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Self Help and Goal Setting Can Foster Unhappiness
The process of self improvement often has a destructive impact mentally and and emotionally. If you ask what you “should do” or “should be” you become set up for self rejection. Your mind immediately creates a conceptual image of what you should be and another part of your mind determines that you are not the conceptual image you just created. The voice in your head makes a judgment that you are a failure for not meeting the mental image and you end up feeling “not good enough.” All of this because you don’t meet the conceptual image you fabricated in your mind; an image that isn’t even real.
By desiring to be “something” different, you have formed a mental criteria of what you should be, and subconsciously reject yourself the way you are. An example of this “self help ” approach is the way people approach weight loss. Weight loss is likely motivated by the judgment that your body is not acceptable the way it is. The stronger the rejection of your body, the stronger your commitment to lose weight. Losing weight appears to be the way to relieve ourselves from the unhappy self rejection. The problem is that the body isn’t causing the unhappiness. The self rejection dynamic is happening in the mind.
Rejection from the voice in our head is painful if we believe it
The motivation to lose weight is directly coupled to emotional pain. Our natural tendency to avoid emotional pain will cause us to look away from our body and give up the commitments to lose weight. An alternative some people engage in to repress the unpleasant emotion is to eat. As a result you may get no results at all or even the exact opposite of what you desire. This type of self sabotaging behavior can occur in any area of your life where you desire and try to make changes, including, financial, career, emotional, spiritual, and relationships. Any time you establish goals or create an image of perfection your mind has an opportunity for self rejection. The pain of that rejection will drive us to focus our attention on something else. As long as we allow the voice in our head to direct our self improvement we are a slave to criticism.
Self help is a growing industry and it’s no wonder; many of its clients never end up happy and fulfilled because they sabotage their efforts and motivation with self rejection. Or they reach their goals only to find they haven’t really dealt with the self rejecting mind that is causing the unhappiness. A successful promotion, plastic surgery or a lottery win doesn’t change the mental self rejection dynamic. Studies have shown that these external things don’t affect a person’s happiness beyond a short time. More than one Hollywood star has reached their goals only to turn to drugs and alcohol to deaden the emotional pain caused by their beliefs about themselves. If striving for goals and improvement leaves us feeling unfulfilled and unhappy then what is the answer?
At some point awareness that you are unhappy tells you that something needs to change. After society is done selling you all its cures you are finally left to turn inward and be aware of what really creates unhappiness. It is by believing the critical voice in our head that expressing judgments and rejection that creates unhappiness.
The key to happiness and fulfillment in life doesn’t come by achieving but rather is a result of how we express ourselves. When you express love and acceptance you are happy. When you express rejection and judgment you will be unhappy.
Self Acceptance is the way out of self-rejection
You don’t have to change what you are or what you have to be happy, but instead change the emotion you are expressing. If you are expressing anger then you will feel angry. If you express jealousy or guilt, then you will feel jealousy and guilt. If you are expressing love then you are likely to experience happiness and fulfillment. Think back to different times in your life and make a note of what you were expressing. We often associate feeling happy with who we were with what we had, or what we were doing. Those external things were not making us happy. It was the love we were expressing at the time that fulfilled us.
Studies show that people who are happy are spending time gardening, with people they love, and working on things they are passionate about. The common element is not the things they achieve, or what they are doing. The common element that creates happiness is that they are expressing love in all those instances. They are expressing love to who they are with or for what they are doing.
Self acceptance is the first step toward expressing love for yourself. If trying to “be something different” creates an expression of self rejection, then the solution is to create an expression of self acceptance. Saying this in words is simple, but doing this is not necessarily easy.
Steps towards Happiness begin with Awareness
The first step is to be aware of your attention and your expression in the moment. You can not change something you are not aware you are doing. This also takes the attention away from the images in your mind of what you “should be.” Just by shifting your attention you interrupt the pattern of rejection. To help you make the shift ask these types of questions throughout the day. What am I expressing? What is my attitude? What emotion am I conveying in my voice? These questions will bring your attention to your expression in the moment. They also shift your expression and point of view to one of inquiry instead of letting the voice in your head express a story of rejection.
Being aware of your expression is the first step in change. You can not change something that you are not aware of. One reason why this step is effective is that being aware does not create the expression of self rejection.
The mind leads us in circles and illusions.
The mind’s solution to stopping self rejection is to just stop it and act differently. But this again drives our mind to create a conceptual self image of being someone else. This approach feeds the self-rejection for not having accomplished the change yet. To avoid this trap start with awareness of your expression and your attention. It allows you to better circumvent the critical voice in your head and the self-rejecting dynamic that it fosters. The activity of observation and curiosity is an expression that doesn’t create rejection.
Happiness and joy aren’t guaranteed because you achieve your self help goals. These are just games we set up in the mind to trigger our expression of love and acceptance. It is your expression in the moment that determines the happiness and joy in your life. When you express love you are happy. When you express emotions of fear and anger you are unhappy. We have become conditioned in our life to express ourselves in reaction to outside events. Only when we break these conditioned emotional responses and consciously choose our attitude will our happiness be assured. Having awareness and direction over your expression is the key to assuring your happiness.
The key to create authentic happiness in your life is to express love. Since your expression of love is solely up to you, you already have the key to your own happiness. What remains is for you to determine what you do with your key.16