I have a habit of trying to improve myself. In fact, I might even call it an addiction.
Anne Wilson Shaef writes that “anything can be used addictively, whether it be a substance (like alcohol) or a process (like work). This is because the purpose or function of an addiction is to put a buffer between ourselves and our awareness of our feelings. An addiction serves to numb us so that we are out of touch with what we know and what we feel.”
In other words, addictions are ways that we look outside of ourselves for answers, approval, validation, and love. My habit has been to use self-improvement in this way... as a means of escaping who I am in the present moment and reaching outside of myself for answers.
If we want to access our authentic truth -- the one that comes from inside of us -- we have to learn to be more nourishing of ourselves. Self-nourishment opens up communication with our bodies and allows our true essence to feel safe expressing itself, resulting in greater clarity and intuition. Shifting from a story of self-improvement to self-nourishment is imperative if we want to live authentically.
These are the 5 steps I use to shift my mindset from one of self-improvement, to self nourishment:
1. Recognize that you are already enough, as you are, in this moment. The concept of “self-improvement” implies that “I’m not good enough as I am, and must therefore strive to be better.” But there will always be “better,” and this will lead you to continue reaching outside of yourself. You will never be fulfilled if you don’t believe you're already enough.
2. Own your abundant gifts. Self-improvement is based in a perspective of lack. There’s a void that is seeking to be fulfilled. Self-nourishment, on the other hand, has its roots in fullness and abundance. Owning and nurturing your Goddess-given talents and gifts is how you can open yourself to your inner abundance.
3. Be gentle with yourself. Self-improvement addicts can be really hard on themselves. We tend to be very self-critical, and hold ourselves to higher standards than those around us. It's important to cultivate an attitude of patience and gentleness with yourself, as this will allow your inner essence (a.k.a. your inner child) to feel safe expressing itself.
4. Let go of expectations. Another thing that comes with the territory of “self-improvement” is expectations. When I approach certain activities, say for example my yoga practice, with an attitude of trying to improve myself, I set up expectations that most often lead to feelings of not measuring up. If, on the other hand, I approach my practice as an offering -- to myself and the world--there’s no expected outcome and I receive so much more benefit from the practice.
5. Drop the guilt. Often the activities of “self-nourishment” are accompanied with feelings of guilt and irresponsibility. There’s a feeling that, when we take time to actually nourish ourselves, we're being “self-indulgent” and should be doing something more “productive.” But this is just a story to keep us from being present and receiving the nourishment we need in order to generously offer our gifts. So don't buy into it...you need and deserve to be nourished, and your nourishment will not only benefit you, but everyone around you as well.
Becoming aware of this addiction to self-improvement is the first step toward transforming it. The more we practice shifting into an attitude of self-nourishment, the more freedom and clarity we create in our lives, and in the world.