Self-Work Should Never Make You Feel Bad About Yourself

As you get into the personal development (and even spiritual development) world, it can be easy to begin to alienate certain parts of yourself. To see them as bad and something to get rid of. We want to change our negative patterns, conquer our limiting beliefs, and quickly get over uncomfortable emotions. We strive to do the work to move through it all… be above it all.

But as I was reminded in a recent podcast interview with Katie Buemann, from a spiritual perspective, denying ourselves any aspect of this human experience – including all the “negative“ – is to deny our soul the learning and the growth that accompany it. It is to deny our self the very reason we are here.

As I travel down this journey of trying to better myself, more and more I’m starting to realize it’s really all about accepting myself. Fully accepting exactly where I am in this journey. Yes, there is work to be done. There is a path ahead of me and there are steps to take that will “better“ me. But only looking down the path is denying myself the beauty within my current view.

I’ve written before that one of the greatest ironies in life is that it is only when we fully accept where we are that we are able to move forward. It’s something I understand on an intellectual level but am only beginning to understand on a deeper level. It’s such a hard concept for our brains to grasp because our brains love linear movement. They are wired for patterns and logic. How can we possibly stop and be okay with where we are yet see that as a step forward? It doesn’t make sense.

But maybe the true spiritual work (and personal development) is to free ourselves from the limitations our human mind tries to place on us. To see that fully accepting where we are is the only form of forward movement. For change can only happen in the present. Looking ahead and striving for more, or different, or better is ignoring the now. It is overlooking the one place that will actually enable us to reach those steps further along our path. We don’t walk our path in the future. We only walk it in the present.

I constantly encounter this concept of balance. And when you think about it, balance is the true middle point between two seemingly opposing elements. It is the point in which both have an equal presence. It’s another difficult concept for our human brains to wrap around because we much prefer to live in the either/or as opposed to the both/and. We are either okay with where we are or trying to be better. But more and more I’m learning that isn’t the case. And the true work is finding the middle within everything. Accepting the present and looking to the future. Allowing the good and the bad.

And maybe the key to that is removing the labels altogether – another thing our human mind will fight. Rather than viewing my limiting beliefs as limiting, see them simply as beliefs that exist to point out where the ceiling is so I can break it. That’s not bad. That’s something to be grateful for. And my negative patterns aren’t actually negative, but instead a way of practicing how to interact with the world, myself, and others. A way to test things out to see what works best for me. Again, not bad. Necessary. And immediately pushing away uncomfortable emotions doesn’t give them the chance to teach me the lesson they came to teach. To show me where something about my life is out of sync.

None of it is bad. It’s not even a matter of bad or good. It’s all necessary. It’s all here to propel us forward. But first, we must stop and allow it to exist within our lives. Allow it to just be without trying to change it…

So we can embrace the knowledge it came to give us.

Author of I Gave Up Men for Lent and host of The Better You podcast

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