There’s no cinematic moment better than the rom-com metamorphosis montage. I’m talking about the iconic Mia Thermopolis makeover, Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman transformation, and of course—it always comes back to Anne Hathaway—the Devil Wears Prada glow-up so good, Gisele Bündchen was left speechless. And while each of these examples serves to make audiences smile and laugh, our cultural obsession with the glow-up points to our constant need for self-improvement. And so that begs the question: is it possible to learn how to be content?
We’re always seeking self-improvement. Whether it’s in our appearance, at work, or on social media, we always want to be better. But what would happen if we stepped into each day feeling enough? First off, we’d likely buy a good deal fewer Instagram-sponsored products (just sayin’). But more seriously, we’d stop pursuing growth for growth’s sake and finally learn how to be content with things as they are—in every moment, right now.
Featured image of Cyndi Ramirez by Belathée Photography.
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How to Be Content: A Recovering Perfectionist’s Guide
Much of the problem with how we view contentedness comes from the fact that we confound it with complacency. With phrases like ‘no pain, no gain’ permeating our cultural subconscious, it’s no wonder we’re afraid to sit with ourselves and our accomplishments in a moment of peace.
It’s important to understand that learning how to be content is different from experiencing happiness. Over the past decade, much of the conversation has surrounded how we can pursue and reach happiness (with much of the narrative driven by a disillusionment with our capitalist society). However, while both words describe positive emotions or states, it’s important to distinguish the difference. Happiness describes the state of being happy, while contentment defines a state of being satisfied. The most important distinction between the two? Happiness takes place in the short term, while contentment happens in the long term.
Point is, chasing happiness is a misguided pursuit. It’s something we experience as an emotion rather than a prolonged state. Personally, in an effort to recover from my own perfectionism, I’m practicing more daily habits that can bring me to a space of serenity and calm with my past and the direction I’m headed. Sound like something you’re interested in doing for yourself? Let’s dive into the ways we can all learn how to be content and accept ourselves every step of the way.
Count Your Blessings
I’ll pause for you to roll your eyes. Yes, I’m aware that just about every wellness article includes a pitch for you to practice gratitude. But reader, gratitude practices wouldn’t get the hype they do if they didn’t work. I was skeptical, too—don’t worry. (And frankly, a little too lazy to pull out my journal at the end of the day.) However, since committing to the practice in earnest, I’ve noticed a complete transformation in my outlook. By reflecting on the people, moments, and experiences that have brought me joy, I’m able to concretely connect with my values each day. Whether it’s love, connection, learning, or creativity, cultivating gratitude allows me to focus on what’s truly meaningful in my life.
Make it happen: Start your own journaling practice! At the end of your day, spend a few minutes in bed or on the couch jotting down what brought you joy today. Remember: No gratitude is too small. You’re focusing on your own experience—and that’s always valid. (Psst… peep our favorite gratitude journals here. And if you need more support getting started, check out Camille’s guide to journaling.)
- Write about something that made you laugh uncontrollably.
- What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
- Write about a friend you really admire.
Make a Plan Toward Your Goals
We love a good goals list over here. After all, creating direction for ourselves can help us get where we want in life. However, we can run into trouble when we focus so much on the finish line that we don’t make a plan for aligning our daily actions with our goals. If we’re always looking toward the end goal—and don’t see how our day-to-day habits contribute to where we want to be—it can be easy to feel like we’re not making progress.
Remember: our goals reflect our values and what we find meaningful in life. To feel content with where we are, as we still make progress toward the growth we want to experience, it’s important that we structure our goals in a way that allows us to enjoy the journey.
Make it happen: It can be easy to feel scattered and like you’re not making progress when your goals are all over the place. To live each day with purpose and explore the dreams we have for ourselves deeper, it’s important to set yourself up with the tools to help you set intentions and build meaningful progress. The best way to do that? Download our 2023 Vision & Goal Setting Workbook. With this guide, you’ll have the support you need to identify your priorities and celebrate your growth along the way.
- What are my top three short-term and long-term goals?
- What do you love about your life as it is right now? How can you bring more of that into every day?
- Imagine your dream day. What are you doing? Who are you spending it with?
So much of our discontent in life comes from comparison. With people’s wins and highlight reels in our faces at all times, we don’t have to look far for reasons to believe we’re not doing enough. But when we embrace our authenticity and live in our truth, whatever others do and whatever happens outside of ourselves can no longer influence our joy.
Make it happen: It’s been said a million times, but it’s worth repeating: the most important relationship in your life is the one you have with yourself. Spend time with yourself. Date yourself. Grab your journal and dig deep to get clear on what’s truly important to you. Schedule an afternoon, an evening, or an entire day to spend by yourself. Let these 30 ideas for romanticizing your life inspire you to find the things that spark joy for you and you alone.
- What things in my life light me up?
- What is something you absolutely know to be true?
- Write about a time you felt a profound sense of peace.
In 2023, we’re dropping the negative self-talk. We’re being kind, gentle, and understanding toward ourselves. But rather than this looking like toxic positivity, we’re getting in the habit of meeting ourselves with self-compassion. Mistakes are inevitable, so rather than beating ourselves up when the inevitable occurs, we’re learning from our missteps and continuing to move forward as a result. A large part of learning how to be content comes from embracing our humanity and acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes from time to time. When we build up a toolkit of practices that remind us that we’re simply doing our best, we can maintain our direction and embrace where we are right now.
Make it happen: There’s nothing quite like practicing positive affirmations to shift your perspective. We shared 51 of our favorites right here. You can say these to yourself in the mirror in the morning (it’s uncomfortable at first, but stick with it!), write them down and keep them beside your computer, or fill a mason jar with affirmations that you pull out one at the start of your day. Let these truths sink in and help you see yourself as the beautifully flawed, perfectly imperfect person you are.
- What unrealistic expectations of myself can I release?
- What obligations can I release from my weekly schedule to create more time for myself?
- What things help you feel safe and supported?