You’ve done everything you know to do. You’ve lost that extra 30 pounds that kept you from your “perfect size.” You spent your last bit of savings getting a makeover – new hairdo/haircut, new wardrobe, ripped abs, teeth whitened. You look good and you know you look good. You’ve studied successful people and do your best to emulate their walk, the way they speak, how they react to others. You should feel good about yourself but, surprisingly, you don’t.
You look in the mirror and the image that looks back at you is a facade – a fake. A phony. At least that’s what you think. The false smile covers up the emptiness you feel inside and it masks the pain that seems always to be there. No matter how great you look you still don’t feel “good enough.”
“Why can’t I be like everyone else?” the voice inside your head asks.
The answer might surprise you. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe you have become just like everyone around you when, in fact, you are a unique, remarkable one-or-a-kind human being.
We are bombarded by the media to look a certain way, talk a certain way, believe a certain way. But, think of this (and I know you know this already), there are over 7 billion people on the planet and no two are alike. We aren’t supposed to be alike. So why don’t you stop trying to be like someone else and discover you own uniqueness? It comes down to the questions:
Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you want?
Real, lasting self improvement involves answering these questions and getting to know who you really are. It involves self awareness, self acceptance, and self love. Answering these questions will bring you worlds of information about yourself and it will open up more questions. It is an exciting adventure and you are the only one who can do it. No one can do it for you.
The perfect starting place for this “inner work” is to learn to sit quietly. Simply be with yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts and the way your body feels. Relax by taking a few deep breaths and consciously releasing any muscle tension you notice. Then, relaxed and quiet, ask yourself the questions. Don’t be surprised at the answers to “Who am I” that come into your mind. Write them down. Each time you ask, let your mind explore further. Pay attention to the information you receive either at the time or as you proceed through your day.
Pay attention. Become a student of you. Why do you react to things the way you do? For example, how do you react when someone tells you “no?” Why do you react that way? How do you react when you’re cut off in traffic? Why? How do you react to something beautiful? What touches your soul and brings tears to your eyes with its beauty? What do you like? What do you dislike? Why? What things do you react to in ways that you saw your parents react when you were a child? For example, you see someone dressed a certain way and you immediately decide you don’t like them. What are your broad generalizations about people? I heard a little boy make the declaration, “All girls are slow!” He was seven years old. How did he come to believe that? Will he learn better? What “old programs” do you still have running?
Monitor your thinking. Are your thoughts about yourself predominantly positive or negative? When you make a mistake do you say “I can and will do it better next time” or do you berate yourself with phrases like “You don’t do anything right. How can you be so stupid?” Begin to change your thinking to more and more positive. Yes, even Pollyanna-ish. Your thoughts are the powerful creators of everything in your life. If you pay attention you might be surprised about where your thoughts take you and what they are creating for you that you aren’t aware of.
What do you believe? Have you examined your own beliefs about the important things in life? What do you believe that you weren’t told you HAD to believe about God, politics and government, sex, marriage, family, work, play, human potential? Have you thought them through?
This is by no means an end of the self discovery process but it will give you a good starting place.
Self improvement is most definitely an inside job and going within is as simple as getting quiet and relaxed and allowing yourself to as honestly as you can, answer the questions. As you know more about who you are and what your truly want, you will begin to notice small but significant changes taking place within you and the person in the mirror will begin to smile back in approval.
Irene Conlan has a master's degree in nursing, with a major in nursing administration and a minor in psychiatric nursing. She taught nursing at Arizona State University, served as Director of Nursing Administration at St. Luke's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services for the Division of Health Care Facilities and Emergency Medical Services. Now retired, she is an avid blogger and manages http://www.theselfimprovementblog.com http://www.theselfesteemblog.com and hosts the Self Improvement Radio Show on VoiceAmerica. Irene lives in Scottsdale AZ and has two sons and three grandsons.