So, on the facebook, everyone has that friend, that friend that posts maddeningly positive and upbeat links–you know the ones, the photos of butterflies with a quote about becoming your true self, the lists of habits and secrets of happy people, successful people, enlightened people–with an almost manic intensity that suggests that these posts are the only thing standing between that person and a nervous breakdown.

If you are friends with a lot of coaches, you have more than one of those friends.

Or maybe I’m that friend for you–maybe my blog posts are the equivalent for you.

“Hi! Have you remembered to face your fears today?! Oh, you thought you were just checking online to see what the random assortment of friends, colleagues, acquaintances and relatives had for breakfast, or just “read” on buzzfeed. NOPE, Imma let you finish but first let’s talk about what’s the point of living. I MEAN REALLY BEING ALIVE. I DEMAND TO KNOW WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU FELT TRULY ALIVE?! LOOOOVE, LAUREN”

The truth is I love seeing that stuff on facebook. I love that my facebook feed is a veritable feast of ways to learn about myself, about others, to dig deep, and play around on the existential playground. That’s what makes me a good coach–I could talk about this stuff all damn day. And I do.

But there’s a dark side to these lists, and I think it’s part of the reason these lists are so popular, along with those Meyers Briggs graphics telling you which character has which personality qualities, and things to know about introverts and extroverts and dog lovers:

A lot of us are kind of desperate to figure out who we are and how we fit in. And by that we actually mean: we are desperate to know what we’re doing wrong.

Because we must be doing something wrong, right?

Raise your hand if that is your go-to assumption when you face difficulty in life: I must be doing something wrong.

That’s the unspoken message my ego loves to take away from these lists. I can’t tell you how many times I have read about grit, resilience, stick-to-it-iveness, and immediately gone into a story of everything I need to fix about myself–how important resilience clearly is, and how badly I need to cultivate more of it, for example.

The problem is, my approach, an approach shared by a lot of my clients, is to focus on what I’m not doing right. To focus on what I want to improve. It’s understandable–our pain points get our attention for a reason: they’re painful and we want them gone.

It’s also understandable because a lot of self help focuses on empowering you to own your thoughts, your choices, your actions, and the consequences therein of all of these. This is self-help is that is especially helpful for the selves who have the opposite problem–people who tend to look everywhere but themselves for explanations of their problems.

If reading these lists makes you feel good, truly, then fantastic, have at it! Let them inspire you to even greater things! But if your tendency is to read these lists and blame yourself, to beat yourself up, to focus on everything you’re doing wrong, yet again, then try this on for size:

Instead of focusing on all the qualities those lists say that you should have that you feel like you don’t quite have a handle on yet, focus on all the evidence you can find that you are plenty resilient, plenty empowered, plenty grateful. That you are already embodying these qualities.

You are doing the best you can, at the moment, and that is damn good enough.

It’s fine to strive for self improvement, it’s wonderful actually, it’s one of my core values. But don’t use it to beat yourself up.

It’s really hard to make positive changes in your life when you’re engaged in a battle against yourself. When you are using that positive change as a threat, as a weapon, against the parts of yourself you consider weak, lacking, and shameful. 

Okay, I promised you a list of the one thing happy people do:

1)She knows how to let a list (or person, or experience, or fill in the blank _____) make her feel good about who and what she is instead of bad.