“I’d like to be more empathetic … more direct … more influential … that’s who I want to be. But it’s taking forever to get there!” If this sounds familiar, stop fretting and start reading!
I. Current State
You know you’d like to take the next steps toward a journey of self-improvement. “That’s who I want to be!” you exclaim. Maybe you don’t know what that looks like or how you can get there. But you feel a burning desire to change yourself for the better because it will help you both personally and professionally.
Videos, podcasts and books are resources you have found to be somewhat helpful. Sometimes they’re hit or miss, though, and you have no time to waste on irrelevant content.
Perhaps your self-improvement journey feels like you’re progressing too slowly, or not at all. You have an idea of what this self-improvement path might look like, but how can you execute if you don’t know for sure?
Congratulations to you, because one the very first steps toward changing yourself is recognition of your humanity. The great news is that we’re all flawed!
II. Calling Out
You’ve already accepted a major hurdle: the desire to change. This desire exists, yet you don’t know how to make it happen.
Onto the next step: recognize the way you treat yourself. Specifically, the way you may beat up on yourself or criticize yourself. It can be tempting to beat yourself up over mistakes or misspoken words. It may take on a flavor of:
- I should have known better.
- I wasted all that time for nothing.
- How could I have done something so stupid?
If this looks like one of your habits, calling yourself out is an excellent next step towards self-improvement.
Often, but not always, self-criticisms suppress positive habit-formations and compound the original problem. I’d encourage you to try this exercise the next time you realize you are beating yourself up. Ask yourself, “Is this criticism going to motivate me in a positive direction, or am I making myself feel worse? Is this who I want to be?”
Ideally, you want to avoid beating yourself up entirely. As insignificant as this may seem on the surface, it serves as a key step towards change. It is a practice that requires mindfulness and an ability to “zoom out” so that you can assess self-treatment in a non-judgmental zone.
Beware: those negative narratives you repeat in your head will take a toll … and you might even start to believe them!
As award-winning psychologist Ethan Kross notes in his book Chatter, “We use our minds to write the story of our lives, with us as the main character.”
Recognition of self-criticisms and negative self-talk, even if after the fact, can lead to your stopping this counterproductive habit altogether.
Then what – what do you do after you’ve caught yourself in the act?
Next is what we can call acceptance. The idea is to formulate ways in which you can accept yourself, your circumstances, and your life exactly as is. Not to say you can’t try to change these things … but first, can you accept and embrace your given realities?
Think of your life and all circumstances as playing a hand at poker. You’ve been dealt your hand – do you deny it and fight it, or can you work with it?
Self-acceptance, while not easy for some, can be the most wonderful gift you offer to yourself.
Depending on where you are in your self-improvement journey, acceptance may look like:
- having the will to try after many failures
- appreciation of your unique traits others may reject
- having your own back even if others don’t believe in you
- self-compassion and kindness if you didn’t perform as expected
- the courage to hear others’ criticisms and assess them with curiosity
- the ability to love yourself unconditionally, despite your words, beliefs and mistakes
- admitting you will always be a work in progress
Why is acceptance so important?
Because changing yourself is much more sustainable after you learn to accept yourself exactly the way you are on each step of the journey.
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