Hays: Making positive changesWritten by Pam Hays | | email@example.com
September is National Self-Improvement Month. It’s fine to designate months to draw attention to a specific cause, but most of the time a month of awareness doesn’t do a lot to bring about the lasting change the month is promoting.
Self-improvement is a perfect example, as it takes diligently working on ourselves daily to make changes that improve our “self.” I imagine that most people know they need to work on a few things.
Someone who has horrible eating habits knows they should not be a junk-food junkie. A person who is 50 pounds overweight is reminded about their need for self-improvement when they pant and sweat walking up a flight of stairs or when they visit the doctor and their test results are not within the normal and healthy range.
Self-improvement isn’t just about our physical selves, though you wouldn’t know that by the emphasis on creams, procedures and pills! Improving ourselves has to happen from the inside.
We have all met people who physically look like the picture of health or who have no financial concerns, but are mean, gruff and never seem to find a reason to smile. These types of people definitely need self-improvement!
It is difficult to take an honest look in the mirror and address what needs to be changed in our lives regarding our mental, emotional and spiritual selves. Money and beauty do not define a life.
Self-improvement could be necessary because of self-destruction. Situations in life can eat away at our self-image until we end up like Swiss cheese, with holes in our view of ourselves.
Children may be emotionally ignored or physically abused and the damage to their self-esteem can carry over into their adult lives. A teen who is bullied, or feels less because of his or her looks, grades or athletic ability can become emotionally blunted, leading to behavior that is often a symptom of a “self” that needs to be revamped.
Rape, trauma, abuse and the death of a loved one are other ways the self gets damaged. Equally as damaging, although not always recognized as such, is over-adulation.
When we are fussed over and complimented for every little thing we do, we come to expect praise instead of earning it. This leads to never reaching for the highest star, but settling for the ones dangling right in front of us. It is difficult to take risks and do the work necessary to become the person we want to be. If we can’t dream about who we could be and make the plan to get there, it becomes impossible.
I learned at an early age — from tragedy, from grief, from example — to hide my true self and become like a chameleon, making everyone around me satisfied and trying to be all things to all people.
My self-image paid a high price. It took me years to find my authentic self. And interestingly, it took a great tragedy to my brain and body, a tragedy that stripped me naked of memories of parts of my old self, to begin to build a new self. Pam today is not the same Pam I was in 2000 when I received my traumatic brain injury. It took me years to interweave the pieces of who I had been with who I had become and who I would become every day since my injury.
I now have an authentic self. But don’t think I am done; self-improvement is never over. Every day offers us an opportunity to learn, to improve and to change a life for the better. When that life is ours, we can be better prepared to make positive changes in the world around us!
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces, www.thearmsforces.org; (419) 891-2111.