Archive for March 2013

Self Improvement vs. Self Acceptance

Close-up of red blood cells and germsMarch 28, 2013

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

I had the honor of meeting author Robert Holden recently when we both spoke at the Hay House IGNITE event in San Jose, CA (which was an amazing experience, by the way).  Robert is someone whom I’ve admired for quite some time.  It was wonderful to get a chance to meet him in person and hear him speak live.  In his talk, he said “There’s no amount of self improvement that can make up for a lack of self acceptance.”

This statement really struck me and as I started to think about it more, I realized that so much of my life and my work is focused on self improvement.  And while there’s nothing wrong with me or any of us wanting to improve ourselves – too often we go about it erroneously thinking that if we “achieve” the “improvement” we’re after, we’ll then feel good about ourselves.  As Robert pointed out in his talk (and most of us have experienced this in our lives many times), it doesn’t work this way.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with self improvement.  We turn on the TV, look at magazines, take classes, read books, listen to others, surf the web and more – constantly getting various messages that if we just fixed, changed, and improved ourselves a bit, we’d be better off.  How often do you find yourself thinking some version of, “If I just lost a little weight, made a little more money, improved my health, had more inspiring work, lived in a nicer place, improved my relationships (or something else), then I’d be happy.”   Even though I “know better,” this type of thinking shows up inside my own head more often than I’d like.

The paradox of self improvement is that by accepting ourselves as we are, we give ourselves the space, permission, and opportunity to create an authentic sense of success and fulfillment.  When we insatiably focus on improving ourselves, thinking that it will ultimately lead us to a place of happiness, we’re almost always disappointed and we set up a stressful dynamic of constantly striving, but never quite getting there.

What if we gave ourselves permission to accept ourselves fully, right now?  While this is a simple concept, it’s one of the many things in life that’s easier said than done.  One of the biggest pieces of resistance we have regarding self acceptance is that we erroneously think that by accepting ourselves, we may somehow be giving up.  It’s as if we say to ourselves, “Okay, I’ll accept myself, once all of my problems and issues go away.”

Another reason we resist accepting ourselves is the notion that somehow acceptance is resignation.  It’s not.  Acceptance is acceptance – it’s about allowing things to be as they are, even if we don’t like them.  As Byron Katie says (and I often quote), “When you argue with reality you lose, but only 100% of the time.”

The paradox of self acceptance is that when we allow ourselves to accept who we are, where we are, what’s really happening, qualities about ourselves, aspects of who we are, and more – we actually set ourselves up and give ourselves the opportunity to make changes, improvements, and enhancements to ourselves and our lives in an authentic way.  When we obsess about and/or demand these improvements or changes “in order to” be happy, feel good about ourselves, or think we’re successful, it almost never works.

If you take a moment right now to think about some of the most important improvements and changes you’re attempting to make in your life, ask yourself this question, “What would it look like, feel like, and be like for me to fully accept myself in these important areas of my life?”

Most of the time it’s our own self criticism, perfection demands, and impatience that are actually getting in our way of making the changes, creating the success, and experiencing the fulfillment we truly want.  What if we changed our approach and with as much love, compassion, and vulnerability as possible, just accepted ourselves exactly as we are, right now!

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Who Are You Trying to Impress?

approved!March 14, 2013

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

As I prepare to speak at the Hay House I CAN DO IT event, I’m experiencing a myriad of emotions – excitement, nervousness, gratitude, pressure, curiosity, confusion, peace, and more.  It’s thrilling and humbling to be invited to speak at an event like this with such powerful teachers and authors like Wayne Dyer and Caroline Myss, whom I’ve admired and learned from for many years.  I’ve never actually been a part of an event like this, although I’ve dreamed about it for a long time and hope this is the first of many such events I get to participate in.

And, in the midst of my excitement and gratitude, I notice that more of my attention than I’d like to admit is focused on trying to impress certain people – the other speakers, specific people in the audience, and especially the organizers of the event.  Of course I want to do well and want my talk to be both well received and to have a positive impact on all who hear it (which is always my intention when I speak).

However, the more I’ve been noticing this focus on impressing others, the more I realize that this has been a theme throughout much of my life which doesn’t really serve me.  In school, as an athlete, in business, and even now in the work that I do as an author and speaker, I have been (and will continue to be) in many situations where I’m being evaluated.  When this occurs, especially if I’m feeling nervous, insecure, and/or attached to some specific outcome, my underlying goal is often to impress anyone and everyone involved.  Maybe you can relate to this?

How often do you find yourself trying to impress others?  Whether it’s in our work, with our friends, on Facebook or Twitter, at a class reunion, at a networking event, with our family, or just in everyday life, we spend and waste a lot of time and energy trying to impress others, somehow thinking that the acknowledgment, validation, and positive perception of other people will make us feel good about ourselves and prove our value or worth in life.  As you may have noticed, this never works.

While there’s nothing wrong with us wanting to do a good job, be well received by others, and get positive feedback, when we focus on impressing people we give away our power and set ourselves up for unnecessary stress, worry, and fear.

There was a book that came out about twenty five years ago by Terry Cole-Whittaker called, What You Think About Me is None of My Business.  Such a great reminder for all of us!

What if we stopped trying to impress others, and focused more of our attention on “impressing” ourselves.  In other words, being true to ourselves, feeling good about who we are, and showing up in the most authentic way possible are all things that give us real power.  Trying to manage, control, and ultimately manipulate other people’s perceptions of us is not only exhausting, it’s pretty much impossible.

As the wise sage Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  So true!

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