I’ve noticed something about Self Help books. They’re all the same.
Well, there’s two categories, but all the self help books in the land fall into one of the two.
Category 1: The Everything-Is-Fine
Category 2: The Kick-In-The-Ass
You will recognize the Everything-Is-Fine when you read statements such as, “Forgive yourself,” and, “It’s okay, you’re doing your best.”
You’ll recognize the Kick-In-The_Ass when you read statements such as, “Stop lying to yourself,” and, “The only reason you’re not achieving what you want to is because of YOU. No more excuses.”
Eventually, both of these categories begin to feel equally silly. You can only hear so many, “You’re okay, it’s okay, it’ll be okay, you’re doing your best,”s before it starts to feel all Kris Jenner ~*~*you’re doing amazing sweetie~*~*
And you can only take so much motivated and self-deprecating yelling from the guy reminding you of your failures in an effort to encourage you to stop failing (looking at you, Grant Cardone).
But what about those of us who fall into category three?
Those of us who need an ass-kick but like, a gentle, understanding, supportive ass kick?
I’ve found myself in this category three for some time now. As someone with an incredible, encompassing need for control and perfection, but also someone with clinical depression, I always found myself at one end of the spectrum – either blissfully living my life without a regard for responsibility or discipline, or rigorously policing myself, my environment, and my people to ensure absolute control at all times.
Of course, the goal is balance in all things, but especially in our self development. Neither extremes mentioned above are healthy or sustainable. Although most of these self help books were missing the mark a little bit for me, I listened to them and scoured them anyway, determined to absorb any bit of information that could actually apply to me, and other Category Threes.
What I’ve learned is this:
1. You need to take a fierce look at yourself.
Just like the way you may find yourself fiercely looking at those around you. To clarify, I don’t mean for you to come from a place of hatred or insecurity. However, you are going to have to be a bit judgemental. You have to analyze everything. Every decision, every emotion, every action. How are you feeling right now? What was your motive in that conversation? What was it that just made you that angry? Why did it make you angry? Why is it that this needs to happen this certain way? What will happen if it doesn’t?
Take note of the reoccurring themes, conversations, and triggers. Does talking to that one friend always leave you drained and exhausted? How do you feel when you get home from work for the day? When you wake up on Saturday with nothing to do?
Introspection will be your greatest tool on this self help journey. The more observant you are of yourself, the more deeply you’ll begin to understand yourself, and that is pivotal to your growth.
2. You’re going to be uncomfortable. That’s kind of the whole point.
No growth occurs within your comfort zone. To truly grow and develop yourself, you’re going to have to catapult yourself into new and uncomfortable situations. You’ll need to have difficult conversations, with yourself and with others.
(I like this part of the Kick-In-The-Ass books. They always remind you that this growth is not simple, it is not easy. It takes effort, energy, and dedication. Nothing changes if nothing changes.)
3. Discipline does not equal punishment.
This is the biggie. I struggle with this…a lot. Finding a happy place between honoring your immediate desires and honoring your long term goals is difficult.
But there is a difference between disciplining yourself, and punishing yourself.
For me, discipline is consistently reminding yourself of your goals. It is coming back to your mindset of positivity, motivation, and determination, even when those feelings feel out of reach. You will have to push yourself, and you will have to commit. These are not bad things. They’ll just require a bit of extra effort on your part.
Understand that every action you take has the ability to propel you forward. 99% of the time, you’re gonna feel better after you do the thing, whether its taking that walk after work even when your couch is calling you, or sacrificing your night out with the gals to finish a passion project. Whatever it is that’s calling for your attention and effort, answer. It’ll always be worth it.
That being said, listen to your body at all times.
If you are tired, rest. Hungry? Eat. Injured? Stop. Your body knows what you need, and it will tell you. Fuel your body properly, whether it be through the food you eat, the media you consume, or the rests you take.
The easiest way to listen to your body is to ask it what it needs. Check in with yourself constantly. How are you feeling? Where is your mind at? Are you focused?
Sometimes, fatigue and laziness feel the same. Sometimes hunger and boredom feel the same.
Ask yourself if you are giving your best effort. If you are, and you’re tired, then rest up. If you aren’t, see if you can put just twenty more minutes of focus and energy towards your work. Push yourself. Then rest.
4. It’s okay for your world to be small for a little while.
Especially important as of late. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
A conversation with a dear friend a few weeks ago reminded me that how I was feeling was, in fact, okay.
The world we are in right now is scary. It is infuriating and frustrating and confusing and scary. The past few months have reminded us all that this world is huge, and we are small. Our world is filled with hurt and heartache and illness and injustice and anger and violence. There are people who are suffering like I have never suffered before, and I will never understand. Our world is big. And heavy.
If you’re in a place where you’re working on yourself, you’re healing yourself, and you’re educating yourself, it’s okay if you need a smaller world right now. If your focus needs to be on your health and your wellness, that is okay. Release any guilt you’re feeling for focusing on yourself. You deserve your own attention. Your health deserves your own attention. It is not selfish, it is self respect.
(I like this part of the Everything-Is-Fine books. They help you prioritize yourself, allow yourself grace for the in-betweens, and remember that we’re all just making these rules for ourselves as we go along. You’re fine, and you’re going to stay fine. Seriously.)
While 2020 rambles on, I wish you peace, health, and success on your self help journey. May we all continue to do our best and be our best.