Years ago I had a friend that broke off an engagement with a guy she had been in a nine-year relationship with. She proudly told me she was going to wait to start dating and was enjoying being single because she was “working on herself”. I knew for a fact that this girls' life consisted of working, going to the gym, going to happy hour with her girlfriends and on weekends partying endlessly. Maybe I was feeling snarky that day, but I blurted out, “What does that even mean? What are you specifically doing to work on yourself?”
As it turns out, she was doing nothing to work on herself (unless you count spin class). I think it's a noble thing to say, “I'm working on myself” and makes us sound evolved and that we're practicing self-care. And maybe by saying it out loud to other people makes us feel that just by saying it, we are actually doing something for ourselves. But saying it and actually doing it are two very different things.
So, maybe this is you. Or maybe you're just wondering what it actually looks like to do this whole “personal development” thing. In getting down to basics, here are some steps to take work on yourself, feed your soul, be a better soul, whatever you want to call it:
1) Reflect on your past mistakes. Don't act like you don't have any. You make them, I make them, we all make them. Instead of making excuses for your mistakes, try naming them and learning from them. What that looks like is to think about what you need to own up to in the situation, what you might need to “clean up” with anyone, and what you will try to do differently next time.
2) Read self-help. Self-help books were my doorway to changing my life. If you cut out 30 minutes of Facebook and dedicated those minutes to reading something to better yourself, you'll do yourself a HUGE favor.
3) Hang out with awesome people. This is something you may have heard me talk about before, and I repeat it often because of its massive importance. Make time and effort into hanging out with people you admire and want to emulate. It is NOT working on yourself to hang out with people who stay in victimhood, complain about their issues and never take action to change them, or people that just generally bring you down.
4) Create goals for yourself that mean something to your spirit. These aren't goals like doing 100 burpees in a row (although that is tough and hats off to badasses that do that). These are goals like committing to practicing gratitude daily, reaching out to friends and family regularly, committing to doing the work your therapist gives you, etc. These are goals that matter.
5) For the love of all that is holy, see a therapist. Good therapists change lives. The first one you see may not be the perfect one for you. Or the second or third. We get to a point in our lives where we cannot blame our parents anymore. We can't blame our ex's, or bosses, or anyone. Therapy gets to the bottom of your unhappiness and can truly be the catalyst for creating the life you want and allows you to really work on yourself.