Have you ever seen a self-help book or personal growth seminar that isn’t focused on changing you? Every piece of marketing material that comes my way is tantalizing me to improve myself. The lure of being a better me with better thinking, better feelings, better achievements, and a better consciousness used to be so compelling, but it was also damaging. It painfully reinforced my belief that I was broken, damaged, and not good enough exactly as I was.
There are very few teachers telling people they are perfect exactly as they are. Not enough reassuring us there is no need to change, and reminding us we are good enough. Even the teachers that say you are worthy exactly as you are, usually prescribe activities and practices to do in order to realize this. Why would we need to do anything if it really is true?
I am struck by the perpetual striving and exhaustion that goes along with pushing ourselves toward constant improvement. The unrelenting effort to be better does not uncover our happiness and wellbeing. Instead, it puts us in a state of distress and dissatisfaction. When we are insistently focused on transforming ourselves, we feel worse, not better, because there is no end to it. There will never be a time when we will have arrived at not finding something else to improve. The improvement possibilities are endless.
What happens when we say, “Enough is enough!”? When we take a stand and say no to spending our time and money trying to improve ourselves? In my experience, instead of devolving into chaos or falling apart, it resulted in the incredible release of pressure off of myself, and a concurrent increase in wellbeing which, ironically, is what I had been striving for all along.
When we relax and let go, our best self naturally comes forward. Think about how you are when you feel relaxed and comfortable in your own skin. Do you see how your behavior is enhanced by this? Now think about what you are like when you feel under pressure and the stakes are high. Do you see how it is much more likely for you to be all thumbs or put your foot in your mouth in this situation?
What this means is that we actually get better results when we are no longer focused on fixing ourselves, and instead, let ourselves be. Then we can show up and be present to life and to our own wisdom. Life is always much easier to navigate when we have less on our minds.
I am not sharing this as a sneaky self-improvement strategy. This is not a technique. I am genuinely saying that it makes sense for all of us to stop focusing on and trying to eliminate our perceived weaknesses and instead, enjoy ourselves exactly as we are. The by-product of this is that life gets easier and more enjoyable.
It doesn’t mean that we eradicate our emotional experience, but with less pressure on ourselves we feel better overall. It is easier to bounce back from upset, and more likely for us to approach life in a more lighthearted way. We are inclined to keep perspective and not blow things out of proportion, and when we do get upset, if we understand that is normal, we can even get over our upset much more quickly.
Ironically when we stop trying to improve ourselves, we naturally improve. Taking the pressure off of ourselves automatically brings out our best qualities. We naturally grow and evolve as human beings without having to make ourselves. What a relief!
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. Rohini facilitates personalized three-day retreats to help individuals, couples, and professionals connect more fully with their true nature and experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com.