Identify three things that you don’t like about yourself (Exercise #20)

July 12, 2006

There’s a hidden cost in the things we don’t like about ourselves.  In addition to the fact that the things are usually undesirable traits in the first place, what is usually neglected is the cost of thinking about the undesirable trait over and over again.  In most cases, we are slowly changing creatures and things we don’t like will stick around for years, sometimes decades.  It’s a good idea to check in occassionally with a few of the most costly of these traits and make sure we’re not letting them use up more of our energy, time, and self-esteem than it would take to fix them.

Make a list of the top 3 things you don’t like about yourself.

The important thing here is to find the things that bother us the most.  Sure, you might like to be a foot taller, to have the bone structure of a hummingbird, and have a turtle shell to allow easy sleeping on sidewalks, but does it truly bother you to your core that you don’t have these qualities?  In my experience, the things that bother me most, the things that most encourage the slow and steady buildup of self hate, are the things that I know I could change about myself, but only lack the energy and motivation to do so.  It’s the ability to blame yourself for the undesirable trait that stabs deepest.  So, think hard… what do you really dislike about yourself, name two or three.

How long have you disliked each thing?

Sometimes we rationalize undesirable traits by thinking one of two things: either they are not really THAT nagging, or they are too difficult to change.  Losing 20 pounds, or improving conversational skills, or reinventing your career path are not simple tasks.  However, if you can think back to the first time you considered this trait it becomes more clear how costly keeping them around can be.  Thinking about something once or twice a week, each time with self-criticism and disgust, for years or even decades can really bring you down.  It also brings home the point that it’s possible that this trait is going to stick around for as long as it wants to… sometimes they magically disappear but most of the time they only go away with concerted effort.  When framed like that, imagining yourself having this same conversation with yourself 10 years from now, it becomes easier to motivate yourself to make changes now so that you can save yourself all of those years.

Imagine life without the trait.

Imagine that through some miracle the thing you hated most about yourself was gone.  You would wake up each morning and not have that same thought.  You would be in other situations and not have that insecurity.  How much relief would it bring?  It might help to think about other traits you have had in the past (maybe something like childhood awkwardness or acne or harmful relationships) and how liberating the day was when you found that that particular burden had come to an end.

Write out steps for removing each undesired trait.

What would it take to get fix the thing you hated most about yourself.  Exactly how much effort would it take, how much money, how much of a lifestyle change?  What is the cost of reaching that point?  Compare this cost to the real cost of keeping it around.

Strongly consider changing the top-most undesirable trait.

Really think about it.  Why not do it?  Why not double down on fixing one major source of unhappiness… and give it everything it takes until it’s resolved?  Not only would it remove a self-sabotaging source of self-hate, but it would build up confidence in your ability to make positive changes in your life and give you momentum for more changes.  In my case, the appeal is also to simply have a new project… one that has a real benefit.  You can research the problem, consult friends, and make it a thing.  As a thing, you can rise to the challenge and keep yourself interested in a subject for the duration of its resolution.  Good luck!

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5 Responses to “Identify three things that you don’t like about yourself (Exercise #20)”

  1. RS Says:

    The presentation of this content could be a bit more positive. I believe in the law of attraction. If we think about what we don’t like, it attracts more of the same. To improve things, focus and visualize what you do want to be like…attract those things. This is a change in perception that I’m working on right now. Thought I’d share.

  2. Pronoia Says:

    I agree. I assume you watched thesecret.tv about the law of attraction too?

    I agree that thinking about negative things makes them happen… and part of this exercise is about realizing how much you think about negative things (something that you don’t like about yourself may get “thought of” every day for years until you fix it). The goal of this exercise is to basically expose the things you’re thinking about negatively and systematically eliminating them.

    One of the steps is to imagine what life is like without the problem… which is basically what the law of attraction suggests you do.

  3. Unmusic Says:

    I disagree; I think this is a really helpful post. If there are things about yourself that really grind you down, chances are that no matter how much you push them to the back of your mind, they are so great and affect so much of your life that it won’t take a lot of negative thinking to identify them.

    Or maybe my self-loathing is closer to the surface than other people’s ;)

    Either way, I think this post engenders positive thinking and a problem solving attitude, rather than being an exercise in negative thinking.

    But then I’m no scientist.


  4. My two cents…

    In my opinion, there are only two reasons why one wants to think about ‘negative’ traits:

    1. To understand their nature and make a conscious effort to get over them. This is indeed a positive excercise.

    2. To pity onself for one’s shortcomings. In this case, one doesn’t make an attempt to address the problem but rather finds a sense of comfort by acknowledging his inadequacies.

    So, before thinking about a certain ‘negative trait’, it is important to first understand (with some maturity) the purpose of pursuing that thought.

  5. Mindy Bormonaite Says:

    I think it can be productive to think about bad habbits with the intent to change. When one uses their short comings as a justification to make it okay, then there begins a road to stay the same. Working outside your comfort zone helps you grow. This can be a touchy subject because there are circumstances such as ADHD that seems to be allow certain behavior modifications more room taht there should be. I could be wrong but I know someone who I thought was lazy but after knowing him for years on a regular basis I believe it is a problem. There are medication that can assist with the disorder for ADHD. If a person doesn’t take their medicine properly or it is the wrong one then the medicine can not work. Blame shifting seems to become a part of everyday life. It is a tough call but self help seems to work the best. I do not mean a person should not seek a Doctor’s care but between the 2 progress usually occurs. Also, I have noticed that a person who really wants to change a shortcoming usually is successful. Mind over matter. It seems to work. A human beings will is the core of change. I hope my input is helpful. Thank you.


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