How To Like Yourself More (And Grow At The Same Time)

As ambitious people, we often think about ways we want to grow.

But can only focusing on things you want to change, do more harm than good?

That’s been a BIG question for me of late.

And here’s what I realized:

  1. Much of my self-judgement is not my own voice. It’s a learned habit from ways I was criticized as a kid.
  2. The foundation of transformation is self-compassion and acceptance

You may think you need to beat yourself up to be effective and grow as a person, but consider how you’d talk to a friend or a young child you wanted to help.

(Hopefully) you wouldn’t tell them all the ways they suck; you’d acknowledge their efforts and meet them with kindness.

So why can we be so harsh to ourselves?

Research shows, a lot of the way we parent ourself is influenced by how our caretakers treated us.

If you were often criticized, blamed, ignored, or physically punished as a kid, you’ll likely treat yourself in the same manner as an adult.

And even if your parents were encouraging, you still may have received disapproval from siblings, peers, teachers and other adults in your life.

So when you beat yourself up, it’s generally a learned behavior and not always the most helpful response to the situation.

What’s a more effective way to change behavior than making yourself feel like shit?

SELF-ACCEPTANCE

And the path to self-acceptance is led by self-compassion.

When we meet ourselves with compassion, we can acknowledge we’ve done the best we could with our past circumstance and better understand our behavior.

For example, I noticed there were situations when I’d say yes, but didn’t want to.

In these situations, I shifted from getting upset with myself to investigating why the pattern existed.

I noticed my need to people please stemmed from childhood experiences where I wasn’t safe to express my needs or emotions.

So as an adult, I continued this pattern to feel safe and loved.

Once I understood the pattern, it was easier to give myself love and change it.

As you give yourself compassion, it’s easier to forgive yourself, change, let go of exaggerated guilt/shame and like yourself.

Because much of liking ourselves comes down to acceptance and judging ourself less. You can’t hate yourself into a version you like.

For more, visit https://kylesomersall.com

Creative Genius Is A Myth—4 Ways To Develop Your Creativity

Traditional views on creativity lead you to believe only a small percentage of people are born creative geniuses. 

Accordingly, we look at Kanye West, Virgil Abloh and Rihanna and assume they all must have a special gene that allows them to create brilliant work across multiple disciplines. “The Creative Curve” by Allen Gannett debunks the myth of the creative genius. Moreover, Gannett declares creativity is developed with specific actions and there’s a science to the work that goes viral. Certainly, innovative people are led by their curiosity and follow four frameworks to develop their artistry. 

4 Ways To Develop Your Creativity: 

1. Consume: Dive deep into the content that piques your curiosity and inspires you. Kanye West is well known for the soulful samples he uses in his production 

2. Imitate: Make things similar to the stuff you like. Some examples are the following:

a. Learn lessons behind your favorite creators;

b. Take the thought you resonate with most from the different resources and combine them to make something fresh; or

c. Find your own unique voice Virgil has a three percent approach, where he creates a new design by changing an original by three percent. 

3. Community: Build relationships with other creators. Once, Rihanna described her “establishment at the Fenty house as a hub”. She added, “I’m welcoming everyone’s vision here, because that’s what it’s gonna take. I can’t just think I know everything.” 

4. Iterate: Finally, make bad things until they become good. When Kanye received a question about taking the leap from production to rapping he retorted, “My beats was wack at one point, dog…I wasn’t always having hot beats. I learned how to make hot beats.” 

Overall, no idea is original and people aren’t born as creative geniuses. Rather, they leverage consumption, imitation, community and iteration to find their unique style. Innovation is a natural byproduct of them connecting the dots.

Benefits of Being Cringy

Have you ever been cringy?

Have you ever cringed when you heard your voice out loud or saw yourself on video?

What about when you think about an awkward memory?

I remember I was pissed and sad after the 2016 election and I shared a long post on my Facebook (wow been a minute since a said that)

But yeah it was the first time I allowed myself to be vulnerable in a public forum—honestly it was one of the first times I remember sharing something that felt controversial.

At that time, I had a deep need to be liked, so sharing something that others might reject made me super uncomfortable.

After I pressed send, I closed my computer and didn’t look at it for a couple hours because it felt icky to open myself up that much.

I used to avoid conflict and rejection was my biggest fear.

Anyways, I opened the laptop up and saw that my post was making rounds.

I don’t remember the exact numbers, but by the next morning there were over 100 comments and a ton of likes and shares.

It felt like a relief to not be an outcast for sharing something I felt.

What was it that made me so uncomfortable?

Perhaps it’s the same thing that makes you feel uncomfortable when you put yourself out there.

That cringe feeling.

Writer Melissa Dahl describes that cringe feeling as, “Self-consciousness with this undercurrent of uncertainty”. Sounds about right, but why does it happen?

From her research, she theorized that “maybe we feel awkward when the “you” you think you’re presenting to the world clashes with the way the world is actually seeing you.”

In my instance, the emotionally charged Facebook post definitely clashed with my identity of being the chill, nice guy.

And when you go to put yourself out there, you may have thoughts like:

“Who am I to be saying this?”

“Will people think I’m stupid?”

“Are my ideas important?”

“No one cares”

And that can be scary. But from my experience, it gets a lot easier with practice.

And think about all the people you admire. You probably admire them because they allow themselves to be seen.

They’re bold, they take a stand, they have an opinion or an essence that feels like their own.

Cardi B comes to mind. She’s likeable because it feels like she’s being herself.

And of course that means some poeple won’t like her. And some are going to cringe. She may even be cringing.

But a few great things happen when you embrace your cringe:

  • You learn it’s okay to feel uncomfortable
  • You feel free to show up as yourself
  • You attract your people
  • You expand your comfort zone
  • And you (hopefully) realize no one is actually thinking about you that much and their judgements are often just projections

In the long run, feeling uncomfortable for being your honest self is better than pretending to be someone you’re not.

Only one sets you free.

So here’s your nudge to embrace your cringe and show up boldy in this one precious life.

For more, visit https://kylesomersall.com

7 Things To Remember to Make Your Emotional Pain More Useful

Over the last month, I had some childhood wounds and emotional pain surface and my body told me it was time to face them.

Here are some of my takeaways/reminders:

1. Triggers reveal wounds

I was confused by the initial experiences that triggered me.

They seemed like small things to feel anxious about.

But as I sat with myself more, I realized my discomfort had nothing to do with the present trigger.

Underneath there were child hood wounds that were asking for a attention.

Things like “I’m a bad person; I’m not worthy of love/acceptance/forgiveness”

2. Anger is a secondary emotion

It felt nice to get angry and not feel bad.

I used to shame and repress my anger, in the past.

But yeah, anger is helpful and something to embrace.

Underneath it, there is pain that wants your attention.

3. You have to feel it to heal it

Don’t think this one needs me to add on much more.

But one helpful thing—to feel means to be aware of the sensations in your body.

Thinking about emotions doesn’t count as feeling them. 🙏🏾

4. The mind replays what the heart wants to heal.

Wow being human is fun. (I mean that)

5. The adult you operates from its wounds to feel safe

Holy shit—so much of our behavior is just patterns we started as kids to feel safe. (But you can heal, which is nice)

6. Healing isn’t linear

When you provide a safe container, more buried things will come into your awareness because they’re ready to be embraced with love and compassion.

So let yourself surrender in the process.

7. There’s wisdom on the other end

We learn so much from our pain.

And with some perspective you can even find beauty in the whole thing.

Through the experience:

  • I feel a better connection to my body
  • I no longer feel like a bad person.
  • And I’m nicer to myself.

Here’s to giving ourselves grace and embracing the journey.

For more, visit https://kylesomersall.com

The Key To Good Work Is Bad Work—Understand The Taste Gap To Be A Better Creator

Sometimes our expectations take away from the process of becoming a great – more evenly, a better creator.

A creator starts making things because we have great taste. But at the outset our creations aren’t as good as our taste.

It’s easy to get discouraged and give up at this point. You have a great idea in your head, but it doesn’t have that “it” factor once it’s made. Ira Glass describes this as the taste gap.

A chart which helps understand the taste gap to be a better creator

Virgil Abloh, a distinguished creator, expanded on this idea during a lecture he gave at Columbia. He shared, “The only way to get to the end means is to start your domino effect. Which is basically: put out bad work. [laughs] I for one am not a perfectionist, and it’s such a gratifying concept.”

One of my favorite artists was encouraging me to put out bad work?

The thought unsettled my inner perfectionist, but it was also liberating. It encouraged me to focus on the volume of work I made and helped me understand that all of the creators I admired went through the same process.

At the moment, my focus is on closing my taste gap with writing and design. 

While Virgil refers to the process as a domino affect; I like to imagine it as stairs on a staircase. It reminds me to focus on one step at a time.

For more, visit https://kylesomersall.com

Ways To Shift To An Abundance Mindset

The difference between a scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset

Your mindset impacts how you respond to life. Hence, an abundance mindset is much needed in what we do everyday.

One cool Harvard study showed if we focus on one thing with our full attention, other seemingly obvious possibilities can go unnoticed.

The brain can only absorb a limited amount. So if your focus says something is impossible, your mind will ignore contradicting thoughts.

Because of that a scarcity mindset sees limitations where an abundance mindset sees opportunities.

A few helpful ways to shift from scarcity to abundance:

1) Focus on what you have

2) Create win-win situations

3) Surround yourself with people that have an abundant mindset

4) Practice gratitude 

5) Allow yourself to be curious about other possibilities

For more, visit https://kylesomersall.com

Strategies to Make Your Self-Talk More Constructive

We all talk to ourselves—sometimes out loud, but mostly in our own head. While the voice in our head often goes untracked, it has a significant impact on our wellbeing, confidence and ability to bounce back from painful life experiences. What does the voice in your head usually sound like?

We’ve evolved to have a bias towards negativity for survival purposes. Even though the intention of the voice in our head is usually to protect us, our self-talk can often do more harm than good—keeping us from pursuing goals, lowering our self-esteem and making emotional wounds worse. The good news is that, with practice, we can turn crippling self-talk into more constructive conversations with ourselves.

Read on for strategies to bring more attention to your self-talk and to make it more productive.

1. Acknowledge what you’re saying to yourself:

  • Awareness is an important first step that allows us to notice our tone and word choices

  • Are the things you’re saying destructive or constructive? (Do they make you feel better or worse?)

What we often notice when we listen to the voice in our head is that we aren’t very kind to ourselves. Consider what you would say to a friend in a similar situation and notice if it sounds different or similar to what you say to yourself.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to treat ourselves like a friend and forcing ourselves to feel different sometimes backfires. Melody Wilding suggests the following two tactics to reframe negative self talk:

2. Use release statements:

  • When you notice that you’re beating yourself up, you can use statements like “It’s okay for me to be disappointed” or “I forgive myself for not finishing on time”. These statements allow us to halt unproductive self-talk and frees us up to consider solutions.

3. Use self-inquiry instead of criticizing statements:

  • Asking questions instead of issuing criticizing statements allows us to meet destructive thoughts with curiosity instead of fear. We’re able to consider other possibilities and create room for problem solving

  • For example, if you notice yourself saying, “I’m not good enough to get this done”, you can ask yourself questions like:

    • Have I done something similar before?

    • What’s the worst that can happen?

    • How can I get help or make myself more prepared?

    • What will it take for me to do this well?

4. Be intentional about forming habits that make you feel good:

In addition to the reframing strategies listed above, we can also be proactive about practicing activities that plant seeds for constructive self-talk. Here are some suggestions you can try:

  • Gratitude: Take time during your day to write down things you’re grateful for.

  • Daily Success Review: At the end of the day, write down small wins/things you’re proud of from the day.

  • Mindful Awareness: Consider something you do everyday. Perhaps using a computer or eating food. Take a moment to acknowledge all of your abilities and the actions of others that made those experiences possible.

  • Friendly Note: Write a note to yourself at the end of each day speaking to yourself as if you were a caring friend.

These exercises all foster connections that make it easier for us to notice more things to feel good about.

Overall, it’s helpful to remember that we aren’t perfect. Notice the progress that you’re making with goals and with your self talk and allow yourself to figure out what works best for you.

How to Form a Habit

Almost everything we do each day is a habit. Think about your morning routine. When you woke up, what was the first thing you did and what did you do after that? The morning routine, the things we say to our family and ourselves, going to work, where we get on the train, what we eat, what we do when we get home are all habits. Life is a mass combination of habits.

Most of the choices we make each day can feel like well-thought out decisions, but in reality they are habits. Although each habit seems minor on its own, when combined together, they have a major impact on our health, productivity, and happiness.

Habits are necessary because they liberate our brain to perform tasks that are not a part of our normal routine or require critical thinking. If we had to think deeply each time we walked to work or took a shower, we wouldn’t have the capacity to remember to call our mom for her birthday or text our friend about dinner plans.

It may be disconcerting to acknowledge that we don’t actually think about most of the decisions we make. However, it’s also empowering to know that once we make an act or a thought a habit, we can execute it with little effort.

Charles Duhigg describes the habit loop as the three-step process within our brains that allows habits to become automatic. First there is a cue, which triggers our brain to go into automatic mode and tells the brain which habit to employ. Then, there is the routine, a physical, mental, or emotional response to the cue. Last, there is a reward, which helps our brain determine if a certain habit loop is worth remembering for future use. The more times we perform a habit, the stronger the connection gets between the cue and the reward, until eventually a sense of anticipation and craving develops.

Brushing our teeth is a helpful example of how the habit loop works. When toothpaste was invented, many people knew about the benefits of brushing their teeth. However, far less people consistently brushed their teeth. Most people didn’t have a strong enough connection between a cue and a reward to make brushing their teeth a habit.

Eventually, a toothpaste maker decided to add a fresh flavor to their toothpaste, and the use of that particular brand of toothpaste soared. The cue was the dry taste people had in their mouth when they woke up, the routine was brushing their teeth, and the reward was the refreshing sparkly sensation that their mouth had after using the toothpaste. This cue and reward made teeth brushing a widespread habit.

The dry taste in our mouths is an effective cue for brushing our teeth because it happens everyday. Relying on our willpower and memory to form a habit usually doesn’t work. Instead, it’s best to use reminders that don’t rely on our motivation or memory.

How to Pick a Cue

The best reminders for starting a habit are behaviors that we already do each day. Setting up a system that links new behaviors with visual reminders and existing habits makes it easier to form a routine.

A few months ago, I decided to make a habit of listing five things each day I was grateful. I wrote the question “What are you grateful for?” on my whiteboard to offer a visual reminder. Since I already had the routine of meditating every morning, I decided to use that as my cue for my gratitude list. After meditating, I made a mental list of five things I was grateful for.

One way to determine your reminder is to make a list of things that you do everyday.

For example each day you…

  • Wake up

  • Shower

  • Brush your teeth

  • Eat lunch

  • Turn the lights on

  • Get into bed

Since these actions happen everyday, they can serve as great cues to form new healthy habits. For instance, after you drink your morning coffee, you can list one thing you’re grateful for.

Along with things you do everyday, making a list of things that happen to you everyday can also help you determine an effective cue.

For example each day…

  • You receive an email

  • The sun sets

  • A traffic light turns red

  • A commercial comes on

  • Someone smiles at you

Once you make your lists, you’ll have many potential cues to form habits. Mindful awareness of our environment helps us appreciate it’s beauty and appreciate things that support our existence. Therefore, if you want to be more mindful during your day, observe the red traffic light and appreciate your ability to see. In another way, observe the sunset and connect with its beauty.

Make It Easy

In addition to an effective cue, it’s also important to make the habit easy to start. We often feel like we need to make major changes in our lives. We want to change our diet over night or lose 20 pounds in a month. But striving for a huge transformation usually doesn’t lead to a habit that sticks. Small daily habits are what lead to a lasting change.

When I wanted to make meditation a habit, I had days when I only meditated for one minute. On days when one minute seemed like too much, I told myself that I only needed to take 10 conscious breaths.

At the start, you want to make the routine so easy. In this way, you can’t say no to the routine you are forming. As the cue and reward build a stronger link, you’ll start to crave the routine, and you’ll be able to build on it.

It’s also important to focus on one habit at a time. Attempting to make changes to every part of your day at once, will probably lead to everything staying the same.

Decide on one new habit and determine how you can make it too easy to say no.

Acknowledge Your Effort

It’s easy to consider a habit as an all or nothing routine, but really it’s a process. When you’re forming a new habit, quantity is more important than quality. For example, if you want a habit of positive self-talk, a journal of a positive letter to yourself each day works. However, you might not be up for it one day, and that’s okay. Instead of writing a whole letter, you can just write one word to yourself. That one word will strengthen your routine and eventually writing full letters will require minimal effort.

Whether you write a full-page letter or one word, it’s still important to acknowledge your effort and praise yourself for working towards your new habit. Enjoying the small successes makes the routine worthwhile.

What Habit Do You Want to Form?

We have the ability to make lasting changes to our health, productivity, and happiness by forming habits. That is powerful and incredible. Once you determine a habit, think about the cue you want to link it to and make it easy to start. Most of all, enjoy the process.

For more, visit https://kylesomersall.com

Overcoming Fears that Cause Procrastination

Doubt, fear, procrastination—what do you call it? Over the last couple weeks, I found myself avoiding some tasks that were high up on my priority list and replacing them with smaller tasks or time wasted on the Internet.

If you’ve had a similar experience, I’m sure you can imagine the internal dialogue I was having and the frustration that followed when hours passed and I still hadn’t done the one thing I planned to do.

After spending some time trying to figure out why I was putting off work that I desperately wanted to get done, I realized fear was at the root of my procrastination. (Is that always the case?)

Fear is challenging because it often influences us without us even knowing. It lurks in the recesses of our minds and yanks us around at the same damn time.

So I spent some time sitting with my fear. I gave my fear some attention instead of filling my time with that next podcast, NBA summer league videos, the glorious Instagram, and whatever else I found myself doing.

My realization of why I was getting stuck was due to fear about the final product being “good enough”. I had projects that I was unfamiliar with, so I was unsure about where to start and the quality of the work.

Fortunately we have Google for all of our where to start questions, but that still doesn’t abate the fear related to the quality of our work.

Here are some realizations that I came to over the last couple weeks that helped me work through my fear and procrastinate less.

1. Fear is usually at the root of procrastination.

2. You need to give your fear some attention. Then, figure out what you’re scared of. Take some time to pause and shine light on your fears.

  • Are you afraid you’ll fail or do a poor job?

  • Does new task scare you of the unknown?

  • Does the task make you uncomfortable?

  • Are you scared of starting off wrong?

3. You might not be good at identifying what you’re fearful of—which is totally OK—but the fear probably has something to do with being afraid to fail or producing something subpar.

4. The fear might be baseless. Your fear makes you do a great job.

5. The fear might be rational because you actually don’t know what you’re doing or have never done the task before. However, the only way to get better at something is by getting information and practicing.

6. Starting small and collecting some information about the task is often effective at mitigating the fear. Do a little of the task or practice the most basic part of the process and see what happens.

  • Give yourself the goal of just writing the first paragraph, making the first slide of the presentation, putting down one drum loop for your beat etc.

7. Once you’ve collected some information about your experience with the task, use rational thinking to work with your fear.

  • Was the experience as bad as you expected it to be?

  • What did you learn/get better at in the process?

  • Are you capable of completing more of your task?

With practice we get better at noticing our fears. I’ve noticed that shining light on them, starting with small tasks, and then using my experience to gauge the rationality of my fears has helped me procrastinate less and lean more into the things I’m fearful of. Noticing the fear and leaning into it is often the momentum we need to put things in motion.

Why We Need to Be Real About How We Feel

The reality is life is incredibly challenging by its very nature. We have a myriad of experiences, and moods, and feelings, and emotions. So why do we often feel like we have to repress parts of us that make us fully human? Why we need to be real about how we feel?

I know this feeling all too well, as I’m sure many of you do too—being ashamed of how I feel or refraining from expressing feelings for fear of being considered weak or flawed.

Growing up I didn’t practice expressing myself much. I learned through the platitude, “boys don’t cry”, music videos by my favorite artists—Jadakiss, Lil Wayne—interactions with peers, conversations with family, and numerous other influences that suppressing fears, worries, sadness, grief, depression, and other unpleasant experiences was the appropriate way deal with our human condition.

That statement sounds baffling as I reread it, but here we are. So what do we do about it?

Recognize and Accept

I’ve realized that our real strength lies in our vulnerability. Our ability to recognize and validate our feelings, while practicing self-compassion is what allows us to heal, ask for help, make changes, grow, and manage life more gracefully.

When we’re able to acknowledge an experience, and allow it to be there, just as it is, we can awaken from a trance that makes us subject to our inner critic, our feelings of shame and fear, our anxious thoughts, and the weight of overwhelming sadness.

Accepting our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations doesn’t mean that we have to change the way we feel about them. We might still be ashamed about our jealousy or fear. But honestly acknowledging the presence of our feelings is the first step towards responding to them in a productive way.

Investigate with Care

Observing our suffering with a sense of curiosity and care allows us to get to the heart of our experience. You might pause to ask yourself questions like: How am I experiencing this inside my body? What most wants attention? What am I telling myself? How does this feeling want me to respond?

These questions may uncover masked feelings and allow you to be aware of subconscious beliefs and emotions that control your experience.

As we investigate with care, compassion naturally arises for our suffering.

The practice of recognizing our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations and then validating the painful ones is difficult. It can sometimes be even harder to extend compassion to ourselves once we accept how we feel.

But as humans some of our experiences are unpleasant, and we’re allowed to feel those.

Validating and being real about our undesirable human experiences is what allows us to take productive approaches to resolve our suffering.