There’s only one you.
And you only have one life.
No one else is going to make you a better person or to give you a better life. It’s all up to you.
That’s why, to me, self-work (otherwise known as personal development) is all about self-love.
The route to happiness is not through external objects, events or people.
It’s already deep down there somewhere inside you and it’s your job to uncover it.
Everything else is just an illusion.
Self-knowledge is power.
And the truth is we’ve all been programmed to dull our shine.
Think about it: if we were all free, confident, happy people, we couldn’t be so easily manipulated into consumer culture.
We wouldn’t be buying new clothes year after year, buying that expensive gym membership, signing up for plastic surgery. We wouldn’t be okay with working a soulless 9-5 (where we’re not really unhappy but not really happy either).
And we definitely wouldn’t accept the reality of being tired and exhausted and therefore happy enough to spend our off time on the sofa soaking up even more of the programming that encourages us to just keep on shopping.
In contrast, self-work should never be about fixing ourselves because we’re not perfect or deserving just as we are.
It should never be about attempting to fill an internal need with something outside of ourselves. It should never about choosing things in life because we think we have to or because we see no other option.
It’s about freeing ourselves from old programming, limiting beliefs and empty attachments.
And our magic will always be the strongest when we have true autonomy over ourselves.
I was inspired to write this post because, while I’m a huge believer in the power of self-work, I do see it used in some unethical ways. It’s all too easy for something that’s supposed to be empowering to be used destructively.
Being able to see what kind of work is helpful and what is potentially damaging is the first step to freedom.
This manifesto is far from complete but hopefully it gives you some solid ideas for navigating the personal development highway.
The 5 Pillars Of Enlightened Self-Work
There are five major aims of enlightened (aka guilt-free) self-work.
1. Remove Limiting Beliefs
Your expectations about yourself create your reality. But unfortunately, for most people that means we’re selling ourselves short, without even noticing it. Bottom line: if you don’t believe in it, it’s never going to happen.
There’s a whole world of wonderful things out there that you can have if only you’d let yourself. Your limiting beliefs means you don’t even see those possibilities! They’ve closed up your eyes and boxed in your world and you’re the only one who can set yourself free. Attitude is everything. Expect more shittiness and that’s exactly what’s going to show up. But if you can train yourself to open your mind to new (better!) things and see what’s going to happen.
2. Eliminate Old Programming
We’re all taught to value certain things in life, by our parents, teachers and society. But sometimes those values create a conflict with our own true beliefs. If you’ve been programmed to become a lawyer and focus on making tons of money, it might come as a shock to you to discover that you’d really be much happier giving everything up to teach yoga in Costa Rica!
Everyone has a different path but many of us are taught to reach for the same, standardized goals in life. (How boring!) Self-work and personal development offers a way for you to free yourself from that old programming and to figure out what truly matters for you.
This programming is dangerous because it’s not yours. These are external messages and beliefs that we’ve internalized to the point that we believe they are our own. Without examining our beliefs and figuring out where they came from, we run the risk of living our entire life in accordance with someone else’s ideals.
3. Know Your Why
Without knowing your why, you’re in danger of living unconsciously. Our why in life is the rudder to the ship. You can be, do and have anything you want but it’s important to figure out where your desires came from. Because if you’re looking to fill a deep hole inside of you, you’ll one day be surprised to discover that no matter how much money you make, accolades you receive or goals you surpass, the gaping hole is still there.
Motivations that are based on competition, getting even or validation are not ultimately serving you because you’re ultimately taking someone else’s opinion on your life more seriously than you own! You’re giving your own power away, without realizing it.
But when you find inner clarity, those distinctions become clear. You’ll be able to see what’s real and what isn’t.
4. Change Old Habits
Habits, whether “good” or “bad” are a form of unconscious behavior– and that’s exactly why they’re so difficult to change! We do these things without even thinking. They’ve become part of our autopilot. Using self-improvement techniques to change habits is necessary because those type of deeply-ingrained behaviors are not easy to shift! They’ve become embedded into the very fabric of our daily life.
If a habit is no longer serving you, it will definitely take some concerted effort and attention to make a change. It’s a matter of moving things from the unconscious to the conscious and back again. We need to pay attention to our actions for a while instead of operating on auto-pilot before we’ll be able to see success by making a shift.
5. Find True Self-Acceptance
Self-love is the magical missing tonic for so many people in the world. In general, we’re not taught to love ourselves. If you don’t get the message at home, you definitely won’t get it from your friends, from school or from TV. We all stretch ourselves to try to meet an invisible yardstick of perfection and we all inevitably miss.
But we’re not all taught that our imperfection is inevitable, acceptable and even lovable.
To take it a step farther, through media programming, we’ve actually all been taught the opposite: how not to love ourselves! Advertising and marketing usually work by making us feel somehow inadequate. (And the self-help and New Thought worlds are by no means immune!) Learning how to truly love ourselves is the most important form of self-work of all, freeing you from the shackles of external validation.
You should never embark on the personal development path because of what one “guru” says or because you feel somehow incomplete or unworthy. That will only set you up for disappointment. There will always be more gurus claiming to have all the answers (and who are sometimes operating from a place of darkness.) There will always be something being presented to as the magical missing link. And it’s mostly an illusion.
Don’t fall for it. You and your happiness are far too important. Grow and expand to find your own joy, don’t just to become enslaved by another doctrine.
We only get to do this once.
Let’s do it the best possible way we can, for us.
I hope this helps you take an enlightened and loving approach to your own personal development! It’s all a journey, not a destination.
(I will be launching my coaching practice soon, based upon these principles! If you’re interested, please drop me a line!)
Thank you so much for reading today & I wish you a beautiful week. 💜