You cannot live in 2021 and not notice how much we talk about personal development, psychology, accomplishment, wellbeing and among others, self worth.
In fact, many of you might even feel a bit suffocated of the level of preoccupation and conversation on these topics.
Some of you might be fully immersed in these journeys and invest a lot of time, preoccupation and money in studying various theories about how we can be greater, usually easier and faster.
Lately, it seems to be that there is a rise in psychology and personal development work that emphasises self compassion, self love, gentleness, self acceptance.
I think this is very important, and incredibly healing. If you decide to learn to develop a more caring and supportive relationship with your self, you will reap the benefits forever. It is like learning that you always, always have a friend and a source of nourishment and support within yourself, that does not depend on anything and anyone else.
On the other hand, there is a risk with these approaches — the risk is we use them as covers to our conscience, and as ear plugs to avoid hearing that Inner Voice that does criticise us because, well, maybe there’s something legit to be criticised there.
You might have heard the term “bypass” or “spiritual bypass” in other contexts. If not, what this refers to is basically using concepts in psychology or religion/spirituality that make us feel good in such a way that we completely skip the work of personal growth.
The work of personal growth is the continuous process of:
- reflecting as honestly and as objectively as possible upon self
- knowing our strengths and our weaknesses
- take stock of our successes and our failures
- looking at where we messed up (with ourselves and others) — and working to repair and make amends
- becoming aware of our “Shadow” side — the traits, impulses and tendencies which are distructive or we do not like — and finding ways to harness it and accept it
- making different choices
- taking strong, generative action to align ourselves with our values
- knowing, claiming and using our gifts and abilities for the sake of ourselves and others
- facing our fears.
Numerous times, I have seen people design their own journey of growth in a way that, they hope, will allow them to run away from unhappiness, fear, vulnerability, disappointment, shame, making changes, taking chances, doing consistent work, showing up, etc.
Let’s take some examples (names are made up, stories are not)
- Bob is talking about starting his own business for 10 years now. He talks about how we wants to do it, how much it means to him, how serious is about it, but then for the last 10 years Bob has not moved past “There’s still something to be changed about the website” or “I am creating buzz first” or “I still have to follow this course or get this certification”. Bob spends a lot of time going to coaches and courses that do not enable him to take actual action and start doing actual work for his clients — he just feels better about taking more time and adds to the list of reasons why what he is doing is perfectly okay.
- For the last three years, Vanessa has changed her demeanour tremendously. Keeping herself stuck in a job that she truly dislikes, she tries to escape by provoking fights with her boss, a boss that ironically is incredibly patient and never confronts her attitude. She talks about how she is aware of this, about how she is also aware of her growing emotional eating that has led to an unhealthy weight gain in order to cut off and discourage any attempts of her friends or family to encourage her to take healthy action. When her partner tries to propose healthier eating or working out together, she starts a violent fight and rejects any invitation to make different choices, and of taking any responsibility for the situation she is in.
Now if Bob or Vanessa work with a therapist, or coach, or personal development counsellor, or trainer who can nurture the development of compassion and self worth while also courageously inviting them to see how their own actions and choices keep them in a vicious cycle, they will have a genuine chance of transformation and transcending the patterns.
But if they choose to work with people who only make them feel good, people (usually empaths, super nurturers, or quite frankly, scammers who don’t really care if you’re really making changes in your life as long as you send them the money for the consultation), they have basically designed a system that keeps them stuck, while also playing the game of “oh, but I am doing some work on myself, don’t you see I am going to a coach?”
When I coach people, I can resort to various methods and approaches depending on the case — I can hold the gentlest, most supportive space but I can also hold you accountable for doing what you say you are in coaching to accomplish, or confront you on all the ways you’re keeping yourself stuck.
I have a lot of people coming in to talk about something they’ve been trying to do for a while. And I listen, and I ask questions, and I follow my client’s speed and rhythm of change.
But if you work with me, at some point you will be presented with a very clear choice: we can talk about change or we can start the change.
I’ve had coaching sessions that we have used for clients to be able to create a business strategy, or update their CVs, or write down a breakdown of tasks for a huge project, or process e-mails, or pay bills or whatever action they were talking about not having the time or not being able to do. We didn’t talk about mindset, about motivation, about blockers, about themselves, about anything — they just did the work while I sat there silently or cheered them on when they needed to.
We have come to blame the “Inner Judge”, to silence or run away from that voice of reason, of conscience, of guilt or shame sometimes.
We look for advanced strategies and recruit help to avoid confronting our stuff.
What we miss out on is an incredible opportunity for change, for reparation, for transformation and for growth when we embrace the full spectrum of emotions and of thoughts.
When we lean in and hear and listen to that Inner Judge, we might find out something valuable.
We might discover an infinite inner source of wisdom and guidance.
And we get from within ourselves the best set of instructions for doing the work of self worth.