How to Be True to You While Liking Who You Are
Last week I wrote you about my effort to tackle big goals by way of small steps. In doing some research on the subject, I stumbled onto the book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise. I’m nearly finished reading it and find the information not only useful but inspiring. In fact, I’ve already created three mini habits to begin my personal quest of improvement.
In that same post I promised an update a week out, and as of this post I’ve completed seven days of keeping to my new mini-behaviors! I’ll continue with tracking in my journal, though I won’t report to others until I’ve learned something new about establishing these new habits. For now, I’m riding the high of having done the bare minimum to succeed!!!
And that is the purpose of mini habits as Guise explains it—to do so little that it overrides the brain’s resistance to change. By keeping new behaviors small, they’re under the radar of the brain’s watch, and therefor aren’t detoured by the disruption of routines.
It’s the boost of achievements (tiny though they may be) that’s good for the psyche and helps ratchet up a sense of motivation, too. But the most important part of the action of mini habits is how you build that channel in the brain—with small, constant transmissions that this new behavior is on its way to becoming a habit. In other words, this process is literally helping in the work of rewiring the brain.
In recent days, the focus on self-improvement along with the solitude I’m enjoying in the morning has given me pause to consider why we bother to improve at all. My initial reasoning was that I seek to be a better version of myself. But as I step back from that rational, I wonder if there is a subversive undertone in such thinking—a self-loathing at play.
In the article by Pinky Jangra over at The Positive Psychology People, she describes the trap people can fall into of cycling through defeatist reasoning as the main impetus for improvement. If a person strives to change behaviors or a way of thinking based on the belief they’ll be a better person, then they’re probably telling themselves they’re “not good enough” in the first place. In this frame of mind, making changes is less likely to be successful even if the goal is reached because the individual may still feel they are inadequate.
Jangra offers up suggestions on how to shift negative thinking from something like, “I should fix my negative thoughts because they are holding me back,” to “I want to decrease my negative thoughts because they no longer serve me.” This compassionate spin transforms the idea of not being worthy to being of great worth and deserving of growth.
GETTING COMFY WITH SELF
As I seek to change, I’ve often focused on the need to know and like the self I’m working to improve. And then I wonder who that true self is and how best to like her. On one level, each person is the culmination of personality traits, life experiences, and the expression of genes—which all come together to create an individual. Even though I accept and have observed that all individuals change, I’ve also held that, within, there is an innate and stayed self that never wavers, and it’s that self which we each should get to know and accept.
In the TedXyouth@Manchester, philosopher and journalist Julian Baggini discusses self and suggests it is far from static. He explains that all the events, opinions and circumstances that occur around us remain fluid as does the self, which draws all these bits together. If any of those slices shifts away, the self is still present—only different. We are each like the waterfall that flows over the rocks, always in a state of change, so, to know “you” is to understand that you are in flux and can’t be defined by any one aspect so easily.
We retain nothing permanently but reexamine our past and our thoughts through the present, and even the traits we believe to be defining are malleable over time. The gregarious girl of my youth, for example, has turned into a more sedate and quieter woman as I’ve aged. I’m sure the Myers-Briggs I might have taken as a 20-something would be very different today.
This means to “know oneself” is to recognize that we are a collection of parts, and that who we are and will be are everchanging.
If the goal is to know and like the self, then the work of growth becomes more interesting and important. We aren’t just digging into who we have been to understand who we are but actively crafting who we become through our aspirations and endeavors.
This of course, does not mean we don’t get lost in the weeds wrestling with negative feelings about who we have been—but we can take heart knowing that to like one’s self is to care enough to keep striving and growing so that the self you become enriches your life.
Sherry is the founder of Storied Gifts a personal publishing service of family and company histories. She and her team help clients curate and craft their stories into books. When not writing or interviewing, Sherry spends loads of time with her grandchildren and lives in Des Moines, Iowa.
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