relationship with myself, I realised how much of God's love came through to me through my relationship with myself. And then so many things clicked. So many things clicked.

And my own discernment of my personal vocation, you know – this whole journey isn't just about figuring out what I'm called to do. But figuring out who I am finally – who God says I am. And to be able to be confident that this is who God says I am. And to be able to accept it. Not just accept it but celebrate it. That only came about when I learned how to build a relationship with myself – a healthy relationship with myself. 

And as it turns out, the process of discerning personal vocation can only really happen if we are in a secure relationship with ourself. So, our relationship with ourself is kind of like seated within our relationship with God.

God loves us very much through us loving ourselves. And this relationship is prior to any ability to love our neighbour, right? So, when we are very young, ideally, we've experienced unconditional love – well, maybe not perfect, but close enough, right? – Secure love from our caregivers that will give us a sense of being securely held. That actually helps us to build our relationship with ourselves. 

But for many of us, the love that we received in our growing up years in our families and in the environments that we grow up – there's so much brokenness in that. We don't know how to be in a secure relationship with ourselves.

And then when we get into young adulthood and adulthood, when we start asking this big existential questions like, you know, what is God calling me to do with my life? – We actually do not have the foundation to ask these questions. And we don't know, right? So, we, we try and ask these questions. We try and find the tools to go about figuring out what we're supposed to do.

And all the while, most of us feel this hollowness still, in our life that's telling us I'm not quite there yet. I haven't quite figured it out. You know, which is fine. We usually haven't figured anything fully out. But the tricky thing is that when we are secure in who we are, there is no haste. There is no anxiety that we haven't figured it out because we experience God accompanying us, and we experience ourselves accompanying ourselves. 

We know we are not abandoned. We know that our worth, our value, our belovedness does not lie on the condition of us figuring out what our personal vocation is. We know that the worth of our lives is not dependent on even our service or contribution to the kingdom of God.

I mean, all that is great, but our worth and our lovableness, our belovedness is not predicated on the service that we can offer. But the sad reality is that most of us in our day-to-day living – in the messages that we are getting, right, not only out in the secular world, I would say, but very much even in the way we have experienced and interpreted, even our religious upbringing – our spiritual lives actually kind of tells us; you know your belovedness and your value is somehow still related to you being good, right? You, not sinning, you figuring out what God is calling you to do. 

Just think about it. Explicitly, cognitively, we may think that's not true, right? And we may even know all the correct teachings. But our hearts and our bodies are telling us a different thing. Our hearts and our bodies, they're often in anxiety. They are often stressed and fearful, and that's telling us that big parts of us actually do not feel safe, even though our intellect tells us that we are safe with God. 

And that often talks about the culture that we are in. It may not be visible and most of us, we are not aware of it. But you know, once you begin to see it, you can't unsee it. Okay, once we begin to see how we are not safe, we can't unsee it. And then we learn how to build that safety into our own lives.

Okay, so a while back I did both a video and a post on this account on my @animann Instagram account about the four layers of self-knowledge, right? And that's actually a very fundamental piece to this whole thing about discerning personal vocation. 

So, people do talk about, you know, knowing yourself, self-awareness. But again, there isn't a deeper realization that there are different depths and layers to self-knowledge. And again, to discern personal vocation, we actually need the deeper levels or layers of self-knowledge. 

So, if you can't remember what these four layers are, I will mention them briefly in this video. But, you know, bears repeating – I hope you can go back and revisit the post and the video that I made specifically on the four layers of self-knowledge. 

So, the four layers of self-knowledge; the top layer is intellectual knowledge. What I know about myself, often through what other people reflect to me. Or things like maybe, you know, psychometric instruments tell me. So, the source of the knowledge about myself kind of comes from outside of me. And these are important things. You know being able to see how other people see us or, you know, other objective, kind of like, let's say instruments – are able to reflect us, reflect aspects of ourselves to us.

But intellectual knowing is very surface knowing. It's certainly not enough. Not enough. No matter how many assessments you've taken, or instruments you've taken to kind of tell you your psychological makeup, your personality – or even, I would go so far as to even say maybe aspects of spiritual journeying direction or retreats where you learn about your wounds. Those touch on different layers of the self-knowledge, but there's also an element where it's intellectual knowledge.

You know, when you're at just this outmost layer when the knowledge of yourself is a little distant – feels a little distant. Yeah, it's like I know this about myself. And so, what? What does it mean? That's intellectual knowing. Okay, like what does it mean?

The next layer of self-knowledge is what I call experiential knowledge. Now, it's not just a cognitive thing. Now, it's not just an intellectual thing. It is – I experience. I know this about myself because I've experienced it. So, for example, I know I don't like crowded events, okay – of any kind. Because whenever I go there, I feel really uncomfortable – this is an example.

I feel really uncomfortable about everything; about myself, I'm stressed, I'm anxious. I much prefer, let's say, smaller gatherings, lower noise levels. So, I know about that. I know that about myself from experience. Okay, or I know I like fried chicken, for example because I've tried it and I know I like it. So, I know from experience. 

But even at this layer of experience, it's kind of like, just touch and go, you know? Okay, I know this about myself because I experienced it. But it doesn't go deeper to accompany myself, to be in relationship with myself. Like, Ann, what are you feeling? What are you feeling about that discomfort when you're in a crowded event? Or I don't feel myself experiencing it. 

Okay, let me repeat. I don't feel myself experiencing an event. To be able to feel myself experiencing something, is to bring the experiential knowledge another level deeper into my awareness – into me being able to accompany myself.

And now we're talking about the third layer of self-knowledge. And I call it effective knowledge – effective knowing of myself. That's where I learned to attune to myself – I attune to how my body's feeling, I attune to what emotions are surfacing. These are such important data for me to be able to hear and listen. But more importantly, for my inner-self to experience that I am cared for, that I am cared for by myself.

So, even before my higher cognitive functions can maybe figure out of a sense of what my emotions mean or what signals my body may be saying to me. The more important thing is that I am with myself. I care enough about myself to stay, to feel with her – to feel with me – to listen to my emotions.

You just think about it. If it was someone else, if this is not yourself – this was a good friend, someone that you care about. And if you can sense that this person maybe was feeling disturbed, you could, if you are attuned, right? – If you're somebody who can be present, you would just come alongside this person and wait and let her feel whatever she feels and maybe let her reflect to you what she's feeling without any judgment, right – without even trying to understand what's going on, but just to be with her. That is such an important experience of being accompanied, of being loved. It does something to our brains. It does something in our nervous system to allow us to feel safe. And when we're feeling safe, we can be very present.

And then it's like our awareness grows. Our capacity to attend to new data; to hear God speak, to hear anyone, to be present to what's going on around us just really, really expands when we feel safe. So, being accompanied is such an important thing.

And some of us, at least, I think, we try to do that for someone that we care about, but we may not know how to do that for ourselves. Very often, we've learned to disassociate with even what's going on inside of us. And then we have a very pronounced, maybe, you know, self inner-critic that may be very judgmental about what we are feeling.

Like maybe if we're feeling a bit distressed, you may not even realise this, but maybe there is a dialogue going on in your head, inside of you. You know, maybe there's a part of you that goes like, no, don't be such a wuss. You know, like, be confident, be friendly, be sociable, be hospitable, you know? 

So, ignore that part of you that's feeling stressed at being, you know, maybe in this very noisy or loud kind of event. Show up. You know, just, just show up.

I know that was my experience and I think for a lot of people, especially those who kind of learn to just push through, right? – To accomplish things, to achieve things – that's probably the inner-dialogue that we have. So, what happens? Imagine if that was someone – if that was your friend.

And she's feeling distressed and you're not giving her any space to share with you. Even if it's not during the event – maybe afterwards, will you take time to let her share with you how she felt, how distressed she actually felt. Because that could help also, you know, even if not in the moment. Later on, you set aside an intentional time to be with that person.

Do you do that for yourself? For most of us, we never do that for ourselves because we are just go, go, go. Like, what am I supposed to do? Let's do the next thing. We don't know how to be attuned to ourself – which means we have no way – we don't know how to have that third layer of self-knowledge, effective knowledge of ourselves.

Now, if we don't develop this muscle, you can forget about effectively discerning your personal vocation, okay? Because your own inner-self, the deepest parts of yourself, do not feel safe with you. They will not feel safe with you to share their fears, their hopes, their dreams. Because they may be too quickly shut up – by yourself.

So, that's why inner work beyond the spiritual – the obvious kind of like spiritual work – is so important. Most of us, we don't know how to repair our relationship withourselves. 

Now the fourth deepest level of self-knowledge is what I call unitive self-knowledge. This is really – we are going into the realm of integration.

So, not only am I learning, or have I learned to be attentive and present to what's going on inside of me, to let myself, my inner-self and different parts of myself, feel cared for so that I actually feel safe with myself. 

I also, now, know how to lead myself into deeper integration, into becoming more whole in response to God's leadership of me – in response to God's accompaniment of me.

In the context in which I operate – which is always within the context of a deep, abiding, loving relationship with God who loves me – relationship with self, ultimately sits on and deepens, and also interfaces with my relationship with God.

And so if we are discerning personal vocation, you see, here's the thing – even if we have ultimately a wonderful and beautiful call, that call probably can only be realised and lived in to when I have matured, when I am more whole, when I'm integrated, when I am able to be morally courageous, when I dare to be myself unapologetically, when I'm able to withstand criticism, judgment. 

All those things may still hurt. But if I am sure of who I am, like Christ was – He was so sure of who He was, that no persecution and criticism and judgment and push-back could make Him veer from Him fulfilling His mission, His vocation, right? Because He is so anchored in who He is.

And that's the invitation for you and me as well. If I am anchored deeply in who I am, then I can participate in God's work of redemption and integration with me. So, the unitive dimension or the unitive layer of self-knowledge is really kind of like that last – maybe not last, but you know, for our purposes, right – that last layer that needs to be happening for us to really discern our personal vocation.

Okay, so I've said, already so far, and you realise I haven't even talked about instruments, I haven't even talked about methodology – I haven't talked about all these things which are also important, but they need to rest on this foundation. They all need to rest on this foundation of deeper self-knowledge and also deeper knowledge of God. So, in another post on my IG – and I don't think I made a video on that, but there was a post I did on that. I also talked about the four layers of knowing God, and it's the same four layers, but this is in relation to God, right?

So, we can know God intellectually, we can know God only experientially – I say only experientially because knowing God experientially, we are not yet attuned to Him attuning to us. We do not yet know how to sustain and become attached to Him. So, just think about this. Some of us, or maybe more of us now, have had God experiences, right? – We say God experiences.

Are they important? Of course, they're very important! But if those experiences only last as they do, and we don't know how to let that grow into a sustained attachment with God, then we don't yet have the ability to have the third layer of effective knowledge with God. We won't be able to experience God accompanying us.

And ultimately, if we can't experience God accompanying us, then we won't be able to really let Him integrate us and make us whole and heal us. Because that comes at a cost as well. Okay, it's not easy. All this healing work and integrating work – they're not easy. They only are possible when we have the kind of support – first within ourselves and with God, and then of course from other people. 

But you see, we often talk about our need of support from other people as well. But we don't understand how that links to what's happening inside of us, right? So, that's why the title of this Live is What You Don't Know About the Discerning Personal Vocation. I hope you learned something new.

I think I'm just going to stop here for this particular Live. There's so many other dimensions to this, but I hope that this has helped you. And if you have any questions, please, you know, leave a comment or send me a direct message and that might give me a sense also, of maybe, what to highlight or what to respond to the next time I do a Live or in one of my other videos.

Okay, so here are the Praxis Prompts for this episode. One: Listen – as you listened to my sharing in this episode, what struck you? Was there something that maybe particularly resonated with you?

Two: Ponder – on a scale of 1 to 10, how safe would you say you currently feel in this journey of trying to know who you really are? How safe do you feel in this process of trying to figure out who you are?

Three: Act – can you try and identify, maybe just one way, in which you feel that you are maybe not safe enough. Is there some fear, concern or anxiety that is holding you back from really immersing yourself in this journey with an open heart? Just identify maybe one way, in which maybe you don't feel safe enough to really have a blank canvas to discover who you are in.

So, that's it for today's episode. I hope that Becoming Me continues to help you identify and refine what are the things in your life that may be is holding you back from becoming the most authentic and most whole version of who you are.

And if listening to Becoming Me has been helping you, it would mean so much to me if you would rate it and leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on my website. Thank you so much.

[00:28:22] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive.

Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter, as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode. Happy becoming!