Questionable Advice #7: How can I hold myself accountable on my journey?
The only advice column that gives you more questions than answers.
I recently started a journey to work on my shortcomings and aspects in my life that affect myself and others around me in a less than desirable way.
I began by writing down things about myself that I normally try to ignore or justify, that I know are affecting my life negatively.
For each aspect, I researched why I have those recurring feelings or ways of thinking (where it may stem from), how it affects me and others around me, in what forms it reveals itself in my life, and what I can do to change it or work on it.
In my search, I realised that most of the things I don’t like about myself all have one thing in common (actually more than one, but this one stood out)…. Lack of self-awareness. It is so apparent and for so long I tried to make excuses for why I do the things I do, but I realised that my need to cover up these negative traits will only lead me deeper into a hole that revolves around me and what I feel. I was too scared to face my shortcomings, because what if I don’t like who I am? But that is exactly what I needed. For the first time I looked at myself from a different angle, and I want to change my way of thinking and I want to be able to call myself out on things (in a healthy way). I understand that this is only a small aspect of being self aware (at least I think so… I’ll see when I continue reading after I send this email).
So, I came across your free Ebook and I’m busy reading through it.
Firstly, thank you so much for this gift. I am so excited to go through it and to be on a journey with myself. I am only 25 years old and I’ve only had snippets in my life that I can think of, where I really dug deep into life, myself and, as you call it, the human condition. I am so grateful for having discovered this book as a start to my journey.
Anyways, what I wanted to ask you… You mentioned early in your book that you suggest an accountability buddy. If you have other people taking the course that need someone to hold them accountable, please will you hook us up. I don’t mind asking someone close to me, but I think I would benefit from talking to someone that is on the same journey now.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email and for your time writing the book.
Love, all the way from -.
It sounds arrogant to compliment someone with, “You remind me of me.” At least, it does to me – because it implies that I’m also complimenting myself, and elevating myself in some way, and all the other acts that women are criticized about from a young age.
But screw it. Cindy, you remind me of me. And not for the obvious reasons (we’re both females in our twenties). Or the not-so-obvious reasons to others but hmm-that-seems-familiar reasons to me (I could be wrong, but the length and eloquence of your email make me think you enjoy writing, in some capacity).
Instead, for the important truths that your email reveals to me.
You asked for an accountability buddy, but I decided to give you a longer reply. I hope you don’t mind.
First, your email reveals to me a deeply introspective and growth-driven person. After all, you took the time to make a list of shortcomings, read my book, and send me an email. You’re seeking an accountability buddy because you know it’ll be a helpful resource on your journey.
If I had to make a grossly oversimplification of self-improvement, I might divide it into three levels.
- I notice an area in my life that could use growth.
- I want to improve in this area.
- I take the steps to do so.
I won’t get into the hundreds of reasons why people get stuck in levels #1-2 (although you already acknowledged the big one in your email: a lack of self-awareness). I will, however, celebrate you for making it to #3. I will also encourage you to applaud yourself, because too often we skip the “celebration” chapter on our journeys.
This leads me to my second observation. The courage you possess, which inspired you to send me this email and tackle this self-awareness journey, jumps out of your email. (Literally, imagine a little Gmail monkey swinging in my inbox, bounding out of the screen, and running around my room.)
You’re afraid to discover that you don’t like who you are. Herein lies the great paradox of self-awareness journeys. You are simultaneously the person you’ll always be, while also being a snapshot version in a never-ending evolution.
What do I mean by this?
You are Cindy. Up until the day you sent me this email, you have a story. You can’t go back and change that story, no matter how much you may want to. You can’t take back the faulty ways of thinking, the bad decisions, or the mistreatments of others.
This feels terrifying. Some of us have some really ugly things stare back at us when we look in the Past Mirror. Heck, you started your journey by listing all your shortcomings. (And I would highly encourage you to make room for strengths and positives, too.)
This story can be daunting, Cindy, but it’s also what makes us worthy. Not for any one thing – but for the fact that we have a story at all.
It sounds like you’re starting to look from the Past Mirror to a more encompassing Present Mirror. You write, “For the first time I looked at myself from a different angle, and I want to change my way of thinking and I want to be able to call myself out on things (in a healthy way).”
This is the best goal you can have. It’s also a difficult one.
Recently, I watched a video by one of my favorite authors Adam Grant. He talks about the process of rethinking. When he gets to the part about rethinking our identities, he discusses why it’s so damn difficult. Not only must we change our thinking – but we also must be willing to shed the identities we held up until this post.
To apply my metaphor, we must be able to shift from Past Mirror to Present Mirror – not knowing what it might be.
This brings me to the second element of the self-awareness paradox. You are ever-evolving. There isn’t a Future Mirror, but rather a series of empty windows that we can peer through as we imagine our future, our possible self, our desires.
For many people, these Future Windows contain our fears, our worst-case scenarios, our anxieties – things that hold us back from change. For some, we don’t have the courage or self-confidence to imagine how vibrant these windows can be.
You say that looking at yourself from a different angle is a small aspect of self-awareness. I’d argue it’s the driver. Your curiosity to learn more about yourself is what will catapult you to terrifying and exciting new stops on your journey.
My last observation is that gratitude plays an important role in your life. You took the time to thank me, which is something that not everyone does. As you continue on with your self-work, don’t forget to feel gratitude for yourself, as well. For all the past mistakes and future mistakes that will create your beautifully flawed Past Mirror on your way to the vibrant possibilities in your Future Windows.
I’ll send out a call for an accountability buddy. If I don’t hear back, I’ll serve as your accountability buddy, if you wish, in thank you for your email. Not only did it inspire me with our similarities, but it also served as an important reminder for one of the future goals that I would like to kickstart – a network of “accountability buddies” who want to share the self-awareness process.