Soul-searching and Self-development

Self-development has become a big part of my life since studying to become a counsellor. It’s something that I feel we all overlook from time to time, but equally it’s something that’s incredibly important. By developing ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally, it can help us to move forward in a positive way.

Self-development can cover a lot of different things though, whether it’s developing a healthy lifestyle or working on mind management. So where do we start?

For me, mental health has had a huge impact on my life as I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and low self-confidence for a long time. For years I brushed these things under the carpet and refused to face up to them. However, after a recent break-up, I was forced to evaluate my life and my mental health as I just couldn’t carry on the way I was. No matter how many people told me I needed change, I just couldn’t admit it and I had to wait for that moment to click within my own mind. Realisation of issues and acceptance is a HUGE step towards self development and was basically the start of my journey.

Once I started to accept what was wrong, I began to question how I would move forward. When you are thrust into a position in life where you feel lost and confused and lonely, it can be the most overwhelming feeling. I felt like I needed to move forward positively, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Did I need a challenge? Did I need to rest and take time for myself? Did I need to start being more positive?

I started to research ways that I could ‘feel better’ after my break-up. A lot of posts gave advice on ‘looking after yourself’ and ‘building confidence’, which I found quite vague and frustrating – I wanted black and white answers! But the more I looked into it, the deeper I fell down the self-development hole.

I started to question what I actually wanted in life, and I found that a lot of the feelings I had currently were feelings that also existed whilst I was in the relationship! This made me realise that I’d actually been unhappy for a long time. I also started to realise that the only person who could change this was me!

I examined my career path and my current job. I examined my family and friend situation. I examined my past relationships. I examined my hobbies. I examined my mental health and unhealthy habits I’d formed. I found that these were the areas I needed to work on.

These are some things that I found have helped me in developing myself to be the person I want to become:

  1. Journaling – anything and everything! Some things just look clearer when down on paper. It can also allow your feelings an escape route from your mind – don’t keep it all bottled up.
  2. Reminding myself before I go to sleep of at least 3 things I’m grateful for from that day.
  3. Speaking to someone – this can be a friend, family member, or professional. Counselling is seriously under-rated! Don’t ever think your problems are not ‘worth’ talking about. Counselling can be for everyone.
  4. Creating a timeline – I was suggested this by a counsellor and I started to construct a timeline of every event in my life that I thought would have impacted on my self-esteem and confidence; from negative relationship experiences to positive moments that made me proud. It helped me to understand how the events had linked together.
  5. Taking each day at a time – Whilst it helps me to set goals, I can easily become overwhelmed if I think too far ahead.

I believe self-development is a life-long process and I know that this is only the beginning. I’m clear on what I want and how I want to be now and I’ve set myself some small goals to start with. But if there’s any advice I can pass on it’s this:

You are not alone in your feelings. There are always people out there happy to listen and talk to you (I’ll pop some useful links at the bottom of this post).

It doesn’t matter when you start to ‘fix’ your problems or develop yourself, what’s important is you do this at a time that’s right for you. There is never a wrong time to start evaluating what you want/don’t want from your life.

Acceptance is the hardest part. Think of it as a jigsaw; the hardest part is often starting, but once you do, the pieces will fall into place.

If you try things and they don’t work – THIS IS NOT A FAILURE! It’s learning. Try something else, and feel proud that you had the courage to try again.

If you change your mind about what you want – that’s ok too! Life is about the journey, not the destination.

xox – A mental health charity that allows you to self-refer for counselling. There are also helpful articles and information on the website – A safe place to talk about anything at any time. Their number is free to call. They are confidential, and supportive. You can also email or write if you prefer. – A wealth of information on mental health issues with forums on everything from low self-esteem to addictions.


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