shutterstock_225432577In a word: self-evaluate.  Taking an honest inventory of your problems is the first step to finding a meaningful solution.  But that can be a lot harder than it sounds.  Here’s how to start.1)  Face your fear.

A lot of people avoid being honest with themselves because they’re afraid of what they’ll find.  Denial is actually a self-protective mechanism: If we don’t admit it, we don’t have to deal with it.

But realize that you’re already dealing with the ramifications of your problems.  Naming them will empower you.  As I mentioned, it’s the first step to improving your life.  And what could be more empowering than that?

2)  Let other people be honest with you.

Everyone has blind spots.  Your partner, friends, and loved ones are in a unique position to notice things about you that you may not have noticed about yourself (or maybe you’re afraid to notice about yourself.  See #1.)  Ask the people around you what they see.  They might have valuable insights into your issues that you never would have known otherwise.

(Obviously, you have to have a high degree of trust that the person you’re asking will be looking out for your best interest.  If the people in your life are manipulative and/or abusive, skip this step.)

3)  Think about what makes you unhappy in your life.  Be willing to admit your own role in it.

Sometimes our problems are not of our own making.  We might find ourselves in painful and difficult situations where solutions do not immediately present themselves.  But if you always think your problems are because of someone or something else, you’re missing a chance to take control of your own life.

Admitting that you are contributing to your problems can free you up to actually do something about it.  This is especially true in relationships.  You always have a role in the dynamics that are occurring, and have to be willing to identify what that role is.  It could be that your role is not speaking up about how the other person’s behavior is impacting you; that’s still a role.

4)  Allow yourself to feel, deeply.

Our emotions offer information.  If you have a tendency to suppress your feelings, then you’re missing out on crucial information about the world and yourself.

5)  Know that self-reflection is brave and valuable.  Reward yourself for it.

You might find it easy to beat yourself up, but difficult to praise yourself.  If that’s your m.o., then no wonder you’ve been avoiding a self-inventory.

Try to see that you’re doing something hard, and that you’re entitled to compassion and kindness.  Those are other key ingredients in change.  And change starts here.

**Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist, and author of the domestic suspense novel Don’t Try to Find Me.

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