Self-Improvement in a Modern World
June 3, 2015admin
I began my journey towards self-improvement two years ago, though I was unaware of how far it would take me. It all started with a mirror. The person staring back at me wasn’t who I saw myself to be. I was a 27 year-old college grad, married, with a good job. I was “living the life”. Yet, I was tired, stressed out, and unsatisfied. To top it off, I was physically and emotionally self-conscious. I decided it was time to do something, anything! “I’m gonna start working out”, I told myself.
Self-improvement begins at our basic level: the physical self. We begin improving by satisfying our need for external strength and a good looking exterior. So, I did what anyone would do for inspiration: I turned to Instagram. Inevitably, I found yoga. Being that I’m naturally a “Flexy Lexy”, I was happy to find an activity I was good at right from the start. The poses were cool, I got my sweat on, and I started to notice my body getting stronger, leaner; and I was happier. But I wanted to take it a step further.
Let’s talk about our physical self from the inside: diet. You are what you eat and let’s face it, most of us are walking, talking, pieces of pan con croquetas. (At least, I was…) My thriving yoga practice led me to delve into a teacher-training course. There, I was prompted to take a look at my diet and asked to eat vegan for three months. Yes! I went from fried fat to fruits and veggies–ONLY! Now, I’m not suggesting that we all become vegans or that you must in order to have a proper diet.
However, I am giving an account of my experiences and I can attest to my body becoming leaner and meaner because I ate cleaner. Also, I felt more energized throughout the day. Part of this dietary shift included omitting caffeine and any other stimulants or depressants such as alcohol. You could probably guess that my first thought was to walk out the door and decide this training wasn’t for me. But, I stuck to it and reeled in the benefits. I left my job and started teaching yoga with the intent to use the additional free time to further my true passion, my music career.
There I was, my body looking and feeling great! I’d never been so proud of all that I had accomplished and how far I’d come. Yet, I still felt there was more room for improvement. I found myself stepping into the next level of consciousness.
Conquering the mind.
We hear it all the time but it’s much easier said than done. The mind has so many complex layers within itself and each individual’s mind is wired differently. There’s a history of learned emotions and behaviors. We are molded by a labyrinth of life experiences, upbringing, surroundings and economic statuses. When you decide to stop, drop and soul search, you will learn more than you bargained for. The greatest journey you could ever take is the journey inward.
The trouble with that is, we struggle to find the time. Even more so, the patience to yield and understand who we are–in the age of “now” everyone is rushing. We are born into a fast-paced reality that creates a heavy sense of time. We only ever hear is that it’s running out. So we rush into relationships, choosing careers and having families. I’ve rushed into a countless amount of things in my life. From where I was standing, it seemed almost impossible to make the changes necessary from the choices I had already made to be happy. But it’s never too late to start.
So I meditated. I stopped overthinking and started listening. Not to the opinions of others and external noises, but to myself. What I found were the answers I had been looking for all along. I addressed past pain. I began to understand the experiences that acted as catalysts for thought patterns and behaviors I so badly wanted to break. It’s simple, I became aware of myself. My thoughts began to change and consequentially, so did my life. What had once seemed impossible became tangible and with it came a newfound thirst for living. Nothing was going to get in my way because I had uncovered my peace. Still, improving my physique, changing my diet, and increasing awareness left me wanting one last thing, and the most important: love.
The heart can be fragile as well as tenacious. It’s the most challenging aspect of self-improvement for everyone. A heart that has been bruised often seals tight. We’ve all had our share of heartbreak, felt the pangs of loneliness, judgement and criticism. No one is exempt. We lock up our hearts because we know how delicate and easily broken they are. No one likes pain. It hurts! But self-awareness sheds light on our need for pain to stimulate growth. The thing about pain is, it only lasts as long as you want it to. You can dwell on it, feed into it, drown it and become the victim, or you can take a deep breath, be brave and let it pass. It will always pass. But when it’s over, you are that much stronger. And you wouldn’t be that strong without it.
Slowly, I tore down the walls of my fear, doubt, pain and replaced them with courage, confidence and hope. That’s when my marriage crumbled. I no longer wanted to be dependent on someone and the reasons we were together didn’t make sense anymore. That’s the funny thing about working through pain, you’re never the same after it. I had broken free from the suppressive mask I had worn for so long. As the facade melted away so did the life I created under it. I finally enjoyed spending time with myself and learned to love myself.
Repeat after me: “I am complete”.
I opened my heart to both pain and pleasure. Knowing that pain would help me grow. It would help me appreciate real love when it came because I saw it in myself, first. Opening my heart would bring me that much closer to merge with someone that was able to see and have all of me. Through this process of transformation, I found my truth and purpose. I’m still a work in progress but we live life one day at a time. I strive to make every day meaningful, filled with new experiences and interesting people. I will follow my heart and listen to the still small voice within that utters, “Keep going! Don’t give up! There is more!”.
I look back and remember how I felt when life was comfortable, secure and stagnant. I’d rather be alive, plunging into the unknown and continuously discovering the abundance and vastness of life. I hope that sharing my story with you has awoken some passion within yourself to improve those things that need attention. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Make sure the person staring back at you is one you can live with. It’s never too late to switch gears, chase the life you’ve always wanted, and never look back.
Photo by: Luna Palazzolo