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Oops! Turns out I was a little too quick to judge.

Ever regret a quick judgment? I created an opinion about an entire genre of books without actually reading one. I felt that I barely had the time to read anything for myself, so if I did choose a book, it was NOT going to be anything surrounding self-help, self-improvement or self-reflection. I was totally content with everything, so why read about making my life better?

Um, maybe that perspective should have been my first hint not to judge it?

I knew I wanted to make changes to the outside of my body, but did not think there was anything that needed to be changed on the inside (hint #2). I considered myself a generally positive person and was not seeking to change anything about how I saw things (hint #3) because the path I was on couldn't really change much (seriously....the hints were everywhere!). I just wanted the answers to feeling better without doing the digging or the work (hint #5 and perhaps the reason no attempts lasted long term).

I kept hearing certain titles recommended in my online accountability group and decided I would try one just to see the hype. It didn't take long before I felt like the authors were speaking directly to me and the "A-HA!" moments flooded my mind!

For the first time, I was thinking about the WHY behind my mindset.

Why did I always have self-doubt?

Why did I think everything had to be one way?

Why did I have to stay on the sidelines?

A few years and dozens of books later - I am hooked! I listen while I run, while I unload the groceries, drive on my own, etc. or read a chapter each night (because there is something about holding a book in my hands that I just love). There's so many strategies, tips, suggestions, thought prompts, ideas and connections in these gems that can spark a new fire inside anyone willing to be open to the flame.

Here's what I have learned and why I can't get enough of the personal development genre:

1. We need to think about our thinking.

As an educator, I tried to foster a love of learning in my students and do the same now for my son. Why not practice the same passion for myself? Our lives are too busy to pause and reflect on our own, but when prompted, we can finally touch upon the realizations of why we cycle through the same habits, repeat negative self-talk and make assumptions about ourselves that we would NEVER even think about someone else. Instead of accepting the automatic routines & responses, perhaps we can roll up our sleeves and find out why we repeat the ones that no longer serve us? Maybe we can find ways to start new trends that can make us feel more empowered?

2. It's important to know we are not alone.

I assumed I was the only one struggling to find a set of health habits that worked. I thought I must be busier than most or less equipped to succeed. I thought I was the only one that doubted myself or wanted to make changes. I thought I was the only one who doubted her role as a mom or who struggled to find the new version of myself in motherhood. I thought I was alone because I was not entering the conversations where people were discussing them. I was avoiding what I didn't want to do the work to change. However, in reading more, I began to take comfort in hearing other women share their stories and solutions for rising up to make a change.

3. Outside change comes from inside change.

We repeat when we don't reflect. Remember how I said I just wanted the answers? Someone to just tell me what I should do to feel better and fit in my jeans again. Well, that was working under the assumption that there would be only one answer for everyone. There is not. Navigating our own paths to health is an active process - you cannot be the bystander. It involves us being a part of our own journeys and doing the work. It's the reflections and the questions that we are asked that allow us to build the solutions that will work for us and stop the patterns of the past. They repeat for a reason. When I began to pinpoint the emotional food triggers, the standard set of automatic behaviors, the food culture that surrounded me, the self-talk that cycled (whether true or false) in my head, etc. I began to reprogram my life. What had always been did not have to continue if I didn't want it to do so.

I never wanted to spend reading time on me because I felt guilty - like I should be using it to be a better teacher or be a better mom or fill the time to check off a to-do list. But, now it's easier to see, that had I started this work earlier, it could have led to teaching my students some of the same strategies I learned or further helping them reframe the words they use about themselves. I have actually improved my parenting through spending the time improving myself. Starting sooner would have helped me explore my own thinking, strengths and habits earlier in my career...which would have allowed me to use those skills to be even stronger for all my people.

I was living in an automatic state, rather than a purposeful one, because it seemed easier that way. But easy doesn't change lives. I think I read that somewhere. xo

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