Recently, a client said to me, “I have been working on self-improvement for a long time, but, I find that the more I work on my imperfections, the more imperfections I find in myself. It’s almost like I’ve opened Pandora’s box, and every affliction in the world is coming out of it. It seems that there is no end to it!” This is a common conundrum in self-improvement.
“Don’t try to be perfect. Just do your best. Our own ideas of perfection are imperfect,“ I replied, “So relax.“
Most of our ideas of perfection are derived from social and religious dogmas. The universe is always evolving, and so are we. Our ideas of perfection keep changing. Perhaps, we are moving from one perfection to the next perfection, or at least, to a greater perfection. In some Native American tribes when they weave their works of art, upon completion, the weaver pulls out a thread from the finished product. This is done to indicate that nothing in the universe is perfect, nor complete. Not even the greatest works of art. There is always something missing, and this is what makes room for development.
If you feel discouraged with your quest for self- improvement, it may be time to make some adjustments in your approach to the process. This is when the assistance of a helper is needed. Here, I will provide four guidelines to ease the pressure involved in the process of improving yourself.
1) Engage a Daily Mantra.
Repeat after me: “I am human. I have strengths, I have weaknesses. I love myself. I respect myself. I approve of myself no matter how many faults I may have. I deserve to be loved. I deserve to be respected.” Say these words to yourself out loud every day until you believe it. Pay attention to the meaning behind the words as you speak them. Connect with it. If you’re embarrassed or cannot find a place to be alone and speak aloud, repeat them clearly in your mind when you find a few minutes. The subconscious mind loves repetition and routines. Program it to hold these positive words. Replace old ideas and routines with new ones.
2) Don’t “Change”. Observe.
When observing yourself, do not focus on trying to change yourself, but rather on trying to understand yourself. This would be an important shift in attitude. Be kind to yourself when you find a weakness within. A weakness can be turned around into strength. Negative energies can be transformed and transmuted. For example, sadness and anger can be turned into creative energies through: humor, dancing, playing a musical instrument and writing. Talking to a friend, stranger, or a professional counselor can also be of help.
3) Stop Judging Yourself.
Drop the role of a critic and judge, and be like a nurturing mother to yourself. Give yourself unconditional love. Whenever you catch your inner judge in action, do not judge it-–this would only reinforce it. Just say, “I observe that right now the judge is speaking,” and let go… continue your observation. Eventually, you will become more accepting of yourself, and you will flow more easily with life and change, naturally. Do not fight against the parts of yourself which you disapprove of, but rather acknowledge them and find constructive ways to transform them.
4) Learn to Work With Your Ego.
Do not try to kill your ego, as many gurus recommend. Instead, study it, understand what it is, and hold it in its proper place. You cannot survive without an ego. You need an ego to be able to function in society. However, the ego is like a dog that needs to be tamed. Show it who is the boss! Whenever you approach your psyche with aggression, your psyche will retaliate and your shortcomings would become more pronounced. So, be gentle with yourself. It is better to resolve your conflicts through understanding and compassion than through psychological violence. Let your process be like the unfolding of the rose petals. Do not pry the petals open. It is a gift to be alive and aware. Every day is an opportunity for growth.