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What is a Good Life? #15
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project and how it is structured (4 separate sections). Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
The key theme this week is Self-acceptance. The interviewee speaks of the significance of self-acceptance and relationships, while I reflect on the importance of getting to know yourself.
1. This week’s interview – Self-acceptance
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s newsletter is with Nadia*. Nadia is a CFO and has her own consultancy, working with multiple start-up companies. She speaks about the importance of self-acceptance and good relationships in her life.
What is a good life for you?
Something around complete self-acceptance. I don’t think it's a goal that can be fully achieved, it's more about the journey towards it. It's to be okay with choosing what I want to do and it’s about great relationships, exercise and good health. These things come back to self-acceptance for me, as it greatly impacts the quality of these experiences.
It’s a good life when you're moving towards this goal?
Yes, I think so. I guess everybody is trying to do that but it's bringing yourself back on track as you get distracted. I have historically thought if I had more money, then I would be happier, but I’m really questioning, “is that true?”
Do I want more money or does somebody else have more money and am I envious of that? Do I need to get more money, or do I need to work on myself? Overall, while money is important, I’m seeing it has more to do with self-acceptance than the things I believe I need to have.
How do you see self-acceptance influencing your relationships?
Previously I had a belief that I can work on myself to get on with everybody, if I try hard enough. I realised recently that belief makes me unhappy and that it’s acceptable to fall out with people or have people that you don't like as much as others.
I thought if you're popular, that should be a good life and that would make me happy, but that wasn’t the case. It's more important to be happy with myself and the way I conduct myself, whatever the outcome.
What patterns do you notice when it is lacking in your life?
Whatever it is that I'm currently doing can quickly turn into obsession, for example appearance and fitness, or work. I have only two modes when it comes to exercise, obsession or not at all. When it’s obsessive, I can't focus on other areas of my life, I exercise eight times a week, and I'm counting every calorie.
I end up losing weight, but it comes at a sacrifice of having fun - I've gone through that loop so many times. Now, I'm consciously trying to do exercise I enjoy and it not being about the target. It only makes me happy when I've actually figured out what am I getting out of this, truly for myself.
What external challenges do you face in pursuing a good life?
The continuous white noise of others displaying what they have. So social media, TV, even your neighbours - misinformation on things that make us happy. It may make some people happy, but I often find a correlation with people displaying things on social media and the least happy people.
It’s difficult not to be derailed when you see somebody else’s online life, people can feel like failures because of the artificial world they’re consuming.
What environments or scenarios help you cultivate greater self-acceptance?
Having good quality relationships, the ones that I feel comfortable with myself. It's being with people that make me feel like they love me for who I am, which is probably a feeling that I love myself around those people.
Nothing compares to those moments. I'd give up any goal for that feeling or that connection with somebody else or myself. Those are the glimmers I get of a truly good life.
What impact do you see this pursuit having on your life?
That the pressures I put on myself to succeed will alleviate. For me to be happy, it's about spending time with loved ones, doing good work, exercise, spending time on myself and on hobbies that I enjoy.
I’m battling with what is enough. Much of it is trying to enjoy the journey, doing things I enjoy today rather than waiting for three years’ time, when I'll have more wealth, and only then doing what I really want to do.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” - Dalai Lama
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Self-acceptance was mentioned by approximately 11% of the participants in this project as an important part of a good life.
Participants suggested self-acceptance had a big impact on multiple areas of their lives - relationships, health and work. One participant referenced the significance of letting go of perfectionism, while another noted the importance of accepting what you have discovered about yourself and not resisting it.
Most participants realised the need for self-acceptance only after attaining numerous external goals, which failed to create a better relationship with themselves.
“It is not worth the while to let our imperfections disturb us always.” - Henry David Thoreau
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
I was in a café in India with my now wife the first time we sat down to talk together. Instead of mentioning all my highlights, I told her why I was in India, why I had started meditating and why I was trying to live a more introspective life.
I told her that, despite projections of confidence, recently things had been difficult for me. Underneath it all, I was struggling with a low sense of self-worth and some sabotaging behaviours. To my relief, she flashed an accepting smile and said my honesty was refreshing.
While I see self-acceptance as an inside-out process, sometimes the people around us can help us see our own worth, even when we’re not able to perceive it ourselves.
Looking back, it was difficult for me to practise self-acceptance when I didn’t really know myself. I was nearly always in the company of others and if I was alone, I was invariably consuming content to distract me from my thoughts.
The more time I’ve spent getting to know myself, the more slack I’ve been able to afford myself, like I would a good friend telling me of their difficulties. My relationship with myself still fluctuates, but now, underneath it lies a more secure foundation of acceptance.
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself” - Mark Twain
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life is for you
What are you presently giving yourself a hard time over? How would you respond to a friend or family member telling you of a similar experience?
How often do you spend time with yourself, without any external distractions or inputs?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.