From the internet to our families, there is no shortage of people trying to better themselves. Caroline thinks that change isn't always the answer, but that being happy with who you are could be the key.
You only have to browse the web to see an infinite number of articles such as 'Crucial mistakes you never knew you made in interviews', 'Why a new career is essential for your wellbeing', or 'How to impress your kids with no-sugar snacks'.
With the constant barrage of prompts to change and improve your life, it's common to set targets to become something better, different, more. From inspirational leaders and fulfilled workers to calm parents and, perhaps, a 'no-sugar' family, there's no end to how we can change.
But constantly striving to become something else can lead to a sense of failure when goals aren't met. It makes me wonder whether self-improvement is worthwhile. Instead, I challenge you to ask, "how can we be satisfied with simply being ourselves?" I challenge you to stop believing that we will only be satisfied once we have become something else. After all, we are human beings not human becomings, so how can we do better at just being who we are?
In 'Creating Authentic Organisations', Robin Ryde and Lisa Sofianos talk about authenticity as an important driver of self-satisfaction, as well as organisational success. "Think of authenticity as the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit or character, despite external pressure," write the authors. Being authentic means recognising who you are, without pretending to be something different, or suppressing your own values to those of others, or to those of a workplace culture.
In the workplace, this benefits the individual via greater levels of engagement, well-being and commitment. In turn, people have higher levels of motivation by applying their own thoughts and experience and leveraging their strengths to the job.
Rather than aiming to become something, it might work to reframe things a little and focus on being true to yourself. Ask yourself:
We can often be our own worst critics and can sabotage our own attempts to be satisfied with ourselves. When you start to hear a critical, doubting, judging voice in your own head, don't dismiss it. Listen to it and understand its positive intentions, then acknowledge and respond constructively. Ignoring or dismissing those inner voices is not respecting a part of you that holds some real (if perhaps outdated) concerns.
Consider playing out positive inner conversations rather than accepting and reinforcing negative ones. For example, you start to say to yourself:
"You never get this right; you always manage to mess up... why can't you just..."
Try a self-response such as:
"It's OK, I'm not going to rush ahead this time. I've thought this through and I'm feeling comfortable and confident."
Even without literally talking to yourself, just noticing and quietening those critical inner thoughts, can lead to a more positive sense of being yourself.
The Centre of Applied Positive Psychology(CAPP) defines strengths to mean things we do which are energising, and feel both natural and authentic. This may be different from the things we have learned to be skilled at,or spend a lot of time on (at work or at home). CAPP's research shows that utilising your strengths can boost your self-confidence, self-esteem, energy and resilience.
When using your true strengths, you find time passes without you noticing, and are excited and awakened by the idea of expanding or developing further. With learned skills you may feel rather daunted or disheartened at being asked to do more, even where you know you have the competence.
Identify your true strengths and consider where you can best apply them, expand upon them, or promote them. Even simply re-thinking your routine, both at work and home, can create additional strengths-boosting sessions in your day. Combine authenticity and a positive inner dialogue with your real strengths and dismiss the next strapline prompt to become something else. It may be enough to allow you to just be.
My suggestion is STOP trying to be something else and focus on being the best you that you can be.
Caroline Evanson, HR Consultant, Mother of Two