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The Inside Scoop

As human beings, there are 2 main ways we can develop and those are physical and emotional. When it comes to physical aspects of development, it is done mainly through diet and exercise. When we lose weight, gain muscle, have more energy – or a combination of all three – it shows us our progress is real and we are successful.

Emotional development is less obvious because the proof is harder to measure; it happens in our minds and in our spiritual selves. While some physical changes may occur during our progress, it is not nearly as recognizable as its physical counterpart. Sometimes, we can even make the mistake of doubting and negating any progress we have made.

The biggest deterrent to our emotional or personal development is that sometimes, it brings up hurtful or painful memories. These can be uncomfortable and often excruciating to endure and rather than work through or heal them, many prefer to forget them or sweep them under the rug so to speak. However, if these issues are not dealt with properly, they can fester and instigate more issues than the original injury.

But how do we deal with past wounds? Can they ever be healed or are some meant to plague us for the rest of our lives?

A closer look

Although there is no failsafe method that works one hundred percent of the time, I’d like to do my best to guide you through an approach which may be beneficial in your attempts to overcome emotional obstacles. It is a similar method I use when dealing with my clients. It may take a little imagination as you follow along, but I do hope it is beneficial.

To begin, let’s select an issue many of us may have experienced. More than likely there have been moments when we’ve been extremely critical of our actions. Frequently, we are our own harshest critics, but how do we know if we have been overly harsh? Is it necessarily a bad thing? How else will we improve if we neglect to see our shortcomings?

The answer is in the approach we use for self-reflection and introspection. Self-criticism is not meant to foster self-doubt. It is a tool for progress. There is a difference between evaluating ourselves and condemning our actions. If our criticism is to the point where it creates feelings of shame, the next step is to take a closer look into why we felt this way.

Shame will only make us feel bad about who we are. It leads us to believe there is something innately wrong with us that can never be changed or fixed. When using self-criticism as a tool to help us become better, we must look at our action as a mistake or a bad choice. Understanding it this way assures us we always have the ability to make a different choice when a similar situation arises.

But there are other hidden and deeper thoughts that accompany shame and it’s important during self-reflection that we examine ourselves as thoroughly as possible. Are some of these self-doubts really excuses or fears so rather than looking for reasons to do better, we hide behind excuses why we fail? Do we believe someone else can always do it better and that alleviates us from even trying?

Introspection can be brutal at times. I have asked myself similar questions and it’s nothing I look forward to. There were times when it uncovered patterns of damaging thinking that went back decades. But this kind of brutal honesty can create positive changes.

What other justifications can you think of that are giving yourself permission to fail? Think of as many excuses as you can. Even if they are not valid, you’ll have had a chance to examine and exclude them. Be thorough in your search for buried beliefs that may have told you for most of your life you were continually a disappointment or a failure. It is these false beliefs which are often embedded in our notions of who we are that initiate deep-seeded shame.

An objective view

When we use self-criticism as a tool for personal development, its focus is on how to improve. By looking at our actions as mistakes, we can become determined not to repeat them in the future. We accept the responsibility for our incorrect choices and don’t bury them in excuses of shame. The goal is to look for ways to improve and not create justifications by blaming or judging others for their part.

But personal growth is more than simply not making the same mistake again; it’s growing in confidence and self-assurance which in turn, positively affects many other characteristics like empathy, compassion, and kindness. We grow in gaining a better understanding of who we are which creates a huge impact on many areas of our life.

We become aware of our strengths and learn to strengthen our weaknesses. Honest self-reflection never overestimates its capabilities nor inflates its importance. It instills a conviction of pride that distinguishes itself from arrogance. It doesn’t require a podium nor a bullhorn because it craves the quiet respite self-assurance has created.

Introspection is a practice; one which improves over time. At first, it can be difficult but the more we use it, the more we see its benefits and successes. There are several other ways of practicing introspection and self-reflection; this was one method I have found to be extremely helpful.

Whether we like it or not, we are constantly changing. Let’s do our best to make those changes be constructive and add towards our personal development.

If you have been looking for ways to develop during your personal journey in these ways, it is my passion to help guide you on that journey. Please feel free to contact me by email, and let’s start the process.

My thanks to Simon Berger on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

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