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"Self Improvement" & Other Lies

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We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
— Pema Chodron

This quote, you guys!! A colleague of mine turned me on to it recently, and it articulated something really deep for me. “Self improvement”, as a term, has always made me feel a little queasy. Not because I’m not into growth, and challenge, and living your best life because I most certainly AM, but because the phrase so often throws me into evaluation mode: "I am no good in this way, I’m okay over here but I could be better, I’m good at this thing but it comes easily to me so that doesn’t really count—oh, and I still haven’t toned all this thigh meat yet..." Here’s what I think I want to say about it: I am not in the self-improvement business, and I have no desire to be. I am in the self-knowledge business. And on my best days, I hope I am in the self-empowerment business; in the practice of self-love and acceptance, and offering this to others, in whatever way they want to receive it.
 
Your short-comings, your dark places, the rooms inside of you that are stacked floor-to-ceiling with empty pizza boxes, scabbed-over heartbreaks, and that one favorite, missing, hole-in-the-toe sock (dammit!) are WORTHY OF YOUR LOVE AND ATTENTION, TOO.  The transformation that I want to support folks to claim in their lives is not about perfection; it is about choice.  Choosing to show up, and to trust the core beauty of who you are, and choosing, still, to resist the urge to build shame shrines to the things we have not learned how to love (yet). Because when we start to love (or even acknowledge) these pieces they become, in the light of day, what they really are: DISTRACTIONS from your work on the planet. You are whole and worthy and ready—you need not spend another second “preparing yourself” to do what you were made to do—cobwebs and all.
 
You are not your “flaws” or your “baggage” or your clever ego’s little wish list. To paraphrase the brilliant words of Alice Walker: you are the one you have been waiting for (and you are running out of time). Don’t waste it “improving” yourself—find a way, instead, to know yourself, to be yourself.  And then, if, from that clear place, you want something to change: DO IT. But we do not berate ourselves into growing.  No flower has ever bloomed by being screamed at. (I have no actual proof of this, but I stand by it.)
 
What do you really, really, really care about? How can you make space to focus on that? What dragons must be slain for you to grab ahold of your right-now wholeness, just as you are?
 
Because the clouds are just parts of the sky—never the sky itself.

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