Every month I see another magazine or online programme suggesting that we ‘reinvent’ ourselves and it really saddens me because this implies that there is something wrong with us. There isn’t. Our life might not be what we would like it to be but there is nothing wrong with us. The term self-improvement is also reinforcing the idea that there is something in us that needs to improve. There isn’t. Our life might need some improvement and that’s why I like life coaching, but one thing is for sure, I never had to “improve” any client. I just helped them reclaim their true self. As their life aligns with their true self, the best version of themselves is revealed.
You must accept that you are wonderful in your essence.
The problem is that there are two of you: your true self and your conditioned self (or ego).
Most of our unhappiness comes from believing that we are one. The confusion was made worse by another trend in self-improvement that wants you to be whole. Wholeness is not a bad thing but suggesting wholeness without helping you to clearly distinguish your true self and your conditioned self/your self-image/your story, can lead to disastrous effects such as self-loathing and despair. If you feel bad about yourself and you believe you are just one, then you are going to loathe your whole self.
Let me unpack this. There is a part of you that is authentic and that vibrates with playfulness, happiness, enjoyment of life, ideas, purpose, enthusiasm, willingness and optimism. This was you when you were small and it still makes guest appearances in your life today. This is the part that has lots of projects that you start with enthusiasm, the part of yourself that comes out when you are having a good time, the part that activates your smile.
Then, there is your conditioned self and that one is ridden with fear, doubts and comparison. This is the part that stops you carrying on with your projects because of ‘rational’ reasons such as ‘you’ve got nothing new to offer, you’re too old, you’re not pretty enough or smart enough, you don’t know enough, you don’t have what it takes’. This one speaks in your head when you are on social media and shows you the proof of all that by pointing out that this person is prettier, this person knows the secret to success, that person has what it takes and has it all together.
That conditioned self also has good sides too. She is the one who knows what to say or do in specific situations. She is the one who has learned really useful things at school and in life. She is the one who has skills and experience and is able to apply them. So in truth, you cannot live in this world without her.
The problem we have is when our conditioned self becomes so predominant in our everyday life that our true self loses her voice. You feel that you are not living an authentic life, that what makes your life is not aligned with who you really are. You feel that there is something missing and one sign might be that you are seeking what the purpose of your life is or another one might be that you are trying to deepen your spiritual life. You buy books and courses on either or both topics but are always left with the familiar feeling that there is still something missing.
Let me tell you why you will not find that what is missing that way. What is missing is your true self and it will not return by reading about it.
Finding your true self is an active process that allows you to uncover what is already there. You don’t need to know more. You need support in peeling the layers that have produced who you are today so that you find your true self again.
A short while ago, I was having a conversation with someone and I was listing all the things that were going wrong this year and she said, “And yet you’re still smiling!”. It stopped me in my tracks and I walked away wondering why I was still smiling, when a few years ago, my shoulders might have been hunched under the weight of all this.
I went home and asked myself the question. Why am I feeling happy most of the time even when life is really tough? Sure some days, I feel down especially when I am tired or I get bad news, but mostly I feel happy despite circumstances.
Why am I happy?
I thought of what I was doing differently and consistently now that I wasn’t doing before my life fell apart and I had to leave my job and rewrite a second act for myself. The answer was clear and two-fold. I was practising mindfulness and exercising my creativity. I had started both practices a few years ago but as I rebuilt myself from the ground up, I paid more attention to them and I dove into them with more intention.
Mindfulness and creativity are the shortcuts to finding your true self.
My guess is you’ve already had glimpses of this and you might have started developing one or both. chances are though, your conditioned self has put you down time and time again. Always the same self-bullying: You can’t meditate because you can’t control your thoughts. The only way you might succeed is if you go to India or Nepal, but the thing is you don’t have enough money and who is going to take care of the kids/pets/parents/partner? Yeah, nice try at drawing and painting but let’s face it you’re never going to be as good as these artists you’re following on Instagram. You’re not creative, you can’t draw straight line or a circle for that matter.
Let me tell you now. This self-bullying voice is the one in your left brain, the one that can’t stop comparing herself=you to others. It probably never will disappear BUT you can quiet her voice by allowing your true self to roar.
How do you uncover your true self?
You true self lives in your right brain and the way to allow her to reclaim her role is to make more time for creativity and mindfulness.
The object of developing your creativity is not to make art that is valuable, it is to enjoy the process and access your right brain for other purposes than art, like a business project, dealing with change, solving ‘real’ life problems. It also is a way to access that happy inner child in you. What you are creating is almost irrelevant. In other words, you could throw away what you create because what you are left with, is more of yourself, your true, happy self. But of course with time you might produce creative work you might want to share with the world… That’s the cherry on the cake!
The object of developing mindfulness is not to be able to sit for 20 minutes without a thought, it is to let your senses rediscover the wonders of this world and of yourself. It is an active process that you can practise when you drink a cup of tea, sit in your garden, stand in front of the ocean, enjoy a beautiful sunset or when you engage in a creative activity.
How do I get started with intentional mindfulness and creativity?
Colouring books for adults are not the only path to mindfulness and creativity… Which is why I created a class to get you started in the right direction. It consists in daily creative activities for right-brain activation. The focus we need to create instantly generates mindfulness, in other words, using your creativity is a form of meditation that generates calm, a sense of peace and greater happiness.
The class is free and you can sign up here
. I hope you will take part.
“Creativity and imagination are not frosting on a cake: They are integral to our sustainability. They are survival mechanisms. They are of the essence of who we are. They constitute our deepest empowerment.”