Since high school, I have been obsessed with self-improvement. There’s been something tantalizing to me about learning all these ways I can “improve” myself or make myself “better”.
I have a large whiteboard in my room where I write my monthly, weekly, and daily goals. At the end of each day, I check off the goals I accomplished. When there is a goal I can't check off, I criticize myself for “not following through” and then make myself promise to accomplish it the next day (sounds super motivational, right? Ha).
One night last week I had a conversation with my dad where he asked me how my day was and I responded, “Well I accomplished all my goals. But I don’t feel happy. And I don’t know why.”
I thought my constant goal-setting was helping me but it was actually harming my self-esteem. Every time I criticized myself for not following through on my goals perfectly, I fueled the belief that I wouldn’t be good enough until I got it right. I also fueled the belief that I needed to prove myself in some way.
My obsession with self-improvement was not actually improving my life. It was adding feelings of insecurity, disappointment, and extreme stress.
I decided I wanted out of this self-sabotaging cycle. So I'm doing a lot of thought work around my beliefs to loosen them up.
I want to consider that my belief that I need to always focus on self-improvement is not a fact, but it just feels true because I've practiced it so often.
Here are some questions I’m asking myself to help give some space between me and this belief:
- What am I trying to prove? To whom?
- Why do I think I need to “improve” myself?
- What if, just for 1 minute, I could allow myself to believe that I am perfect and worthy exactly how I am now?
- What if I tried on the idea that nothing about me needs to change?
- What if there is no pressure and I can accept where I am in this moment?
Journaling my answers to these prompts is allowing me to practice more self-compassion. I'm able to see how quickly my mind rejects the possibility that I actually have nothing to prove. I have practiced this thought so often that it will take some time to believe something else.
And that’s okay. There’s no rush. I’m willing to do the work.
In the meantime, I'm throwing away my goal tracker and I feel so free.
Do you feel you need to prove yourself? Try journaling some of the prompts above and let me know what you learn.