Self-improvement is many things—necessary, transformative, profoundly beneficial, and the list goes on—, but easy it is not. One of the most difficult aspects of self-improvement is self-work, which entails everything you do in order to change yourself for the better. For some, self-work involves gritty, grueling inner weeding such as dredging up painful memories and traumas. For others, it involves asking for what you want and becoming more confident.
Self-work is not one thing. It looks different for everybody, and that’s okay. But unfortunately, work is work, and many of us struggle to stay motivated to work on ourselves.
But by improving yourself, you improve your quality of life. Keeping this in mind makes it easier to stay on track. So rather than thinking of self-work as a means to an end when you eventually become the self-fulfilled person you are meant to be, think of it as a journey that yields lasting positive results from beginning to end.
Here are three ways that self-work leads to improvement in every aspect of your life.
Self-Work Makes Space
Most of us collect baggage throughout our lives when we are faced with trauma, disappointment, and other difficulties. We get through hard times, but we’re never quite the same on the other side. We drag a piece of these hardships with us and it can make us less trusting and more fearful.
Challenging experiences can either be our biggest motivators or our biggest deterrences. When we collect baggage instead of lessons, we get in our own way.
Dropping baggage is a beautiful thing.
When life is difficult—and we all know how difficult life can be—, we tend to put up walls in an act of self-preservation. Self-preservation is a natural instinct. But too much self-preservation or putting up walls when a simple gate would suffice has the opposite effect. When baggage from our past causes us to miss out on life because we are too afraid of being hurt again, we do ourselves a grave disservice. We manifest unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Self-work means teaching yourself to only take what you need from the past. A person with baggage will remember a messy former relationship and be hesitant to open themselves up to someone new, but a person who understands the importance of self-work will learn from this past relationship that they need to set boundaries or speak their mind in the future, and they’ll bring these lessons with them into their next relationship. See the difference?
Don’t let your past drag you down. Instead, use it to lift yourself up. There is no experience that cannot teach you anything. Drop your baggage and make space for new possibilities. You’ll feel freer than ever before.
2. Self-Work Makes You More Empathetic
When you engage in self-work, you start to understand yourself more deeply. Your limitations and mistakes become visible, and you (hopefully) develop empathy for yourself.
Before we start self-work, we can be pretty hard on ourselves. Self-work means accepting things about yourself that you might not always like and learning to appreciate them. And not only is this great for our own emotional wellbeing, but it makes us more empathetic people all around. When you show yourself forgiveness rather than resentment, you give these to others too. It’s easier to accept people for who they are when we learn to accept ourselves for who we are.
When you’re more empathetic, your relationships improve. You become more understanding, more forgiving, and more open-minded. You realize that nobody is perfect and that everybody is worthy of kindness and compassion.
3. Self-Work Increases Your Faith in Yourself
After you accept your weaknesses, you more readily see your strengths. Self-work is not only about taking on new qualities but about nurturing the good ones you already have. You will see what you do well and what makes you extraordinary when you work on yourself.
When you recognize your own talents, you are better equipped to utilize them for all they’re worth. No more being modest and minimizing your capabilities. Play to your strengths, because it’s time to start going after what you want and need in life. Not everything will go as you intend it to, but having faith in yourself is enough to keep going. Trust yourself and expect success, and you will have no choice but to thrive.
Self-work might be painful at times, but it’s immensely rewarding when you stick with it. As you cleanse and polish yourself, your life will follow suit. Remember that self-work is not about “perfecting” yourself, as you are already enough. It is about overcoming your past, accepting yourself wholly, and dropping the habits and cycles that do not serve you.
An untended garden grows weeds, but a well-tended garden yields beautiful flowers. What will your garden grow?