My profession is a bit of a contradiction.
Life coaching is all about self-improvement. Get up early! Be productive! Think positive! Get the job!
But it’s also all about self-acceptance. You’re beautiful the way you are! They should love you for you!
Of course, those examples are exceptionally easy. Accept what you cannot control, and improve on what you can.
You have power over your alarm clock, but generally, you can’t control your metabolism (GOD I wish). So we like to redirect focus to what you can control – you know – good foods, exercise, and body positive affirmations.
But I have to admit, there is one FINE LINE between self-improvement and self-acceptance. It’s not always so cut and dry, and sometimes it’s really hard to tease out what is innately a part of you and what you can mold to your desire. Are you really able to change every little thing about you? And if you can, should you want to?
And what about those behaviors you aren’t necessarily proud of – like stubbornness, being opinionated, or a lack of sensitivity that you desperately wish you could change, but no matter HOW hard you try, you don’t quite budge. Are those traits unalterable? Or are you not trying hard enough? And at some point – when does it become not even worth it anymore?
I’ll admit – I don’t have all the answers.
These types of questions could take years to figure out. It requires a lot of dedication to the self, and a deep analysis of all your little quirks. But it’s worth diving into. So here’s how to tell if something is just apart of who you are and not worth messing with, and what you should focus on improving.
The Good Place
Ok, who here watches the BEST new comedy on TV, The Good Place?
(This is not an ad – but it could be). GET SOMEONE’S HULU PASSWORD AND GET ON IT.
I won’t give you any spoilers, promise. But I will break down one specific story line that could help identify what it is that’s inherently YOU and what you could learn to improve.
Elenor Shellstrop, Kristen Bell’s character, begins the season in The Good Place – or – better known as heaven. She’s told about all of her wonderful charitable actions on Earth and how they led her to be one of the chosen ones for an eternal life of bliss.
But there’s just one problem – she’s actually a dirtbag of a human being. There was a mixup with her ending up in The Good Place, and she ended up there by mistake. So, now she’s perplexed as to what she should do. Stay and enjoy heaven’s offerings even though she did about ZILCH to deserve it, or tell the truth?
(This is literally the log line of the show, don’t kill me pls.)
As the storyline progresses, Eleanor notices that she has an inner voice in her head that alerts her when she’s not doing something very nice. It goes like “Hey, Eleanor, maybe you shouldn’t have looked the other way when that old man fell down the stairs and taken his wallet with you.”
Knowing Eleanor, she usually does the crap thing anyway – but there’s still a voice telling her to do otherwise.
And that is when you know you can do better.
The reason why The Good Place is so incredibly amazing, is because the four main characters are simply caricatures of our worst traits. Elenor’s, of course, being selfishness. And I completely believe that we all have that little moral compass voice telling us when we could stand to be better in certain situations.
With that being said, start listening to yourself. What is your inner monologue telling you? Is it overwhelmingly positive, or does it speak up occasionally? (If it’s continuously negative then that’s another story – we probably need to work on some positive self-talk). If your conscience is telling you to be better, then you know you have untapped potential. What you’re doing isn’t a trait – it’s a fixable behavior.
I hate science. UGH I know I’m supposed to really like it because research! Experiments! The furthering of the human species! Yes yes yes but I hate it.
And of course, because I was an overachiever, I took almost every science class you could imagine. Biology. Chemistry. Physics. Astronomy (AHHHH). More Chemistry. And there was definitely Anatomy in there, too. I mean guys, I even chose to take Environmental Science senior year when I DIDN’T HAVE TO because it was a notorious blow off class and you got to pick an animal and make a five feet long mural of him and I could not resist drawing a life size penguin.
Anywayyyyy science was the bane of my existence. And the more I tried to be good at it, the more I sucked at it. I got a 22 on the ACT science section and it totally blew my score. Mother-freaking-science.
But it wasn’t the frustration that bothered me. It wasn’t the anger, and it wasn’t because of the challenge it posed. It was the EXHAUSTION.
Trying to be good at science simply wore me out. It didn’t energize me, it didn’t make me a better person, and it wasn’t going to make or break my future. Getting an A in science really wasn’t going to do much for who I was as a person anyway.
So I ditched it. I didn’t pursue Psych Honors because it had a research component (nice try) and I definitely didn’t pursue a PhD in psychology because SCREW YOU SCIENCE I’M A LIFE COACH NOW.
And that’s how you know to stop going after something that’s just not clicking! It’s that easy. If you are continuously trying to mold yourself or change yourself into something that is absolutely breaking you, let it go. Not everything is going to become second nature for you – (I still have to remind myself to offer guests something to drink when they come over – I always forget eeek) but it doesn’t EXHAUST me to remember. Fatigue is a sign that you are working in overdrive to force your body, mind, or heart into something that isn’t going to happen.
That’s why when relationships absolutely drain you, they’re not right for you. That’s why we don’t pursue careers that revolve around subjects we hated in school. That’s why we don’t push ourselves in a workout class to the limit because we’ll end up with a pulled hamstring for the next six weeks.
Now, don’t use this to excuse poor behavior, but do make a mental note that you’re probably not going to become whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish and accept the fact that maybe you’re just a bad hostess or a rocket scientist. Find things in the same arena that don’t exhaust you (I like reading from other counselors or relationship experts for my field), and let go of what is not fitting.
It’s Ruining Relationships You Want to Hold Onto
Think about the good relationships in your life for a second.
The ones that make you a better person. The ones you can seriously rely on. The ones that truly accept you for who you are and encourage you to be better when you want to make a change.
You gotta hold onto those relationships for dear life. But what happens when a behavior of yours is totally ruining one of them?
Well for starters, you have to decide if the relationship really is as good as it seems. Are they patient with you? Kind? Do you feel totally loved? Do you feel like they make an effort with you? Are you happy when you’re with them? Do you think the relationship is sacrificing your individuality?
If you just answered “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and no” then you’ve got yourself a pretty awesome relationship. So why throw it down the toilet over some crappy behavior you could totally do away with?
This is when the concept of compromise becomes pretty obvious. And this is when a minor change can do wonders for your happiness. I’m not talking about fundamentally changing your personality – but if you genuinely feel loved as you are – then why not start putting your dishes in the actual dishwasher? OK? OK?
Or, you know, make some other mild tweak that your partner would genuinely appreciate.
Point is, don’t let your relationships suffer because of minor changes you could easily make. If they aren’t tied to your values, then do something about it.
You’re Changing Yourself Because of Envy
Are you trying to become a better version of yourself because that’s what YOU want, or because that’s what you think is expected of you? Are you constantly looking over your shoulder and seeing what others are doing, and then trying in turn to mold yourself to fit in? Do you think nobody will truly love you or respect you for who you are unless you make some massive changes to yourself?
ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.
This is not self-improvement. This is self-sabotage.
You instantly set yourself up for failure if the impetus of change is one thousand percent fueled by insecurity. Insecurity is not satisfied by changes to hair style, language, fashion choices, work out habits, or new cars. It is only truly satisfied by self-love – something that can only be attained by self-acceptance.
So in cases like this, I deeply advise you to lean into yourself instead of trying to change it. Envy for others is never a good enough reason to change anything about yourself, because it will only lead you to a giant rat race that has no exit. Instead, combat envy with gratitude and patience. Combat it with positive thinking and reflection.
…And if you need help in this department, you know where to find us.
Sending love and balance to all. xoxo