The Paradox of Change and Personal Growth
By Dr. Dave Greenfield, The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction
What allows us to change something in our lives? How do we change some aspect of ourselves that we don’t like, such as a habit, physical quality, or life circumstance? The first step may seem counter intuitive. Our initial tendency when we don’t like something about ourselves is to either avoid thinking about it or to actively criticize ourselves for what we are doing or not doing–almost as a means of forcing the negative feeling out of ourselves. Therein lays our error in thinking. Most things we don’t like about ourselves have to do with the refusal to accept and love ourselves, just as we are because we feel we cannot accept/love ourselves as long as we have or do this thing we hate. In other words, our self-love and acceptance is contingent upon an inner ideal of perfection. Whether it is a physical attribute or a personality characteristic, our refusal to love and accept ourselves seem linked to the idea that; “if I have what I want or look the way I want, then and only then I could feel O.K.”. The problem with this way of thinking is that it is not the way the heart and mind actually work. Rather it’s the reverse. We have to accept and love ourselves exactly the way we are (and this takes an effort) and then and only then does this acceptance allow things to begin to change. Indeed it’s a bit of paradox. Nothing can change until you accept it as exactly as it is.
If you don’t practice this unconditional self-acceptance then it won’t ultimately matter how much you change your life because you will always feel badly about yourself, as the real issue is your internal state of self-love, not the external state of your life. The trick is to become more comfortable with conscious practice, over time, in easing into this unconditional state of self-acceptance. Otherwise we are just chasing our tails hoping to find the inner peace and comfort from outside ourselves.