There is perceived virtue in working on ourselves, on striving to become better…the best. It shows up in all areas of our lives: climbing the corporate ladder, making more money, studying harder, pushing ourselves physically and emotionally, building our reputations and our character. Often this tendency toward trying to better ourselves stems from the past. Parents, coaches, and teachers had mostly well-meaning expectations for us to be the best we could be, but we learned to view our peers, and even ourselves, as competition instead of as comrades. We measure our insides against other people’s outsides, meaning we see the glossed-over version of their successes, but not the bruises it took to arrive at the facade.
Our self-knowing eventually becomes less about acknowledging our inherent strengths and gifts and more about judging where we fall short compared to everyone around us. We compensate for those perceived shortcomings by using tactics such as New Year’s resolutions, diets, burning the midnight oil, and seeking therapy to change who we are to try to meet elusive goals and ill-fated expectations. We keep swimming against the current for as long as we can, but sometimes a force of life slaps us into consciousness, or we simply look in the mirror one day and realize that we are on a hamster wheel that never arrives at contentedness.
Self-improvement, in itself, is not an unhealthy pursuit and can bring about valuable growth. We will forever be works-in-progress after all. But when we place too much energy on what is “wrong” with us or our lives, we devalue our innate talents, achievements, and true desires. At the very least, we commit valuable time and effort trying to overcome our weaker points; and at the worst, we begin to see ourselves as inadequate or even hopeless. We limit our ability to see what is so very “right” about us – those gifts and talents that come easily and naturally to us that can be shared with the world. And what we do matters.
Self-development must grow from the seed of self-appreciation. We can let go of the ineffective ways we have tried to cope. Instead of “working on” ourselves, we can allow our special gifts to emerge. If we allow ourselves to recognize and endorse our strengths and focus on what we do best, amazing things happen! When we lead with our gifts, we are happier and find that we are able to work and live in an experience of “flow” and purpose much more easily. No longer are we swimming against the current, but we are employing effortless potential to create our best work and lives.
Because you and your talents are unique, this is where you can contribute the most. Sharing your strengths will elevate your confidence, give you direction, and help you feel continually aspirational. If your gifts have been buried through years of “working on” yourself, now is the time to revisit what makes you special!