What Self-Improvement Improves

young-woman-BassiBaba-flickr.jpg

The self seems to improve when we learn or sharpen our life skills.

For instance, we might become more effective communicators, or better time managers. We can change how we think about things and learn to quiet our mind.

We also apparently improve our self by letting go of what no longer serves us. Then, we express ourselves more authentically, less hampered by fear or pretense. It is a process of becoming less defensive and more vulnerable.

Yet, whether learning skills or letting go, what we are really improving is the quality of our daily experience—so life goes better, and we feel better.

Learning Skills

Acquiring both good and bad life habits is part of growing up. Sometimes our mental or emotional experience is distressing only because our behaviors are ineffective. Most of us reach adulthood needing improvement in one or several skill areas:

    communicating thoughts and feelings effectively
    managing our emotions and feelings
    managing our attention and thoughts
    listening
    managing time, getting things done
    realistic expectations in relationships
    lifestyle habits

Enhancing these skills can give us the courage to be more relaxed and open—being more open we appreciate and assimilate effective habits of human interaction.

Relaxing and Letting Go

We also reach adulthood with our own set of shadows, tensions, hurts, and fears that have, over the years, prompted us to defend our hearts by:

    hiding behind a self-image we project (a mask we wear)
    being emotionally volatile, and manipulative or aggressive
    being emotionally closed off, and aloof or anxious
    blaming others for our life
    blaming our self for our life

These defenses are undone primarily by letting go, by relaxing until we feel comfortable in our own skin. This means working with acceptance and forgiveness so that we can live beyond our survival instinct to share with the world our gift of genuine expression. It is a process of softening internal tensions and allowing our self to unfold.

Making Improvements

Some of us believe that beyond our ego-self is a soul. Others talk of having a lower and higher self, or that there is no self. However, setting the nature of self aside, on the experiential level we do make improvements by changing how we do things, and by releasing internal conflict and defenses.

Life events can teach us new skills or open our hands to let go. We sometimes learn from the spoken and written words of others, or intuit what to do on our own. We might also consider attending group or individual therapy. A good therapist can teach effective life skills and provide a safe and supportive environment that allows people to relax and release.

Photo credit: Bassi Baba

 
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