Accepting Who You Are

August 6, 2023

Here in Amsterdam, this past week has been Pride week. It’s been a celebration of inclusion and of letting everyone be their true selves. Despite the decidedly non-summery weather—it’s been about 19 degrees Celsius, rainy, and overcast—the vibe in the city has been fantastic. People are happy and energetic.

All the love and positivity got me thinking about accepting ourselves the way we are. What makes us happy? What energizes us?

There’s a good chance you’re reading this because you first heard of me in the context of productivity. Productivity talk is often rational and logical: define your priorities and rank them. Break your projects down into small steps. Methodically work through them to achieve your goals.

Many such tactical tips and techniques work. Heck, that’s why I teach them! You can become more efficient and effective by organizing your to-dos, by using certain apps, and by structuring your days in specific ways.

But the heart of productivity is emotional. If you feel good, your impact will be so much greater, whatever your line of work is.

Asking what you want from life is harder than learning how to use a to-do app. It’s more confrontational. It might reveal some uncomfortable truths. But it’s the only true, long-term way to be “productive”, in the sense of working towards what you want.

What do you want from life? How do you want to feel? And what do you want to contribute to your community, to the society you live in, and to the world?

These are big questions, so let’s approach them from a different angle—the one I was thinking of during the Pride festivities.

Ask yourself:

  • What energizes me?
  • Which activities and surroundings make me feel good?
  • When do I useful and productive?
  • Have I accepted these truths or am I trying to change myself?

The final question is really important. Do you accept yourself the way you are? It’s important to do so not just on an identity level, as in Pride, but also in the narrower context of productivity.

So often, we don’t accept who we are. We try to get up at 5 am because someone we respect does, but we can’t make it work and consider ourselves undisciplined slobs. Or a famous person time blocks their entire week and appears to be extremely productive as a result, but when we try it, we just get stressed and feel that all the joy has been sucked out of our week. People we know are climbing the corporate career ladder through jobs that are 80% remote meetings, while we are bored out of our skulls staring at Zoom for hours every day—still we do so, trying to emulate their “success”.

These are examples of not accepting what energizes us, what makes us feel good, and what genuinely makes us productive.

Accepting who we are doesn’t mean we don’t want to grow. You can accept yourself exactly the way you are right now and still strive to be better in the future. The trick is not to force yourself to work in ways that don’t suit you.

Take some time to be honest with yourself. Are you on the right path? Do you feel energized pretty regularly? You can’t be full of energy every day, but if you feel depleted every day, something is definitely off.

Accept who you are and accept what you need to be your best self. Then, if you need to, change your environment or the people around you to suit you better. Do that and you really can’t lose.

P.S. Here’s a bonus photo of me enjoying a Pride party, which was very energizing and fueled me up for the week ahead! I hope you’re feeling ready to crush your week, too.

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