Have you ever felt like you know there is a better version of you somewhere inside yourself, but you don’t quite know how to access it? You know something is keeping you from living your best life but you can’t quite see what it is, or maybe you can but you don’t know how to fix it.
Maybe you’ve been working on personal growth and changing your habits, but you know you have inner work to do and don’t know where to start.
Well, the way you find that better, truer version of you is by doing self-work and I’ve got the step by step guide you need.
What is Self-Work?
Self-work is action you take to improve yourself and your life. It’s striving to become a better version of you every day. It’s realizing that you are not set in stone, and that you can always upgrade yourself. It’s asking how can I make myself better? It is the process of shedding all the limitations and expectations society puts on you and finding your own path so that you can create a life that brings you joy.
We’re taught that once you’re done with high school or college, or when you become a parent you’re done developing as a person. That the learning stops and it’s all kind of a slow downhill slide from there.
The truth is that academic education is only the beginning. The journey to becoming your best self requires curiosity, honestly, looking inward, deconstructing old beliefs, forming new ones, and being willing to step outside your comfort zone. Self-work is all about the inner work, not just changing habits and your environment.
The journey of self-growth helps you discover what lights you up and what brings you down, and learning that helps you create a life that is authentic and meaningful to you.
Most importantly self-work is not a one and done deal, it’s a life long process that requires patience and commitment. And though the word ‘work’ is in the title I’ve found joy and freedom in it.
Why Do Self-Work?
Self-work allows you to uncover the best version of yourself.
It’s important to note that we’re all doing the best we can with the tools and lessons life has given us. The problem is sometimes the lessons we’ve learned have limited us instead of helped us expand and improve our lives.
If you experienced something that taught you that you’re more likely to fail than succeed then you’ll just stay in your little comfort zone bubble and never expand beyond that moment when you learned to stop trying.
When you start a personal growth journey you’re going to find some stuff you don’t like, but it’s also going to allow you to start healing old wounds.
Do self-work with love. It’s all about improving your life, not hating yourself and wanting to be someone else. It’s also not about doing what other people are doing, it’s about looking inward and asking what does happiness look like for me, what calls to me, what is no longer serving me and needs to be released?
How to Get Started On A Self-Work Journey
Self-Work Requires Self-Awareness and Honesty
Let’s say that you’ve swept so much dirt under the rug that it becomes lumpy so you keep on tripping over it day after day, and each time you look down to see these lumps you say to yourself “there must be something wrong with the rug” and then go on your way. Then the next day you trip over the rug again and the cycle repeats.
You have to admit that the rug is fine, you’re just ignoring the dirt you swept underneath. Until you lift up the rug and deal with your dirt you’re going to keep repeating that harmful cycle.
Sometimes it’s hard to break old patterns and realize that the thing holding you back the most is yourself, but it’s so empowering to discover that you’re really in charge of your life and you can take the car off autopilot and take a new road.
So to begin your self-improvement journey you have to be honest about where your troubles stem from and take responsibility for your dirt.
Assess Your Beliefs
Are you still carrying around beliefs you developed when you where a kid?
The answer is yes.
I’m not talking about believing in Santa Clause, I’m talking beliefs about love, money, people, the world, yourself, and everything else.
All of our actions stem from our beliefs. If you believe something will hurt you then you’ll take action to avoid it or protect yourself. If you believe you can’t do something then you won’t even try. If you believe doing something will make people like you then you’ll do that thing even if you don’t really want to.
Lets look at some general examples.
You grew up poor and believe that you’ll always be poor. You don’t educate yourself on how to manage money, you blow your money on things you don’t really want or need, you do the bare minimum at work and therefor never get promoted, and you don’t put money away in savings.
You saw your parents fight a lot as a kid, so you believe love is supposed to hurt. You date men who don’t treat you with respect, you fight a lot, there’s constant drama, and each new boyfriend has the same personality with a different face.
You struggled in school and a teacher said you’d never amount to anything. You believed them and stopped trying on your homework and tests. You barely scrapped by in school and didn’t go to college because you believed you weren’t smart enough and only have minimum wage jobs for the rest of your life.
Do you see how beliefs influence actions which create your results? Beliefs are like self-fulfilling prophecies, if you belief it’s true you will make it true without even being aware of it.
Self-work requires you to look at your beliefs, ask if they are really true, and then change your behavior accordingly.
I have a whole post dedicated to overcoming limiting beliefs that will guide you through the process.
Deep self-work requires that you look under the metaphorical rug where you have all the things you don’t like about yourself hidden.
With this level of self-awareness you need to cultivate a lot of self-love, otherwise you may end up feeling incredibly frustrated with yourself over all the crappy things you find.
Learn to develop compassion for yourself. Realize that a lot of our emotional baggage was created during childhood, and love that version of you who made mistakes and formed bad habits like you’d love a child.
Give yourself grace, but don’t confuse self-love with excusing toxic behavior and choosing not to change. Forgive yourself for the past and then change the pattern.
Explore What Is Possible For You
As you begin to see what areas of your life need to change, decide what you want your life to look like.
When you start shedding those old limitations and changing your belief system you’ll find that things you thought were impossible before are actually within your reach.
Where have you been trapped in your comfort zone? What did you not do before because of your fears of failure or judgement?
There are so many opportunities and possibilities that we don’t see because we believe that they don’t exist, but they were always there. Now that you can see them what will you do with them?
Set some goals, chase your wildest dreams. Start taking small steps that will get you there. Replace your old habits that weren’t serving you with new ones that will improve your life.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
As I said at the beginning, self-work is not a one time process.
It’s a life time process of sweeping away some dirt in one area, then moving to a new area and removing more dirt. As you smooth out the rug you trip less and less over time.
Self-work allows you to reinvent yourself on the inside.
You get to find new sides to yourself, explore new things as you release old beliefs and fears. You learn and grow into a better version of you with each season that passes. Your life will get better and better.
What Else Can Self-Work Look Like?
The wonderful thing about self-improvement and personal growth is that there are so many ways to do it!
It can involve looking at your fears and limitations, but you can have some fun with it too.
In addition to the steps I listed above, here are other practical ways to do self-work:
- Start a daily gratitude practice.
- Say no when something doesn’t feel good to you.
- Curate your social media feeds to only have things that make you feel good.
- Give yourself credit for how far you’ve come.
- Set boundaries with toxic people.
- Check in on what you need physically, emotionally, and mentally on a regular basis.
- Consume educational and inspirational content regularly (books, podcasts, etc).
- Move your body. Dance, stretch, take walks, just move.
- Meditate. Meditation helps cultivate self-awareness and inner peace.
- Learn new skills and hobbies once in a while.
- Put your creative mental muscles to use! Draw, paint, knit, practice an instrument, write, etc.
- Learn how to put a stop to negative spirals.
- Declutter your home, make space for new energy & ideas.
- Take breaks from technology for a while.
- Be present in your interactions with others. Talk to people or play games with your kids or pets without distractions.
- Use journaling as a form of self-discovery
- Have compassion for other people instead of judgement.
- Learn the difference between ego and intuition.
- Appreciate all your small wins.
- Take responsibility for your attitude.
- Take small steps outside your comfort zone. They’ll add up!
- Learn about shadow work.
- Realize that just being willing to look at your inner junk is a huge step!
I hope you found this guide to self-work helpful. Be gentle with yourself, take your time, but dream big. You can do incredible things once you get out of your own way!
Love and light,
Get a free pdf with journal prompts for your daily gratitude practice!