The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Appreciation

It may not be in the best form to start off a piece of writing with word definitions, but I’m going to do that today because there’s a lot of overlap in acceptance and appreciation and I want to determine the difference.

While both accept and appreciate, denote some kind of action, I think of appreciate as demonstrably more actionable than accept. Accept, which means to give approval, is, in my opinion, more of an inner choice; while appreciate, which means to be grateful for or value highly, is, in my opinion, more of a behavior.

Appreciation is synonymous with gratitude.

When I’m grateful for the sunrise, I stop to watch it. When I’m feeling grateful for my husband, I let him know. When I’m grateful for a clean house, I light a candle and melt into the couch. I express my gratitude for beautiful things and people, but it’s a little harder to do that for myself.

Appreciation, in regards to personal growth, is a little bit like self-care, and self-care is a highly personalized routine or process, so rather than generally suggest ideas, I’m going to share some things that I do to appreciate and care for myself.

1.Keep track of my positive qualities

I have a habit of glomming onto the negative, and because I’ve been doing it for so long I have to make concrete attempts at noticing the positive. It feels hokey and cheesy to say phrases like “I’m good at ____,” or “I’m proud of myself for doing ____,” but the more I’ve practiced it, the more genuine it has become.

“Your real self moves with inconceivable rapidity as your thought moves.” – Prentice Mulford

2.Focus on my strengths

Besides just keeping track of my positive qualities, I try to focus on them above my weaknesses, which is a difficult balance because I have a habit of ignoring, too, but if I can tip the scales in favor of my strengths, then I have more motivation, energy, and peace.

most-of-the-shadows-of-this-life-ralph-waldo-emerson

3.Express gratitude for who I have been and how that has made me who I am

There are times where I find myself in deep regret over my past. In high school, I completely withdrew from the world. I thought my social anxiety was a phase and that I’d grow out of it in college, so I waited. I didn’t grow out of it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and shake myself. Sometimes I wonder who I’d be if I had tried harder to have more friends or do more normal teenager things, but then I realize that it’s probably all for the best. I was so lonely in high school I probably would have done anything to fit in. That shy, timid girl made me who I am today. Eventually, she showed me what it means to struggle and overcome. She gave me some unwavering values, and I can be grateful for that.

border

This was a short post because, I have to be honest, I ran out of steam. I think that the last fundamentals I have lined up for the year will be more varied and provide more interest. I hope.

What do you do to appreciate yourself? Besides trying to be positive in your self-talk, as I’ve outlined here, I’m curious, do you take yourself out for coffee? Run a hot bath? Order pizza?

Advertisements

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Acceptance

Self-acceptance is the fundamental of personal growth that I feel the least comfortable with. It is the one that I’m still trying to figure out, all the time. Every time I think I’ve finally laid down my flaws and imperfections, something will happen to remind me that no, actually, I still have a deep pit of self-loathing inside of me.

Rather than act as if I have this shit figured out, I’m going to share some ideas and suggestions that I’m either currently trying, or plan on trying. Of course, of all the fundamentals, this one is probably the most personal, so really, the only way to figure out how to accept yourself is through a deeply personal process where, once again, you spend a lot of time alone. Basically, the moral of all these fundamentals, is go be

A   L   O   N   E

like Squidward in the episode of Spongebob Squarepants when he finally gets to be by himself, away from Spongebob and Patrick.

aloneii

Some other strategies to try:

1.Don’t wait until you accept yourself to care for yourself

If you’re anything like me, you think you have to have X before you can give yourself Y. The way we feel about ourselves, though, is related to how we treat ourselves.

Your actions tend to chisel away at the raw marble of your persona, carving into being the self you experience from day to day. It doesn’t feel that way, though. To conscious experience, it feels as if you were the one holding the chisel, motivated by existing thoughts and beliefs. It feels as though the person wearing your pants performed actions consistent with your established character, yet there is plenty of research suggesting otherwise. The things you do often create the things you believe. – David McRaney 

So, if you aren’t taking care of yourself because you don’t accept yourself and you think you don’t deserve care, well then, you’re likely always going to feel that way. If you take care of yourself, you are showing yourself that you do, in fact, deserve it. You may not cultivate self-acceptance right away, but the more you act with compassion toward yourself, the more you will start to believe that you deserve your own love, care, and acceptance.

it-is-not-worth-the-while-imperfections-quote-thoreau

2.Take your interests, passions, and pursuits seriously

When you believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile, even if just for your own enjoyment or sense of accomplishment, then you will reap more benefits from it. For example, if you engage in, let’s say, oh I don’t know, writing for a hobby, but you think it’s “just a silly hobby,” and treat it as such, then you are, in effect, not accepting the validity of your own interests, and not accepting your pursuit of it.

Taking your interests and pursuits seriously doesn’t mean that they can’t still be fun, it just means that you are acknowledging the impact that these interests and pursuits have on your own life and self-esteem.

3.Take your problems seriously

In the same vein as above, if you are experiencing a hardship, but you attribute it to being just a “silly problem,” then you’re not accepting the impact that it’s having on you, and you won’t be as willing or as determined to take the steps to heal, or remedy the problem. When you can accept that you’re suffering or hurting, then you can accept the treatments or help you might need to recover.

4.Take ownership of the ideal

You have the power to define what’s ideal. The world, society, or your culture tells you that a particular way of being is ideal, but ultimately, you get to decide if that’s true for you or not.

border

I really struggled with this post. I had a whole different draft ready to go on Saturday, and then I recoiled in fear because it was way too personal. I don’t feel as though I have any grounds to write with any authority on self-acceptance, as I’m still struggling, so I want to reiterate that these are suggestions that I’m still trying. Please tell me your own.

How do you approach self-acceptance? Did you grow up being taught to accept yourself, and so it comes naturally to you, or is it something that you have had to cultivate? If so, how did you do it?

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Honesty

This week, my husband and I attended the funeral for his Grandma. It was interesting for me to contrast his family with mine because his family comes from money. I’d gone to a funeral for someone in my own family only a few months back, and the differences between the two were small, yet stark: cowboy boots and sneakers vs. black leather loafers and high heels or three-piece-suits vs. jeans and a button down. I don’t bring this up to put down my family or to shame his; I only bring it up to explain the following situation: During the reception, I sat next to his great aunt, and upon realizing who I was, she took my hand to look at my wedding ring then said “Oh, that’s some Denver jewelry.” I didn’t really know what she meant, and so in the moment, I had no response, but after thinking about it, I realized she was calling it cheap.

A similar situation has happened to me before; some vague comment about my ring that can’t necessarily be interpreted as an insult on face value, but when I take into consideration the entire context, I understand that more is meant by the broad-sweeping words. The real message is some variation of “Why didn’t your husband spring for a diamond?” or “How could you be caught dead wearing that unsparkly thing?”

Well, in truth, my ring wasn’t expensive and it doesn’t sparkle. It doesn’t have any diamonds and it’s not made out of precious metals.

But I don’t care. I love it. It’s the ring I wanted. I specifically asked my husband to buy it for me. Wearing the ring is a way of expressing myself honestly, and actually, for some reason, the ring is one of the few ways I’ve had as much confidence to express myself honestly.

While I don’t care if people like my wedding ring, I do often care if people like my opinions or if they approve of my job or if they think I’m lazy. I care so much about these things that I often find it difficult to be honest with myself in these areas.

I’ll think I’m being honest if the “truth” lines up with what I assume people want from me, but many times, my truth is different than these assumed expectations.

It was more painful for me when my husband’s great aunt asked me that dreaded question “What do you do?” than when she snubbed my ring because I stand by my ring and am proud of it, but it’s harder to stand by more personal choices. In the area of opinions and careers, it’s harder to express myself honestly, and make decisions about my life with confidence.

Recently, I was faced with the option of accepting a part-time job which I knew I’d love, or a full-time job that I didn’t want. I went to the interview for the full-time job and absolutely put everyone in the room to sleep because I already knew I didn’t want it, but I felt like everyone would call me foolish for not even trying to get the full-time job when I could have a meatier paycheck and arguably more stability.

Psychologist Courtney Warren says that the cost of self-deception is living life with painful regrets, and after I left the interview full of drowsy and dull college administrators, I knew that I would regret taking that job. I was honestly thankful that I never received a call from them because it meant I didn’t even have to make the choice, but if I had gotten that call, I like to believe that I would have had the courage to turn it down because I was starting to be honest with myself. After the interview, I didn’t try to find little lies about how the job would be great. I didn’t try to convince myself that the gut feeling I had was wrong or misleading. I just knew, and I went to the job I already had with confidence that I’d made the right choice.

This past year, I’ve been heavily invested in my own personal growth and self-improvement, which has forced me to be more honest because I’ve realized the costs of not doing so.

According to Dr. Warren, along with regret, two additional costs of not being honest are:

1. You hurt yourself and others

“We are deceitful and exploitative of others only insofar as we are in

some significant sense dishonest with ourselves . . .

2. You won’t be capable of change because you can’t change something you can’t admit

— but in so acting toward others,

we also offend against ourselves” (David Carr).

Pain and stagnation are some pretty high costs.

 

honesty-and-transparency-mother-teresa

Being honest isn’t easy, but it’s a worthy endeavor, especially when it means you can have a life with more fulfilling relationships and change that encourages growth and success.

For me, the costs of self-deception are: anxiety, indecision, long-lasting unhappiness, and strained relationships.

In order to consider the costs of self-deception for yourself, and learn to be more honest, three ways that you might begin the process of self-honesty are:

1. Learn to listen to yourself

Listening to yourself is going to require some of that good old self-awareness because if you’ve been caught up in performing a version of yourself that you think others want to see, then you’ve probably got a lot of voices that aren’t actually yours swimming around in your head. You’re going to have to do something scary and spend some time, and by some time I mean a lot of time, alone.

2. Sit with discomfort

When you start listening to yourself, you’re going to be confronted with some uncomfortable truths. You’re going to want to resist that discomfort, but being uncomfortable is a part of honesty. That discomfort is why we resist it so much. Stop resisting it. While honesty is unsettling, it also offers a lot of relief.  A study out of Notre Dame even backs this up. “The Science of Honesty Study” shows that through the reduction of lying, you can improve your health. Participants in the study who aimed to reduce their daily lying, even in simple ways like not exaggerating or making excuses, reported fewer mental and physical health complaints.

3. Persist in consistently challenging yourself

Being honest with yourself is not a linear process. Just because you are as honest as you can be one week doesn’t mean you will have the psychological stamina to do the same the next week. And, even when you do build up a habit of honesty, new truths will come up at super inconvenient times, and you will experience new discomfort. Remember that with each wave of confronting uncomfortable truths, there’s an ever bigger wave of relief.

As was the theme with previous posts in this series, everything is connected. You have to cultivate a sense of self-awareness before you can be honest with yourself, and it might be a good idea to work on forgiving yourself before you come to the hard, critical work of being honest with yourself. Plus, being honest with yourself might also require some more forgiveness. Just like honesty is a non-linear process, so is personal growth. I’ve only prepared these topics in what I think is the most logical order, not the most linear.

border

Do you find it easy to be honest with yourself? What about being honest with others? Do you think that we can ever fully represent ourselves honestly to others?

 

 

The Fundamentals of Personal Growth: Forgiveness

Last week, the fundamental of personal growth was awareness. This week, it’s forgiveness. As will be a theme with all these fundamentals, there will be some overlap. Everything is connected.

Forgiveness is important to personal growth because you’re probably harboring some contempt for yourself about the fact that you’re not who you wish you were.

You might regret that you aren’t more fit, or that you don’t wake up earlier. Maybe you regret that you don’t call your mom more, or that you’re terrible at remembering birthdays. These desires to do better are normal, but if you’re on a journey of personal growth then I have a hunch that you are holding yourself in much more contempt than simply having regrets.

You won’t get very far in your personal growth journey if you continue to believe that you’re an inadequate failure because you don’t live up to arbitrary standards.

This particular fundamental of personal growth is the one I’ve had to work the hardest at, and it’s one I’m still working hard at, and the biggest thing I can’t seem to forgive myself for is not being the person I want to be, or the person I believe I can be.

Self-forgiveness is about forgiving yourself for not always being the person you want to be.

To extend yourself some grace:

1.Identify Limiting Beliefs

Often times when we make a mistake, we respond with all or nothing thinking like “I always do that” or “I can never get it right.” Listen to how you talk to yourself when you make a mistake. Identify the particular negative form of self-talk you employ. If you can notice it, you can name it, and if you can name it then you can work on replacing it with something less harsh like “I’d like to improve in this area of my life,” or “I’ll do that better next time.”

2.Take Ownership Over Your Mistakes

Research psychologist Juliana Breines writes:

Self-forgiveness can have a dark side. Research suggests that while it relieves unpleasant feelings like guilt and shame, it may also—in some cases—reduce empathy for others and motivation to make amends. In other words, self-forgiveness may at times serve as a crutch, producing a comforting sense of moral righteousness rather than a motivating sense of moral responsibility.

If you can admit that you’ve made a mistake or done something you’re not proud of, then it will be easier to explore how you can do better moving forward because you’ll know how you don’t want to behave, or what actions are out of line with the person you want to be.

Without the recognition of wrongdoing, what would there be to forgive? – Juliana Breines

You probably know that it’s perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, but admitting to them can feel vulnerable because most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as failures, bad people, or immoral. I challenge you to consider this alternative:

Admitting your mistakes is empowering.

Doing something bad, or behaving in a way contrary to your core being, does not make you a bad person.

peace-of mind-gerald- jampolsky

3.Identify Your Values so You can Live by Them

This approach to forgiveness overlaps with stage 2 in the awareness fundamental because there are so many elements that can begin to fall into place in your life when you know your values. If you don’t know what matters to you then you won’t have a framework for decision making, and you’ll be more likely to feel bad about choices that you’ve made without knowing why or how to improve.

4. Express Compassion

A few years ago, I had a counselor who engaged in Gestalt therapy with me. When I first met with her I was nervous because I knew Gestalt to be an aggressive from of therapy (by aggressive I just knew it was more than simply talking about your feelings), but it ended up being the most helpful therapy I’ve ever received because it encouraged me to cultivate compassion for myself.

My counselor had me imagine the part of myself that I hated, and talk to her. I moved across the room, sitting in one chair and then the other, talking to myself and saying out loud all these awful things I’d been thinking about myself. I saw this person who I hated as part of myself, and my counselor showed me that I could be compassionate to her. In my mind, I wrapped this part of myself up in a loving ribbon, and every time I started to think negatively about “Little Trisha,” as I called her, I’d wrap that ribbon around her. The process sounds a little out there, and I was resistant at first, but I’m so glad I eventually poured myself into it because learning to love Little Trisha was the biggest step in my personal growth journey.

[S]elf-forgiveness is not supposed to be easy, and without incorporating empathy it can feel empty. – Juliana Breines

The best effect from learning to love Little Trisha was that it was easier for me to love and express compassion for others. I felt less frustrated at my husband and approached our disagreements with empathy and understanding. Our marriage became so much more enjoyable because as I grew to love myself, I became more trusting. I grew closer to my family and friends because as I learned to stop judging, hating and resenting myself, I learned to stop doing the same to others.

I’m not perfect in these areas, and I still find myself holding grudges at times, but it’s now so much easier for me to let go and move on because I have started with practicing forgiveness for myself.

This practice of self-forgiveness and compassion can be tied back up into awareness.

If you can become aware, admit your mistakes and forgive, then:

[You can] begin to understand how [your] emotional and physical selves are connected and develop more self-confidence to start living a fuller life and more effectively deal with problems. (Gestalt Therapy)

Everything is connected.

 

In her Ted Talk “The Real Risk of Forgiveness and Why it’s Worth ItSarah Montana speaks about the power of forgiving others, but I think so much of what she says can be applied to self-forgiveness, as well. In particular, she says:

Forgiveness is the only real path to freedom

The thing about self-forgiveness as a practice in conjunction with self-awareness is that it cultivates a realistic view of the self. You can recognize who you are, in the present, and acknowledge the dream of who you hope to be without hating yourself for not yet being that person. You can find such cozy freedom within yourself that your body will feel like home.

border

Have you learned to forgive yourself? What is your process of self-forgiveness?