“…We can effectively affirm only that which we know, and we know only that which we are. It is herein that we see the necessity of providing within a greater concept of life; a bigger idea of ourselves and a more expanded concept of the Universe in which we live, move and have our being. This is a matter of inner growth together with the enlarging of all lines of thought and activity.”
I’m my own worst critic.
The negative voices that fill our heads may come from any number of sources but we are the ones who let them keep ringing out. We are the ones who keep giving them validity and keep believing them.
I see and celebrate my successes, sometimes.
I acknowledge my worth occasionally. (I’m getting better about this.)
But I never miss a failure. I never overlook a mistake. I see my weaknesses, my missteps, in all their naked truth. Usually, the only time I give any weight to my identity is when I’m reviewing the things I’ve done wrong. Negativity is heavier than positivity, awful but true.
A focus on failure
When we get tired of our negative identities (the ones we give ourselves), we try to change something. Usually ourselves: our habits, our behaviors.
“I’m going to do better.”
What we mean is we’re going to fail less, or in more acceptable ways.
For example, if I want to lose weight, maybe I’ll go on on a diet. I’ll start working out more.
I’ll lose some weight.
But what does my mind do? Celebrate? Rejoice? Enjoy the moment?
More often than not, all I will see is how much weight I still want to lose. Maybe five pounds are gone, but what about the fifteen still hanging out on my thighs? Maybe my calves are slimmer, but look at those upper arms!
I can destroy my success by focusing on not being something I don’t want to be. This isn’t pursuit of a meaningful goal. It’s a retreat, an escape, running away, trying to outdistance some (seemingly) negative aspect of my identity.
There’s no victory in this approach to life. There’s no real success.
There are only varying degrees of failure.
No matter how hard I try, or how much I progress, my identity is fixed: someone who is still not good enough.
Two ways to grow
There are two ways to grow: the first way is to notice how we fail, and try to fix it, to change it. We can accomplish a lot this way, but it’s painful and demoralizing.
Our motivation is poor: we’re running away from something negative rather than running toward something positive and good.
No matter how much we change, we always see the negative past behind us, the failures stacking up, and the changes are never quite enough. We can never truly move our identity from the negative by focusing on the negative. We can never see ourselves as victors when we are retreating.
The second way to grow is better.
It’s to notice how we are right, how we are winning, how we are what we want to be, and to open up to more of the same. It’s to notice how we are already good and beautiful. It’s to acknowledge that goodness and beauty inherent in us, and to make room for it, live it, embrace it.
Most of us have a really, really difficult time with this.
We have these deep, old, rumbling voices telling us that there’s nothing inherently good about who we are.
They scream our unworthiness.
They review our failures, over and over.
The most courageous thing we can ever do is to tell those voices to get the hell out of our heads.
When we grow in the second way, the better way, we grow from positive motivation.
We see good, and we bring in more good.
We see beauty, and we create more beauty.
We see worth, and we acknowledge it, and we begin to live according to the best of what we already have and are rather than focusing on what we lack.
We find what we love about ourselves, and we celebrate it. We increase it, expand it, make more room for what is already good.
When we act from positivity, we remove the fear and stress. We throw away the guilt, the shame, the painful effort and self-inflicted punishment.
Growth becomes easy, as simple as taking one little step after another.
“If you had a thought once, it has no power over you. Repeat it again and again, especially with emotional intensity, feeling it, and over time, you're creating the grooves, the mental river. Then it controls you. And that is why a focused mental loop is the solution. Take this one thought, I love myself. Add emotional intensity if you can - it deepens the groove faster than anything. Feel the thought. Run it again and again. Feel it. Run it. Whether you believe it or not doesn't matter, just focus on this one thought. Make it your truth.”
An internal blueprint: Start where the real choices are made. Start in the place where you are simple and true and have a self that is your own. Know that self.
What change feels like: Varying degrees of terror, basically, but there are ways to make it better.
Personal growth for broke people: Happy to report I’m no longer broke. These lessons still hold true for me, broke or not.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It: A short, profound read. Apply it and see amazing things happen. If you related to anything above (i.e., feeling like someone who’s still not good enough), make this book your next read.