“Am I where I want to be? Am I living the life I deserve?” These are all questions we have asked ourselves over the last several weeks as the world has been upended. These are tough questions that each of us has likely had to answer at some point. Did you like your answers? Or did they force to you face a truth you had known all along? What needs to change is: You. I’ve been there. Thankfully, once you are aware of what needs to change, you can begin to do what is necessary to change it. Changing “you” may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it’s 100% worth it if when your done, you get to live the life you know you deserve. Taking personal inventory in this way isn’t easy. You’re brave for being honest enough with yourself to admit that you need to change. In this moment, there is a disconnect between who you are and who you know yourself to be. When those two things are out of alignment, it can feel impossible to live the life you deserve because there is no clarity of vision or purpose. When this disconnect is present, the best way to create positive, sustainable personal change is to cultivate self-love, bolster your self-esteem, and reconnect with your true self.
1. Cultivate Self-Love
When self-love is cultivated, the challenging work of changing yourself is softened the balms of patience and self-compassion. Change is hard enough on its own, especially when you know that you’ll inevitably face obstacles along the way. Cultivating a healthy sense of self-love will allow you to be gentle with yourself as you navigate any unavoidable challenges. Knowing you love yourself unconditionally will anchor you when your journey gets tough. Getting unstuck can be uncomfortable. You might feel vulnerable as you confront the things about yourself that are contributing to the status quo. Change is a process, one that requires you to exercise patience and compassion with yourself. It’s okay to be vulnerable with yourself; it means you’re being honest. Each change you make moves through a cycle – pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
During the pre-contemplation stage, you are not actively seeking to change your behavior, and in some cases you may not be aware that a change is necessary. Yet, external influences may resonate with you on a deeper level, beginning to peak your curiosity or interest in potential change.
Once you move into the contemplation stage, change is on your radar. You have realized that there is change that needs to be made, and you are considering making it.
The preparation stage is all about getting ready for the change. You are actively doing the mindset work and strategic planning so that you can do what is necessary to make the change you desire. At the conclusion of this phase, you truly believe that you can and will change.
Action is the next logical stage of the change cycle. You have done all the preparation, and now it’s time for you to make your move. It’s time for you to take that initial action that will catalyze the change.
The maintenance stage begins once the initial action has been taken and new behaviors have been established for a period of time. This final stage is all about adjusting to your new normal. It will be important for you to continue to engage in the practices that will help you ensure that this change is sustained in the long-term. Its important to remember that these cycles are not linear, and it can take a few rounds for the change to stick. As a result, self-love is essential to successfully changing yourself. Without it, surviving the change cycle and all the resistance that comes with it is almost impossible. Self-love “acknowledges your basic worth but also requires that you take care of that worth actively nurturing yourself … through loving behavior.”((PsychCentral: The Basics of Self-Love)) Being loving towards yourself can take many forms, from writing yourself a kind letter to taking a moment to reconnect with your breath. Yet, the most important are self-compassion, non-judgment, and patience. Like flowers in a garden, these concepts need to be cultivated. The practice of mindfulness can help to cultivate self-love. Mindfulness teaches you to bring your mind to a place of gratitude for the now. Intentionally taking the time to slow down, acknowledge the truth of now, and embrace the positive about that reality while still noticing the negatives is an act of radical self-love.
2. Bolster Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is fundamental to not only believing that you’re capable of change but also that you are worthy of the effort required to achieve what you truly desire. To change yourself for the better, you have to not only believe that you can change, but you must also believe that you are worthy of the life that positive change will bring. At the core of that belief is your self-esteem. Put plainly, self-esteem is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Trying to change yourself could cause you to have some negative feelings about yourself, which is why it’s important that we do the work of cultivating self-love first. It is advantageous to be anchored in a knowing that you will patiently, compassionately, and unconditionally nurture yourself through the tough spots as you are in the process of starting to implement change and holding yourself accountable. A strong sense of positive self-esteem is critical. Your sense of self-esteem is based on the evidence you’ve gathered from your experiences and connections. You did a good job at work, thus you feel good and you believe you can do it again. The positive experience provides you with evidence that naturally bolsters your self-esteem. Your relationships are another well spring for positive self-esteem when you maintain healthy relationships with people who you believe in and admire. When those people then believe in you, their belief makes you believe in yourself a little more. It takes a lot of courage to follow through with and maintain new behaviors that will sustain a long-term change. If you don’t believe that you can or that you’re worth it, then you’re fighting a losing battle.
3. Reconnect With Your True Self
The final member of this conceptual trinity is the true self. Reconnecting with your true self is imperative to successfully creating sustainable change for yourself. At the moment, you are out of alignment; there is a lack of consistent authenticity, and you’re over it. It’s not that you are nature inauthentic, but rather that you’re behaving in a way that does not align with your core of who you know yourself to be. You may even feel as though you are putting forth a façade. Therefore, it would be almost impossible to feel as though are you connected and in alignment with your true self. Deepak Chopra describes the true self as the purest part of yourself((Oprah’s Life Class: How to Tell the Difference Between Your True Self and Your Everyday Self)). He eloquently summarized the five key characteristics of the true self as: Love, Peace, Stability, Clarity, and Certainty, all driven a deep sense of Truth.
Love from the true self comes from within. There is no need to seek it from external sources. It simply exists without condition or expiration, in perpetuity without end. It is an internal spring that never goes dry.
Peace is the nature of the true self, its anchor. It does get rattled the everyday foolishness of life. The true self is grounded and does not desire to alter its experience constantly.
When the true self is in its natural state of peace, grounding takes place that produces stability. There is a sense of calm, that everything is as it should be in this moment.
Clarity and Certainty
The true self eliminates the potential for confusion because it’s not influenced external forces. As a result, it is clear and certain. It knows its direction and sticks to it without hesitation.
Lastly, the true self is categorized an understanding of our collective oneness, as well as balanced objectivity in which it bases all of its actions. Those two factors summarize what drives the true self – a deep sense of truth. One way you can minimize resistance you may experience when working to reconnect with your true self is gently reminding yourself of a truth you already know intuitively: Your true self is good. Embracing the actuality of your true self is freeing and challenging. It will allow you to begin to distinguish the authentic behaviors, beliefs, thought patterns, and feelings from the inauthentic ones. Once you possess the ability to do that effectively, you’ve successfully set yourself up to not only change yourself for the better but to undoubtedly set out to live the life you deserve.
You are capable of change. You are worthy of the life you deserve. Life can be hard, and as a result anyone could lose their way. Unexpected circumstances can cause your self-esteem to take a hit. Along the way you forget to love yourself unconditionally, and you accidentally disconnect from your true self. When you get ready to commit to change remember to trust your tribe – explore what evidence they can provide that naturally bolster self-esteem. Furthermore, patience and compassion are the keys to self-love, and always stay connected with your true self – it is the purest part of yourself, and it will never lead you astray.