The Problem with Self-Improvement.

 
 
 

Truth be told, I am not a fan of the idea of self-improvement. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that striving for personal growth is a bad thing. It is most definitely not. In fact, striving for growth is what fills our lives with hope founded in possibility. To know that there is always more to come, untouched avenues of ourselves to explore, and endless opportunities to expand, is the fuel of life. It propels us forward, and inspires a sense of personal contentment grounded in the prospect of the sweet unknown.

The problem then, does not lie in the notion itself, but in the language we use around the concept personal development. Here’s why: to “improve oneself” implies that there is something that needs to be fixed. It implies a movement away from wholeness and into fragmentation. It implies lack, and can perpetuate thoughts like “I am not good enough until I ______________.” As a result, we can become easily transfixed by how far we still have to go. Feelings of disempowerment manifest, because the space between who we are, and who we want to be appears as far too vast and thus, impossible to cross.

Welcome self-judgment and criticism. Welcome hopelessness. Welcome perceived limitations. In other words, welcome all the things that keep us stagnant, and prevent us from going where we desire to be. You see, the problem with framing our personal growth as an act of “improvement” is that it places us behind the eight ball, because we start our journeys from a place of disadvantage.

Clearly then, the process of personal evolution requires a compassionate reframe- a movement from a mindset of lack and fragmentation to one of abundance and wholeness.

So, the question becomes: how can we engage in the process of personal growth more effectively?

By recognizing how far we’ve already come. By noting our successes and strengths. By celebrating our individual uniqueness. Ultimately, by recognizing that as human beings we are already whole, and perfectly imperfect, and that this perfect imperfection is enough.

Plain and simple: There is nothing about anyone us that requires improvement.

When we really and truly resonate with this notion- that we all start our personal journey as whole, and perfectly imperfect beings- pursuits of personal growth resound more deeply. We are better able to wrestle with and contemplate the various lessons available to us, because when we are starting from a foundation of personal empowerment, we are better able to weave these lessons into the patterns of our lives so that they effectively align with who we desire to be.

More simply put, our personal authenticity flourishes when we recognize that our job is to not improve but to evolve.

Self-evolution is not a timed process. It occurs naturally- when you’re ready to truly feel and absorb the lessons available to you. The pressure comes off.

Welcome self-compassion, kindness, and unconditional self-acceptance. Welcome graceful forward movement. Welcome contentment and fulfillment.

Welcome your best life.

What’s Driving You? (Some Words on Figuring Out Your “Why”).



Why are you doing what you’re doing?
 
What is the core motivation behind your decision to invest time in certain activities and not others?
 
A few days ago, I found myself reading an article discussing the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Needless to say, the article prompted me into reflection. It got me thinking about the choices I have made in my life and how they have contributed to where I sit today.
 
Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation arsing from the desire to earn a particular reward, validation or to avoid potentially adverse consequences of not completing the given activity. Focus is on the external.
 
Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation arising from a genuine and authentic desire to complete an activity for its inherent enjoyment to you. It’s about personal fulfillment. It’s about what lights you up and gets you excited. It’s about passion. It’s about feeling connected to your truth. It’s about your unique message. It’s about self-love and knowing that you’re worth it. Focus is on the internal.
 
For years, I admit, I was someone who was extrinsically motivated. I did things with the purpose of receiving validation from others. I lived with the idea that my worth was tied up in other people’s recognition of my value. I desperately craved approval and external assurance that I was “good enough.” I molded myself to fit their idea of who I should be. It didn’t feel good, but the risk of not receiving their approval was far too anxiety-provoking, and so I became comfortable with continual self-betrayal. At that time, compromising who I was for the potential “fix” of external approval was a small price to pay.
 
That was, until I had a conversation with one of the people I craved approval from the most. It was an intensely painful conversation, but a life-changing one. I am forever grateful to this person for giving me the hard-hitting truths that he did, because I know that if he hadn’t done this, I would still be that person chasing that elusive carrot. (And this carrot by the way, can come cloaked in many different masks- money, grades, awards, weight, promotions… etc.)
 
That conversation was my ticket to personal liberation and fierce self-love. It allowed me the space to realize that what I was chasing all of these years wasn’t actually there to begin with. I had been relinquishing my power, and doing myself a grand disservice. Was a disempowered life really the one that I wanted to live? Is that what I wanted my life to be a testament to? Not so much.
 
It got me thinking about this:
 
What would actually happen if I stopped doing things for the approval of others and just for myself?  
 
Would there be some push back? Probably. There always is when you start asserting yourself and taking a stand for your worth.
 
Would I be happier? Most definitely.
Would I feel liberated? Absolutely. 
Today, I do things because I am intrinsically motivated to do them. I do things because they make me happy and feel fulfilled. It was a difficult shift to make, I admit, but the more I began listening to the call of my true desires, the easier it became to listen to and trust that voice. Trust that you know what is best for you. Trust that the only person you need approval from is yourself. Trust that the more dedicated you are to satisfying the internal yearning that drives you, the more you will be able to give. 

Committing your time to the things that make you shine is the most radical act of self-love there is. 
 
Operating from a space of intrinsic motivation allows us to make conscious and purposeful choices… choices that arise from a feeling of abundance rather than lack. Our focus thus becomes much more centered on what we can give rather than what we can get. It becomes about service and a genuine desire to share what we have to offer (and we ALL have something to offer). Our selflessness becomes infused with a new level of authenticity, because we are no longer concerned about outcome. It’s no longer about how it’s received, because we are no longer yearning to fill an internal void. 
 
Talk about freedom. 

Some Words on Inspiration.

“You’re an inspiration.”
 
A phrase I have heard countless times throughout my life, and one that I have truthfully, come to dislike. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that when people tell me they find me inspiring it is coming from a well-intentioned place. That it is likely coming from a desire to connect with me. I do truly appreciate it. But the phrase has always made me uncomfortable, and it wasn’t until recently that I put some time and thought into figuring out why.
 
I realized that for me, the word “inspiration” carries the connotation of elevation and disconnection. For me, it signifies that one is different from the rest. Images of looking up and pedestals come to mind. Inaccessible. Not relatable.  
 
The notion of “us” (to be inspired) and “them” (the holders of inspiration). Self-judgement. Striving. Reaching. The feeling of not good enough yet. Not good enough until. Aspiring to be better.
 
Missing your innate greatness in the process.
 
We are all inspiring, because we are all human, and we all have stories to tell. We all have stories of triumph. Stories of failing. Stories of mistake-making. Stories of overcoming. Stories of radical insight. Stories of change. Stories of transformation. Stories of transcendence.  Stories of imperfection. Stories of vulnerability and courage. Stories of generosity and gratitude. Stories of pure love.

We all have unique stories that carry the power to connect us to our neighbour, our co-worker, that guy walking down the street, that girl in the coffee shop, that person sitting next to us on the bus, that person behind us in line at the grocery store etc.
 
Each of our stories is innately unique, but through each story is a thread which connects to the larger human experience. We are all holding it, and it is through our grasp of this thread that empathy is cultivated.

Inspiration is founded in the willingness to be real, transparent, raw, and relatable. It is found on the platform of equal ground. Heart-to-heart connections. It is found in the realization that to be inspiring is an inherent state of being. It is not reserved for a select few.
 
Inspiration is about authenticity. A fearless devotion to yourself- your passions, your likes, your dislikes, your mistakes, your dreams, your missteps, your successes, your strengths, your hopes, your excitement, and an unabashed willingness to share all that makes you, you. Inspiration is about openness.
 
Inspiration is about a commitment to embracing your individuality while recognizing your connection to the collective.
 
Individuality connects. Embracing who you are without hesitation, gives others the permission to do the same. Permission to be raw, radically shifting the nature of human interaction on a fundamental level as a result. No more masks and quickly stated “I’m fines.” Rather, more “I am fantastic! How are you?!” More “Life is amazing, I am so grateful to be alive.” More “I’m actually feeling pretty crappy right now.” More “I need a hug.” More “It’s SO great to see you!”

Commit to the expression of what’s real for you.
 
Reveal yourself without hesitation.
 
Revel in all that makes you, you. Revel in your greatness. Revel in your struggles. Revel in your individuality. Revel in your imperfection. Revel in your inherent awesomeness.
 
 Share it.
 
You’re an inspiration.
 

 

Hold Space for the Emergence of your Brilliance.

 
How often do you take a day to engage with what makes you illuminate?
 
When I sit down to write a piece, I typically do so plagued by feelings of discomfort- an internal pull of creative tension. It becomes something that I must do. To write makes me feel connected, fulfilled and of service, to both myself and others. Writing, for me, is an act of self-care.
 
But there were many years writing was something I put off until that elusive later. Other things kept me busy. My life was filled with obligations, and things that I felt I should do first- things that I had labeled as “necessary” and more important than taking the time to answer the call of the creative tension within me. I had structured my life in such a way that I was not allowing myself the opportunity of creative expression.
 
However, I have come to recognize the sheer importance of scheduling time for writing. Writing allows me find light in the muddled hustle of life. It allows me to find clarity and get centered. It allows me to sit with and reflect on my most deeply held values. It allows me to engage with life in a more real and authentic way, because allowing myself the space to write gets me grounded in the present moment. It cultivates my passion and expands my vision for what’s possible in all areas of my life. It energizes me and drives me forward.

 

Prioritize time for what lights you up- it is the key to long term productivity.
Making time for your art- whatever that is for you- allows you to shine brighter. It allows you to recognize and completely immerse yourself in that which is your unique brilliance. It helps you maintain focus and liberate your potential. It allows you to be more productive in other areas of your life, and leads to the creation of a life rooted in contentment.
 
Taking time for what lights you up no longer becomes something left to the last rung on the ladder of priorities. It becomes necessary- necessary for your well-being and necessary for the well-being of those around you. 
 
What will you do this week to illuminate?