The other day, I asked my followers on my Always Well Within Facebook Page,
Name one thing you love about yourself.
Bragging a bit, now and then, can be good for the spirit!
I especially smiled when I read this response: “I love everything about myself.”
Isn’t that fabulous? How many people have the confidence, courage, and sense of inner security to make a bold statement like that? I would like to bring my own self-esteem up to that level.
The Gap Between Who You Are and Who You Wish to Be
However, even if you love everything about yourself, there’ll always be a gap between who you are in this moment and who you wish to be, until you actualize your full expression as a human being. Or, you could say, a spiritual being in a human body, depending on your personal perspective.
I believe our main purpose for arriving here on this gorgeous planet is to learn, to grow, to realize our essential goodness, and to express that essence in positive ways.
Personally, I want to embody enlightened qualities like love, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, and wisdom. But even though this a deeply held aspiration, I still loose it sometimes, when I feel provoked by another person, difficult circumstances, or my own inner critic.
I know this happens for all of us because the negative patterns have been repeated zillions of times. Thus it takes practice, patience, and time to change habits of thought and emotion. I try to focus on my positive gains and tell myself: "Keep going, you're doing great."
Recently an intuitive guide pointed out to me that I still need to work on self-love, emotional stress, unworthiness, guilt, and overthinking. I couldn’t help but momentarily feel, “Still? Are you serious?” Guilt, in particular, took me by surprise. This emotion no longer colors my life as it did in the past, but remnants must remain.
Let Your True Beauty Light Up Your Path
Despite the moment of questioning, I believe in the integrity of the message I received. I know I’ve come a long way and celebrate that. However, I’m still on the path, day-by-day pulling back layers of mistaken thought patterns, bad habits, and confused emotions, to reveal the beauty at the core of my true nature.
In some moments, that beauty lights up and I'm already there. I don't need to travel any place else. But like anyone who strives to be conscious, my days are a mix of awareness and distraction. I take heart though, because awareness and insight grows gradually day-by-day and there's an occasional leap to celebrate as well.
7 Paradoxes of Personal Growth
As I’ve walked the path of personal and spiritual growth, I’ve often encountered a variety of paradoxes.
It’s normal to embody seemingly contradictory qualities and experiences; we all do. But you can get thrown off track and feel confused about who to be or what to do when you encounter one of these polarities. You might even get stuck on one side or the other.
The key is to get comfortable with the seeming inconsistencies so personal growth can begin to feel like an enriching exploration instead of a scary endeavor.
I've identified 7 paradoxes of personal growth, although I'm sure more exist. Let’s explore them now. As you read through, look for the ones where you get stuck on one side of the paradox.
1. Have clear aspirations. Be in the moment.
Aspiration is powerful. In my spiritual tradition, there are many aspiration or “wishing” prayers that wish peace, happiness, and well-being for all. Don’t hesitate to be clear about your personal or spiritual aspirations.
Once you make your wishes though, don’t obsess about them. Let go and practice being in the moment. Increasing your capacity to be here now will calm your mind and prepare you for deeper insight into the nature of how things work, which will bring you more happiness and freedom.
Yes, please come back to your aspirations periodically and take intentional steps to manifest them. Hold them lightly though and spend more time in the present moment.
2. Love and accept yourself. Work on your weakness.
Start by answering the question above, but don’t limit it to one item: “What do you love about yourself?” Make a long list and really take in all the goodness your presence brings to this world.
Then let this self-love be the foundation for peeking into your shadow side. If you want to grow, you can’t avoid looking at your weaknesses, mistaken beliefs, and unhelpful patterns. But just take one at a time. Explore it in moments when you feel good about yourself, not when you're feeling down!
Remember that you’ll never find a perfect person as long as you live. So learn to love and accept yourself while you simultaneously focus on healing unhappy thoughts, words, and behaviors.
3. Go with the flow. Take action.
You never know what’s going to happen next. Your karma unfolds with each thought, each moment. That unfolding might present entirely new possibilities. So don’t get so locked up in your current actions or way of being that you become inflexible.
At the same time, you’re not a victim of negative karma. Your positive actions change your karma in each moment, as well. It may not be a spontaneous change, although it might be, at times. More likely, your metamorphosis will come about through tiny positive steps, repeated again and again, in the form of choosing new thoughts, words, and actions.
4. Focus on the spiritual. Take care of the material.
Take care of your material concerns, but don’t be overly enamored of material possessions or pleasurable experiences. If you are, suffering will commence. Whatever happens in this material world, see it as transient and don’t get overly embroiled in it. Of course, enjoy the pleasurable aspects of being in this human body, but don't cling to the pleasure.
Some people choose to retreat from the world, which can make life simpler in a certain sense. They still need to deal with their mind, however, which can be like a roller coaster ride. And they still need to take care of their basic worldy needs. You can’t escape from this as long as you’re in a body.
5. Take your path seriously. Have a sense of humor.
You won’t make progress if positive change remains a nice idea, like a book sitting on a shelf. You must make personal gowth a priority and take it seriously in the sense of having a plan, a commitment, and a direction.
At the same time, don’t take yourself too seriously. That just makes you uptight and unpleasant to be around. Take a look at a great spiritual master like the Dalai Lama and you’ll notice his beautiful smile, ease of being, and kindness of heart. Make spaciousness and ease your goal combined with a relaxed awareness of and attention to your process of positive change.
6. Work on your own mind and emotions. Help others.
Working on yourself is not necessarily selfish, unless you only think of yourself. You have to start with yourself first to truly be of help to anyone else. Once you develop qualities like love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, generosity and so on and develop a better understanding of the way the world really works, you’ll naturally be more prepared to help others and will automatically feel inspired to do so.
That doesn’t mean you should never help others while you’re working on yourself. Look at it as an exercise in proportions. At first you might spend 75% of your focus on bettering yourself, which will also impact others positively. As you grow, that degree of self-focus will decrease while your focus on helping others will increase.
In the meantime, if you're obsessed with your own mind and process, try lending a hand to someone else. It can put your problems in perspective and you'll feel the joy of making a difference for another person.
Eventually, this dichotomy between self and others will no longer exist.
7. You are perfect. You have flaws.
You’re true nature - whatever you might call it (spirit, soul, pure awareness, etc.) - is perfect, unchanging, and always present within you 24-7. In that sense, you are perfect.
But you may not be aware of your true essence. You may be caught up on the treadmill of material concerns and entangled in undesirable thoughts and emotions. Those patterns of being are deeply ingrained in your gray matter and in the non-material level of subtle consciousness. So yes, you have flaws, but they're meant to help you grow, change, and realign with your true essence.
The practice of meditation calms the conceptual mind so you can heal your flaws and get in touch with the part of you that's beyond words, analysis, and concepts. Give it a try if you want to feel more peace, love, and clarity in your life.
Spaciously Embrace Each Paradox of Personal Growth
As you read through these 7 paradoxes, did one or more speak to you? Is there an area where you're sliding toward one end of the spectrum, like believing you're flawed?
If you fully embrace these seeming contradictions, recognizing that you can spaciously hold both truths at the same time, gradually the distinctions will fall away and your experience of life will become one seamless whole. In the meantime, as you meet ups and downs on the path of personal growth, always remember to tell yourself: "Keep going, you’re doing fine!"
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra