The Self-Improvement Trap


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When you last picked up a self-help book or took the initiative to participate in a personal development course, what motivated you to do so?

Was your motive something along the lines of…

  1. I need to fix my negative thoughts because their messing up my life
  2. I need to get rid of my insecurities because they have ruined so many opportunities
  3. I need to become more present because if I don’t I’ll be forever anxious 

Or did they embody something along the lines of this…

  1. I would like to establish a more positive outlook on life so that when I’m in a conflicting situation I can make more proactive decisions
  2. I would like to respond to myself with kindness when my insecurities arise and reduce the self-critical effect
  3. I would like to become more present so that I can enjoy my family and friends

So, which one was it?

Isn’t it interesting to see how similar yet different these motives are? There is a fine line between self-improvement and self-degradation. In the first category, there is a great emphasis on trying to ‘fix you’ as a person. The motives are laced with a negative undertone and a disease like quality. It’s like once I become emotionally stable, then I’ll be lovable. Once I tackle my anxiety, then I’ll be able to live. It’s the never ending pursuit of once I have this, then I’ll be good.

Many of us take this self-improvement approach. We have this belief that we need to eliminate the bad, before we can see the good in a situation or in ourselves.

What’s The Problem With This Thinking?

The problem is that we become trapped into trying to fix the old rather than build the new. When we create goals around ‘fixing ourselves’ we carry around a heavy weight of powerlessness, shame, not enoughness and struggle; which makes growing and improving so much harder (and failing even more so). Because of this strong negative undertone, we place more focus on protecting ourselves than growing.

Give Yourself Some SLACK!

If what I described above sounds like you, it’s not your fault and your 1000% normal. Emotions are real. Psychological issues are real. Triggers are real. Habits are real. The struggle is real and you’re not alone.

From an evolutionary perspective, this way of thinking and behaving helped us stay alive. Your anxiety helped prevent unwanted outcomes like rejection, failure and ultimately death. Your depression helped prevent the emotional overwhelm and everything in between helped manage something to keep you in the here and now. If you think about it, the blame is quite ambiguous because who you are right now is merely a compilation of the people you were around, the culture you’ve been exposed to and life circumstances you’ve experienced.

The important question comes down to… is there a way out and is there a way to use growth that is healthy and uplifting? Yes. 

That starts with the practice of self-acceptance. That means being okay with where you are at the moment and understanding that you are exactly where you need to be right now.

In our new course ‘Emotional Intelligence for Beginners’ we cover and provide tools on how to develop self-compassion so that you deal with difficult emotions when they arise and make choices and decisions that are based on growth rather than insecurity.

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