See yourself realistically 1. What’s going well?

Happy red-headed freckled-faced woman smiling into camera

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

It’s a funny paradox, isn’t it? Accepting yourself while knowing you need to change. Self-acceptance requires you to see yourself realistically. And the first step is to work out what’s going well in your life. 

How do you want to live?

What kind of a person you want to be?

It’s tempting to jump right in and start changing yourself to be that person. But before you do, take the time to do a self-assessment. That is, to assess how you’re going in a range of areas or domains. 

Positive qualities first

The first step is to identify your strengths and positive qualities. Then you can work out how to build on them.

Later you’ll identify areas in which you may need a boost.

So what’s going well in each area of life that’s important to you? Let’s look at how Alice, a teacher, assessed her positives.


Alice is realistic enough to accept she’s not 100% perfect. She knows she doesn’t always reach her goals. And that’s OK.

She’s listed her strengths or things going well in each area or domain. She’s phrased her statements in a reasonably neutral manner. And she’s avoided describing faults or things not going well.

Those will be dealt with in the second step of her self-assessment.

Alice’s positives in each domain

1 Social

I’m friendly and try to make others feel at ease.

I enjoy some social outings with small groups.

I have a small group of friends, whom I see reasonably often.

I get on with most people at work.

2 Family

I have a fairly good relationship with my parents and brother.

I spend three hours a week supporting my parents.

I have a good relationship with my kids most of the time.

I try to be a conscientious and caring parent.

I cook most days, take the kids to activities and sometimes help with homework.

I usually acknowledge their efforts at schoolwork or interests.

I cuddle and hug my kids when I can.

I try to forget arguments and start new every day.

3 Work

I’m a conscientious and competent teacher.

I know how well each child is doing in each subject.

I often let parents know how their child is managing.

I generally work well in the team and support other teachers.

4 Study/volunteer

In the past I’ve done lots of volunteer work.

I enjoy learning new things.

I’m studying graphics design part-time online.

5 Health/exercise

I eat well probably four days a week.

I exercise once a week.

I try not to eat too much salt, fat and sugar.

I try to watch portion sizes.

I don’t eat in the evening.

6 Financial

We are careful with our money because my partner’s job is casual.

7 Leisure/hobby

I enjoy movies, painting/design and gardening.

I want to develop a green backyard.

8 Relationships

My partner and I have a OK relationship.

We don’t argue much.

We care for each other.

9 Home/garden

I try to keep the house running smoothly.

I have got rid of some clutter.

10 Self-development/personal qualities

I like to gain new insights on how to cope with life.

I’m open to new ideas and experiences.

I have empathy and compassion for others.

11 Spirituality/religion

I’m interested in Buddhist philosophy.

Now it’s your turn!

Notice that everything that Alice has written down about herself is true. She’s avoided the trap of using unrealistic positive statements that don’t match her true achievements.

If she were to exaggerate what she’s done, her brain would argue back and try to lower her self-esteem. 

So follow the steps below to do your own self-assessment. It can be short and very modest. That doesn’t matter.

The important thing is to recognise even tiny positive things you’ve done, or things that have turned out OK in your life.

Being able to see yourself realistically will help you in many ways. For example, you may want to lift your self-esteem. Or to work out where to focus your efforts to reach your goals.

Doing a self-assessment like Alice’s does take some time. But you can do it bit by bit. Who cares if it takes a few days or weeks? The knowledge you gain will benefit you for years to come.

Write it down

Be willing to write down your thoughts as you go. It’s too hard to remember all the information in your head.

So find an old exercise book, or staple scrap paper into a booklet. Keep it in a private place, or carry it with you to scribble down ideas.

Step 1: Domains

Decide which domains in life are important to you. Call them by names that are significant to you. Here are a few ideas. Make up your own to reflect your priorities.

Possible domains:


Step 2: Strengths

What strengths do you have in each domain? List what’s going well in each domain, and the positive qualities you have in each area. It doesn’t matter how small the item is.

You can work on just one or two domains to start with. Then work on the rest as you’re able. And even when you’re not consciously doing this exercise, your brain will be working on it in the background.  

If you can, recognise every single positive aspect in each domain. Knowing your strengths can give you confidence, and gives a baseline for future comparisons.

Step 3 Ratings

Give an honest rating out of 10 for each domain. This is to show how well you think you’re doing in each area. See yourself realistically, but don’t worry if some ratings are low. Everyone has a mix of ratings from high to low.

You can choose to work on some of the lower ones in future. Don’t worry about these scores at present. Choose to see them as interesting information. 

For now, we’re focussing on what’s going well. 

Alice’s thoughts about her results

Alice can see how she’s managing life in general.

Notice she phrases all the points in a positive way. She’s not worrying about what she needs to improve. This exercise is to get her to notice what’s working.

Obviously she’s not happy about everything. But for now, she focusses on what’s going OK or better.

She’s doing better than she thought

Looking over the whole list, Alice is pleasantly surprised. During the weekly scramble, she often feels overwhelmed. She used to think she was ineffective and not doing enough.

However, she has a lot on the go at the same time. Reading her list, she sees how thinly she’s stretched. She can see she’s probably expecting too much of herself.

Alice’s ratings

Alice hasn’t rated herself in each area yet. She needs to avoid being harsh on herself and overlooking the good things. And conversely, not being overly positive if it’s not justified.

In other words, she needs to be realistic.

These are her overall ratings for each domain. Ratings go from 1-10, with 10 being great.

Social 6
Family 7
Work 8
Study/volunteer 7
Health/exercise 5
Financial 5
Leisure/hobby 3
Relationships 6
Home/garden 6
Self-development 7
Spirituality/religion 4

From her overall ratings, how is Alice going? Which areas are doing well? Which ones need a boost? Which ones are OK for now, but need work in future?

Don’t worry about low ratings

You may have done this exercise and have some low ratings. Don’t be discouraged. Most people find some areas are OK and a few are fine. The rest may be underperforming. Don’t worry. You can’t be good at everything.

Focus on the good stuff first

Focus at first on what’s going well. Give yourself credit for the positives. 

Read over your list of things that are going well often – every day if you can. Reinforce your belief in your own positive qualities and skills. Keep doing what you’ve been doing if it’s working.

Add in small improvements if you can. Otherwise keep it going steadily. Once you’ve done that, then you could look at other areas.

So what’s the next step for Alice?

Read the list each day

Alice reads her list of achievements and positives every day. This boosts her confidence that she’s managing well. Taking the time to assess her positives has paid off for her.

What needs to change?

Alice is OK with work and study at the moment. But she expects too much of herself regarding her parents. She’s been trying to do everything without help. So right away, that’s one area she can rethink.

Questions to ask

At present, Alice is tossing around some ideas.

Is it reasonable to expect she does everything to such a high standard?

Does she ever give herself credit for what she does?

Are her expectations that she do more for others reasonable?

Does she need to ask her partner to share the load?

Can she bring in outside support for her parents?

Can she lower expectations in one or more areas?

Identify an area to work on

Doing this exercise tells you what’s going well. It also reminds you that you have many positive qualities and skills.

But it naturally suggests that some things need to change. So it gives some guidance as to how to direct your efforts.

Read how Alice identifies an area she’d like to work on.

Make the decision to do your own self-assessment now. Learn to see yourself realistically. Take the first step and assess your positives.

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