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Working On Yourself Versus Working With Yourself

If there is one being in my life who truly works with himself and always has, it is my 18-year-old parrot, Pearl. He has been his own best friend (and mine) since we first met when he was just five weeks old!

Is there a difference between working on yourself and working with yourself?

If there is, it would sure seem like it might be a subtle one – after all, there is only one little word’s difference between the two.

And yet, for me at least, the addition of those two extra letters turns the whole process on its ear!

I say this only because I am 47 now and I have been “working on myself” my whole life. Working on my body. Working on my mind. Working on that little “anxiety issue” (the one where the Grand Canyon periodically opens up beneath my feet and swallows me up whole).

I’ve been working on my spiritual evolution, progress, whatever you might call it. Working on meditation. Working on social skills. Working on flexibility. Working on accumulating sufficient money in the bank to pay the rent each month.

In all of this, I get the distinct sense of a being family you don’t choose, if you know what I mean. 

Me, my body, my mind, my heart, my spirit – we are like that huddled little clique in the school yard that seems so tight-knit from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out we are one big hot mess of whispered gossip and snarly misunderstandings.

Enter Adriene, of #yogawithadriene internet fame. Adriene has been re-teaching me yoga from the bottom-level basics on up. I started taking yoga with Adriene online shortly after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism back in November 2017.

The hypothyroidism triggered intense joint pain as well as a host of other very unwanted uninvited guests like weight gain, cystic acne, chronic exhaustion and a basic need to unlearn everything I ever thought I knew about health and wellness and go back to square one.

Since I pushed the “reset” button on my whole life, I’ve learned a whole lot about how I had been not just doing everything wrong but thinking about it wrong as well.

For example, let’s take “working on yourself.” In this scenario, which basically describes my 47 years to date, the challenge presented is a problem to solve. The problem, of course, is me. Ouch.

With a little (lot of) help from Adriene, I am learning to shift from working on myself to “working with myself.” Here, the challenge presented is a chance to grow. Who am I growing? All parts of me, together, partnering up with true friendship and shared enthusiasm for the first time in my life….ever.

Today’s Takeaway: What do you think about the semantics of working ON yourself versus working WITH yourself? Not everyone resonates with small verbal changes like these, I realize – as a professional writer, I may well be more sensitive to word choice than most! But is there any kind of tangible difference that you pick up when you repeat one phrase and then the other, whether in your body, mind, emotions, spirit? Do you think it makes a difference to use one phrase or the other when you set out to improve or evolve in some area of your life?



Working On Yourself Versus Working With Yourself

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2018). Working On Yourself Versus Working With Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 May 2018
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