How Self-Acceptance and a Commitment to Personal Growth Can Increase Psychological Wellbeing
Author: Shamis Pitts
23rd May 2020
As part of mental health awareness month, I am compelled to create a conversation about psychological wellbeing. A component of mental wellbeing, the other two being emotional and social, I like to refer to psychologist Carol D. Ryff’s Psychological Wellbeing (PWB) Scale as the go-to framework for wrapping my head around the scope of what it means to have psychological wellbeing. There are six factors: autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life and self-acceptance.
I am going to focus on self-acceptance, personal growth and purpose in life because my commitment to those factors propelled me to where I am today. That is, a person who is grateful each day for my life and my work and all of the messiness in between. In early 2018, I realized that my life was not working for me and that I wanted to figure out what would make my heart sing. I knew as hard as I had worked, I had not found it yet.
How could I be an effective leader if I was always focused on what’s not working for me?
Connecting with Self-Awareness
I went on what I now call my purpose journey. It started out bumpy with therapy, sleep and reality TV watching (which isn’t my thing, so this was a red flag). During those early months, I realized that I was 1) an extremely self-critical person who was a long-suffering perfectionist, 2) exhausted from years of not engaging in any meaningful self-care and 3) not satisfying my love of learning in a way that was authentic for me.
This awareness hit me like a lightning bolt. How could I be an effective leader if I was always focused on what’s not working for me? If I did not allow myself time for rest and renewal? If I was always learning to build capabilities for work but did not take time to explore deeply personal interests? I spent some time beating myself up over missed opportunities and blindspots that suddenly became so clear, then I started to learn how to let go.
Connecting with Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance started to overpower self-criticism when I began to reflect on all of the lessons that I had learned along the way. And that self-acceptance became even more powerful once I began to reflect on the lessons in the little things. The interactions that I have with everyone I meet. Every conversation I have. Every conversation I chose not to have. Activities and projects I have focused on or not. There is always a lesson if I am interested in finding one and if I give myself time to reflect.
Now, I engage with intention, which helps me remain content on a daily basis. This shift didn’t happen overnight, rather little by little, day by day, moment by moment. If there is something unsettled in my world, I talk about it and address it so I can let it go so that it does not take up space in my mind and in my body. This is where meaningful self-care comes in. Worry and frustration will only make me tired and distracted. Quality sleep, good exercise and nutrition go a long way. I can’t move forward if my body and mind are operating at a deficit.
Once I committed to getting curious about and exploring my personal interests things really started to fall into place.
Using My Superpower to Amplify Personal Growth
My purpose journey took a bold turn once I started to keep it simple and be authentically “me”. Curiosity has always been one of my superpowers. It often manifested in a quest for continuous improvement. However, I was only using that narrative for evil (in service of perfectionism) rather than for good.
Once I committed to getting curious about and exploring my personal interests, i.e., mindfulness and professional coaching, things really started to fall into place. Both involve deep awareness and evaluation of “self” so that one can truly understand the “other”. I had been more focused on the latter than the former, so my commitment to personal growth was imperative to introduce some balance. How can I truly understand the other if I do not understand myself?
Stepping into “The Knowing”
I am sharing my personal journey to shine a light on what is possible with respect to increasing psychological wellbeing. When I committed to my purpose journey, I was committing to growing and learning about myself; exploring the unknown and sitting in the discomfort of what I would find within it. With self-reflection came self-awareness, confidence and self-acceptance. I found peace in “the knowing”.
The knowing that I am enough and that perfectionism will hold me back. The knowing that I can be, have and do anything that I want once I get clear on the roadmap. The knowing that a roadmap must include flexibility so that I can be nimble and go off-road. The knowing that I am resilient. The knowing that I am not alone on this journey and that it is important for me to connect with my tribe and ask for support. The knowing that I am an empowered leader who is capable of living my vision.
I recommit to my journey every day. It is a practice. I invite you to do the same!