When it comes to self-care and development, what if all we need is to embrace ourselves as we are, knowing that we’re doing the best we know how in the moment?
There is power in being unapologetically dedicated to bettering yourself. But that power can often be skewed to a one-sided invitation to just be more positive. The practices below preach that if we want wholesome happiness, we need a wholesome perspective.
1. Show gratitude for your fear
Scientific research has consistently proven that starting and maintaining a gratitude practice can have a strong impact on your happiness. What isn’t shared, however, is showing gratitude for something we’re taught is inherently bad: fear.
Fighting fear has become the poster-child of self-development talks and seminars, on the premise that fear is ruling our lives and consequently, destroying it. We’re guided to stand up to fear and push back against its malevolent agenda, until we’re “free.” But what we’ve missed to realize is that fear is still a part of what makes us wholesomely human. It has, and continues, to keep us safe, by alerting us of dangers that threaten our survival. To push it away is to discard a part of our human identity that is vital in living a life of balance.
When showing gratitude for abundance in your life, begin to include the fear that has kept you safe this week, or has brought you awareness to a past trauma that you’re processing. Start to see your fear as a friend who just needs to be seen, heard, and acknowledged.
2. Recognize your limitations and honor them
Our limitations are not barriers keeping us at bay; they are boundaries that shape us and give us facets of evolving definition. How would we come to appreciate success, if we never tasted bitter failure? Why would we ever learn from our mistakes, if we never took the risk to make them? Limitations are there for us to simply be human and experience the beauty of that gift. They’re not something to overcome; they’re something to honor. They give us shape and a reason to keep going through life, even when it challenges us.
Challenge yourself by looking at your limitations with a fresh perspective. Imagine them not as fence posts that keep you enclosed, but as foundational pillars that honor your growth.
3. Strive to be the most self-aware YOU, not some better version
You are the best version of yourself right now. Mel Robbins shares a quote that alludes to this — if you knew better, you would do better. When we’re stuck in this self-searching, we feel like there are major parts missing of who we ought to be; instead of seeing ourselves as we are, we begin to see ourselves as we’d like to be. Not only does this keep us from living in the present moment, it also keeps us from loving ourselves in an authentic way.
There are no better versions of ourselves that we can go out and find, because the life we want can only grow from the mindset we create. Practicing self-awareness and becoming conscious of our thoughts, actions, and behaviors are the cornerstones of this mindset. Recognizing when we’re agitated and moody, and digging deeper to acknowledge the trigger from which this comes is one example. If we turn to drugs or alcohol to soothe our anger, we can practice self-awareness to notice that we’re numbing a thought or a trauma that should be instead, acknowledged. This creates new neuro-pathways in the brain that alter the course from negative self-medicating to positive and authentic self-acknowledgement.
4. Own your accountability
We are directly responsible for our happiness and our struggle, and it is therefore on us to want to help ourselves. This is especially true when it comes to the belief that the world owes us something. It doesn’t, which makes this truth a hard pill to swallow.
When circumstances are against us, we use them to justify our struggle. We punt the blame elsewhere, and end up stewing in the resentment and anger of what we see as unfair and unjust. This breeds depression, anxiety, illness, and overall bottom-barrel struggle.
The world will never stop throwing curve balls, nor will it give you a break because you think you deserve it. It’s life’s hardest lesson, but we need it to realize that we’ve never grown without a struggle or a challenge. The range of opportunities and disappointment is spread to us all. But how we react to it is vastly individualized. We must hold ourselves accountable to every choice, thought, decision, and action, no matter what life serves our way. Embracing the mantra that “everything is temporary” is one way of acknowledging the struggle, and yet detaching yourself from the belief that it is permanent. This clarity won’t change your circumstances, but it will empower you to change your reaction and therefore, your action, for the better.
5. Face your own mess
From childhood to adulthood, what we think creates the reality in which we live, and ironically, the reality about which we complain. Because we’re deeply seeped in relationships, jobs, homes, families, and self-talk that is no longer serving us, we can’t see past the baggage that has now become our reality. Clouded by our triggers, traumas, and unresolved feelings, we cling tight to habits and people who won’t question our poor choices — because misery really does love company.
The practice of facing ourselves fully goes hand in hand with practicing accountability. By doing so, we can take off the proverbial blindfold and do better; and not because we want to be someone else, but because we know that striving for wholesomeness and balance in life is far worthier of a journey than discarding the pieces of ourselves that we’ve grown to dislike. There is always a message in our mess that is patiently waiting to be unearthed, and it is our brave duty to seek it out.