In this article I want to talk about the things that I have found help and hinder working on ourselves in my professional and also personal experience.
I have found that many seemingly different issues and concerns often have their roots in a few areas that are foundational to us being happy and healthy. These are a great idea to work on, rather than only focusing on whatever surface problem has popped up recently.
Broadly speaking these areas and abilities include:
Being able to tune into our feelings
Being aware of our bodies
Being kind to ourselves
Having a good level of self-esteem
Being able to accept whatever we are feeling
The ability to take enough time
Knowing what is authentic to us
Having clear minds
Knowing our values
Having the right balance of structure (i.e. our beliefs) and flexibility (i.e. the ability to adapt those beliefs as needed)
The ability to give and accept love
I’m sure there are more that I have missed out, and then there are a lot of peripheral other ones, for example; regular exercise, good diet, making good decisions, having great relationships. However, there are so many other things that impact our lives and I want to focus on the main things that impact our progress with our own development.
We can easily approach self-development in a way that actually hinders our progress in the long-term. The following examples are patterns I have seen many times over:
Some engage in self-development work to try to improve themselves because deep down they feel they are not enough. So no matter how much they work on their self-development, it never feels like enough.
Others of us may be wonderfully focused and physically and mentally aware, but not kind to ourselves. This makes the more vulnerable parts of ourselves retreat out of sight – becoming impossible to work with, leading to a stalemate.
Some of us may be in a rush to arrive at our destination already! But nothing reinforces progress so much as recognising our achievements and kindly giving ourselves the time we need to process everything and let the changes filter through our whole being.
Or the people who are wonderfully astute mentally, but have little connection with their bodies and see them as superfluous to the type of development they are interested in achieving? They will always be pulled back by lack of connection to their bodies, which are an incredible resource.
Or we may be constantly striving to give love to others, but only able to accept a little in return. We might feel comfortable working with people who are perceived as less fortunate in some way, so that there is no risk of having to open up to a reciprocal relationship. Without the ability to accept love we will lack the internal space that is needed for great self-development work, and we will probably also not fully believe we deserve to be happy and taken care of.
Do any of these ring true even a little? We would all rather play to our strengths and this often means there are some surprising blind spots in us, areas we typically work around rather than look at directly. And I get it – it’s really hard for all of us to look at areas that we may not like or that make us feel vulnerable, but if we continue to avoid them they will always hold us back. So why don’t you have a look at the above list slowly, and have a think about which one you least prefer, would rather avoid. That one should be your focus.
Before I mentioned the quality of “internal spaciousness”. Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it? Like a cavity in our torso or something. This space is not a negative feeling of emptiness inside us, that is a completely different thing. This quality is a little hard to describe, but let’s compare a few things that increase or reduce the spaciousness inside us:
|Acceptance||Harsh judgement/ rejection|
|Allowing time||Rushing on too hastily|
|Being open-minded||Being very closed-minded|
|Breathing fully||Shallow sips of air|
The feeling that you get when reading the first column can show you what having internal spaciousness feels like (and the second column, the lack of it).
What this space does, is allow us to be completely and fully aware of our feelings and experience. It gives emotions the space they need to transform and express themselves, and thoughts the space they need to fully develop. This spaciousness can be thought of a little as the flexibility people allow within themselves, but it also requires kindness to ourselves too.
So be kind, be spacious and don’t forget to celebrate your successes! Self-development is a long road and it shouldn’t be all grind, or all just in one direction to the detriment of all others. And above all – at least sometimes – it should be fun.