Are you trying to be Mary Poppins?

I believe that real self-improvement starts from the foundation of liking and accepting who you are, right now, warts and all.

by Irene Conlan — 

In our quest for self-improvement, we often get sidetracked, thinking we have to be another Mary Poppins who “was practically perfect in every way.” If you haven’t seen the movie, it is worth the time and trip to the video store; if you have children, even better. “Perfection” is a standard arbitrarily set for you by someone other than you, and this kind of perfection cannot be achieved.

Caution: Seeking perfection is not the same as doing or being your best. This is about self-improvement, not about getting bent out of shape because you do not meet some standard of perfection that exists only in your mind or in someone else’s mind.

I spent nine years in a Catholic convent a long time ago. Because I was a good reader with a big voice, I was almost always selected to read at one of the day’s meals, which were otherwise eaten in silence. One book I read aloud at breakfast was The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues. (Now if that won’t get your panties in a knot, nothing will.)

This book set forth standards of behavior and spiritual practice so high that not even the saints could have attained them — and most of us were left feeling guilty and hopeless because we missed the mark by such wide margins. Every day I was glad we were closer to the end of that dreadful book and the day I finished was a great day. The next morning, looking forward to a new book with a new outlook, I was handed The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues, Volume II. I still cringe when I think of it, these 50 years later.

I believe that real self-improvement starts from the foundation of liking and accepting who you are, right now, warts and all. It means self-love — enough love for you to get past the “I am too thin, too fat, too old, too young, too inept, too uneducated, too afraid, too timid,” too whatever thinking — and finding new and better ways of doing things that bring you greater joy.

This may include finding ways to earn more money or a college degree, learning to dance, paint or use the computer — anything your heart knows would increase your joy and satisfaction. (Just because the Rolling Stones “can’t get no satisfaction” doesn’t mean you can’t.)

So on this quest for self-improvement, lighten up! If you can’t enjoy it, don’t do it. Oh, don’t go getting literal on me. Sometimes the joy will not be there during certain rough spots of learning and changing, but keep your eyes on the prize because the end result could be magnificent and yes, even joyful. G.K. Chesterton, an influential English writer of the early 20th century, said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

What about you? Are you ready to fly like the angels and Mary Poppins? Then lighten up. Set a realistic goal for the improvements you wish to make and go for it.

If you do not like yourself much or if you need help along the way, you might try hypnotherapy or learn to do self-hypnosis — tools that can help you on your path of self-improvement.


Irene Conlan has a master’s degree in nursing, is a certified hypnotherapist and a certified past life regression therapist at The PowerZone in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 4, August/September 2007.

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