Are you your own worst critic? Do you also take personal development and spiritual growth seriously? Ironically, your very desire for self-improvement can make self-judgment even stronger. However, at some point on your journey, you discover that moving out of self-judgment is a crucial step if you are going to change your life and achieve what you truly desire. In this article, we explore the shift from self-judgment to self-confidence, which includes a surprising first step on that path.
Many of us learn from a young age to “be hard on ourselves.” As early as we can remember, parents and teachers told us what we can and can’t do-and the “NOs” tended to dominate. Of course, those telling us “No” usually had our best interests at heart. They were likely doing their best to help us succeed. We all do the best we can, given what we know at the time.
Unfortunately, because of their desire to help us avoid disappointment and frustration, we learned how we “should be” much more strongly than we learned to be “who we are.” We learned to fit into the mold. Self-judgment became a tool to keep us on the accepted path.
Now, as we journey through life, we may find that the ways we were taught to fit in don’t work for us. Fitting in just isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. We feel stifled, frustrated, and unfulfilled. Our frustration leads us to look for different answers. We have a feeling that there is more to life and we want it!
A great power of being human is that we can observe ourselves in action, see our patterns, and make changes in our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. We can wake up to what we are currently doing, imagine other ways of being, and take new actions to have better results. This is the path of self-development and spiritual growth.
Now, as we gain insight on how to “do better,” a natural reaction is to criticize “how we are now.” It’s natural to idealize how we “want to be” and measure ourselves harshly against that. It’s an easy trap to fall into. After all, we’ve been trained well in self-judgment. Yet, here’s the irony:
To shift to a new way of being, you must first completely accept how you are now.
This is essential for two reasons. First, self-acceptance is necessary for you to clearly see what you are currently doing. Second, it’s a step toward a fundamental attitude shift.
Self-acceptance enables you to witness all of who you are, so you can be very “real” with yourself. Acceptance enables you to see clearly because you’re not filtering what you see according to “what you want to see” and “what you don’t want to see.” You’re more likely to take in the whole picture when you remove the strong filter of self-judgment. You’re less likely to ignore things that you don’t like about yourself-and these are just as important pieces of information as the parts you do like. Self-acceptance is taking a neutral position towards yourself that helps you see who you really are.
Self-acceptance is also the first step of an attitude progression. It’s a small step up from acceptance to “appreciation.” When you start to see yourself clearly, you can appreciate the beauty of “exactly how you are.” You see your strengths and you discover that what you thought were “weaknesses” actually give you a unique perspective that can be useful. It’s that variety of exact details that gives you a unique niche in life.
From appreciation it’s another small step up the attitude ladder to gratitude. The more you appreciate yourself exactly as you are, the more grateful you feel for the gifts, resources, and circumstances you’ve been given. When you learn to look at life through the lens of gratitude, you start to notice the unique opportunities in every detail and circumstance. You begin to marvel at the infinite complexity and coherence of the Divine design.
For example, when you were trying to fit into the “extroverted” ideal that is celebrated in this world, you may have thought your introversion was a “liability.” However, the fact that you are introverted gives you sensitivity to inner feelings and experiences. That could make you a student of the inner life, excelling at practices such as meditation. As you pursue that interest, you could learn to describe meditative experiences so that others can understand and benefit from them. When you fully develop that skill you realize that your introversion is a real “asset” and not a liability.
When you understand, appreciate, and are grateful for your assets, you gain confidence in who you are.
Instead of struggling to fit in, you see that you are made perfectly for what you are here to do. There is a Greater Power and Intelligence at work that has created you exactly this way for a purpose. Self-confidence flows naturally when you appreciate your unique talents, resources, and perspective and trust your connection to the Greater Power that has given these to you.
To learn more about discovering your unique purpose and living the life of your dreams, check out the resources box below.
Kevin Schoeninger graduated from Villanova University in 1986 with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. He is certified as a Life Coach, Reiki Master Teacher, Qigong Meditation Instructor, and Personal Fitness Trainer.