The more I talk to clients about their struggles, the more I realize that we all have some sense of dissatisfaction and even frustration with ourselves.
Pamela Sylvan, Featured Collaborator
I have it. Each morning I open my eyes, at least one dissatisfied thought about myself falls into my mind. I’d be willing to bet everyone reading does too. Consider some of the ways we’re dissatisfied with ourselves:
- We constantly have the queasy feeling that we should be better by doing more, being more productive or successful, and so on.
- We doubt ourselves when we have to speak in groups or publicly; and, feel that we’re not good enough to contribute or to speak up to make things right.
- We are unhappy with certain aspects of ourselves, like our bodies, the way our faces look, the way we procrastinate or get angry or lose patience as a partner or parent.
- We think we need to improve at some or all levels.
It’s a constant condition, and even if we get a compliment from someone, we undercut it in our minds because of feelings that we’re not good enough for that compliment.
Killing compliments have become our national past-time. It affects our lives in so many ways: we might not be good at making friends, speaking publicly or in a group, finding a partner, doing the work we’re passionate about, or even, finding contentment with ourselves and our lives.
And we don’t like feeling this way. So we run. We run far and long. We find ways to distract the feeling of ‘not enough.’ We take comfort in food, alcohol, drugs or shopping; and, lash out at other people when we’re feeling defensive about ourselves. It’s at the heart of nearly all of our problems.
So how do we deal with this underlying problem? The answer is profoundly simple, yet not easy.
Before I go into the solution, let’s first discuss something – the idea that we need to be dissatisfied with ourselves to make life improvements. I used to think (as I bet you have) that if we’re unhappy with ourselves, we’ll be driven to get better.
I no longer my belief. While it is not a bad thing to be turned to making improvements because we’re dissatisfied with ourselves, we have to hope for something better.
- When we are unhappy with ourselves, it’s hard to be happy when we do something good. We’re still dissatisfied. So when we do something good, it’s not as rewarding as it could have been.
- We have habits of running from this bad feeling about ourselves, so procrastination and distraction become the default mode. This approach gets in the way of our efforts, tripping up our journey to our dreams. In fact, we’ll never solve the problems of distraction and procrastination until we first learn to deal with the issue of unhappiness with ourselves.
- Dissatisfaction with Self can get in the way of connecting with others (because we think we’re not good enough, heightening the feelings of anxiety about meeting others). We can’t solve this, no matter how much we want to improve, until we address the underlying issue.
- Even when we make an improvement, the feeling of dissatisfaction with Self doesn’t go away. So we try to improve some more, and it still doesn’t go away. In my experience, it never does, until you’re ready to face it head on.
- During this “awesome” period of self-improvement driven by dissatisfaction, we don’t love ourselves. We’re waiting to arrive at our destination to feel good. This process is both sad and maddening.
So, is it possible to get things done and make improvements without dissatisfaction with Self? I’ve discovered that the answer is a definite ‘yes.’
You can exercise and eat healthy, not because you dislike your body and want to make it better, but because you love yourself and deserve to enjoy good health and feel energetic. Why not workout to inspire others to do the same? You can work out of love for the people it will help. Take this approach in other areas, as well. You can declutter, get out of debt, read more, and meditate, not because you’re dissatisfied with yourself, but because you love yourself and others. When you do it this way, you spiral up the energy of yourself and others.
In fact, I would take a leap of faith and say you’re more likely to do all of those things if you love yourself, and less likely if you dislike yourself. Hating yourself keeps you stuck in a downward spiral and loop of ineffectiveness.
Dealing With Dissatisfaction
What can we do about our constant dissatisfaction? How do we deal with self-doubt, feeling like we’re not good enough, unhappiness with certain parts of ourselves?
It turns out that these feelings are perfect opportunities! It’s your chance to learn about yourself and how to be friends with yourself.
- Each time you have these feelings, just pause and take notice.
- Turn towards the feeling, seeing how it feels in your body. Be curious about how it feels, physically. Journal what it’s like inside your body.
- Instead of running from this feeling, stay with it. Instead of rejecting it, try opening up to it and accepting it. (I smile and say, ‘so that’s what unhappiness feels like.’)
- Open yourself up to the pain of this feeling, and see it as a path to opening up your heart. In this way, getting in touch with the pain is a liberating act. You’re also making room for joy to enter.
- See this heavy feeling as a sign of a kind, loving and tender heart. You wouldn’t care about being a ‘good’ person, or a ‘good enough’ person, if you didn’t have a good heart. There is an essential goodness beneath all of our difficulties; and, we just need to stay and notice this goodness. Connect to it with gratitude.
- Smile at yourself, and cultivate an unconditional friendliness to all that you see.
Please know, this is not an easy process, nor is it an instance fix for your problems. However, it can start to form a trusting relationship with yourself, which can make an incredible difference. For me, it made all the difference in the world.
I recommend that you practice this each time you notice self-criticism, self-doubt, unhappiness with yourself, or harshness towards what you see in yourself. It only has to take a minute, as you face what you feel and stay with it, with unconditional friendliness. Just don’t forget to journal your thoughts and feelings as you do. Journaling is a powerful practice for lasting change.
You’ll gradually discover that if you stick with this practice that love is a more powerful motivator than unhappiness with yourself. I sincerely hope you’ll find a great friendship with yourself that will radiate out into your relationships with everyone else you know and meet.
Spiral up your light, walk towards your dream and smile.
Pamela Sylvan shines a powerful light on her PR clients and those with a powerful message helping them rise above the crowd to get seen. As a busy publicist and confidence mentor, she unravels the mystery involved in the science of boldness, bodaciousness and accountability and unpacks the true message inherent in each of us. You can connect with Pamela through the following spaces:
Facebook: Pamela Sylvan – Mojo Maker
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