Author: Mary Summerbell
Every year, as part of our earnest self-improvement efforts, many of us set goals to better our lives. We welcome the new year with the time honored tradition of New Year’s resolutions, or we set new goals as the season’s change. Whatever our motivation, we look to ourselves and our lifestyles to see where there might be room for improvement, or personal development. We decide to try to overcome old bad habits and/or develop new good ones. Health, finances, time management, work and relationship concerns compete for priority as we find fresh incentive to diet, exercise, save money, be on time, be patient with family, reconnect with friends, etc., etc., etc…. Whether we choose personal issues, or focus on ways we can change our environment, or both, the idea is to make a willing self-improvement effort that maybe, just maybe, will also make the world a better place. We set ourselves to do our little part to better the universe we live in.
It’s hard to argue against such fine intentions. So many good souls with such noble goals. And yet, according to my personal research, (based on experience and a multitude of magazine articles perused over a multitude of years), after a few weeks or maybe a month or two, most of us have lost our momentum. We’re given up or greatly strayed from our initial objectives, our determination diminished by life’s realities. The reasons for our lack of endurance are as many and varied as each one of us who makes an attempt, and as simple as the intrinsic fickleness of our human nature. We are left with feelings of failure and disappointment, but no less desire to do better, as proven by our perennial renewed enthusiasm.
My question is – without over-analysis – is there a way we can change this self-defeating pattern? I think so. I have an idea of how we might turn our good intentions toward options that afford us more of a sense of accomplishment. I’m trying something new, and I invite you to join me. It’s simple, easy enough to do, yet with potential to affect any, and every, aspect of our lives to which we choose to apply it. The object is not lofty goals or ambitious action, but to get some real, perhaps immediate, satisfaction from whatever effort we make, no matter how minimal.
I suggest we all try, right now, this minute, just a little, to be more who we truly are. More real. More genuine. More sincere. It doesn’t have to be for the whole year, or a month, or a week, or even a day. Let’s make this a super-achievable. I challenge you to try it – once. Just once. Do it. See what happens. If you want to, do it again. If not, then stop. No pressure. Give yourself permission to do as little or as much as you please, whenever, and however you please. Start, and stop, and start again, spontaneously or as planned. Like the old-fashioned candy, have some now, save some for later. Do it your way. Make it fun.
Sounds easy, you say. But what’s the catch?
What do I mean by being more me, being more you? Only this – to consciously shift, internally, in whatever way we are inspired to, out of a usual, comfortable, common, reflexive response and more toward authentic center, into true self.
It’s about getting in touch with our own insides – our likes and dislikes, our moods, our thoughts, our (gasp, not that!) feelings. Sadness. Happiness. Anger. Excitement. Fatigue. Wonder. Confusion. Peace. Curiosity. It’s about being aware, simultaneously, of our humanity and our individuality. All those little tugs and pulls and twitches and twinges we feel inside us all the time, but usually override, in the name of necessity or efficiency, on our way to something urgent or important.
If you’ve pushed these things aside for so long you’ve lost them, then maybe it’s time to take yourself to lunch and invite some of that stuff back into your life. Let your fingers find the pulse of your present personality. Let mind and heart find identity in current reality. Reintroduce yourself to you. Get to know yourself. Again. Better.
That’s all there is to it. Anytime, any place, in any situation – your choice – just ask yourself, “What’s really going on in here?” And give yourself an honest answer. Take any appealing, available opportunity to connect to who you really are. Your true self. Pick something small. Break through a little denial. Admit to yourself that you hate green beans, or love fried chicken. Feel how annoyed you get when the puppy pees on the carpet. How delighted you feel to get an e-mail from a friend. And what about the messy blessing of a sticky kiss from your kid? What happens inside you then? What’s happening inside you at any given moment? Who are you? How’s that feel?
If you can, allow yourself to be open to whatever comes. Without judgment. Without criticism. With compassion. Give yourself permission to be you. Give yourself a chance to explore and enjoy your internal terrain. Be all right with yourself, whoever you are. You don’t have to do anything about it, or with it, unless you want to. Just observe. And acknowledge. Let it be. Whatever “it” is. Information and insights may or may not find expression in action. That’s up to you.
Maybe you’ll wear those two bright colors you like together, even though you wonder how good it looks. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll wear a wild print tie with a striped shirt. Maybe you won’t. But at least you’ll know that you like that combination; it pleases your eye. Maybe you’ll put catsup on your macaroni and cheese, in public, risk being teased by whoever is with you. Maybe not.
But at least, giving yourself adequate opportunity, you will know yourself, your own unique taste, and perspective, your own unique responses to life. You can connect with your own preferences, weaknesses, strengths, priorities and potential. You can be in communication with your own mind, and heart, and soul. Be in a relationship, a healthy relationship, with yourself. Wow. What a concept. And what a way to build self-confidence.
Taking this to the next level, look for ways – healthy, constructive ways – to share this self–perception, this true self, with whoever we choose to trust. And to accept and relate to other people’s true selves. I mention this as fodder to ponder for you “uber-achievers” out there who need a greater challenge, and as a peek at the road map for us slower travelers. But I promised you simple, and fairly easy, and I aim to keep my word.
So most of us, with perfectly clear conscience, can hang out here for quite a while, somewhere between self awareness and self acceptance. All of us knowing, (yes?), that no matter where we’re at in the game, the first step toward anyone else accepting us is our own self-acceptance. By working on ourselves we are automatically working on our relationships with others.