The Dark Side of Self Improvement

Setting goals and constantly improving yourself seems like a good thing that everyone should be doing. And I would have to agree, to a point. For most people, goal setting helps them stay focused and motivated towards a goal, which is a great thing. What I am finding about myself, though, is that self improvement can easily become a negative thing.

Constantly identifying areas in which you could improve without ever celebrating your strengths can put you in a pretty negative headspace. It can cause you to focus on only your flaws so that they seem much larger or more important to you than your strengths. You may become obsessed with improvement in so many areas of your life that you get burned out or forget to enjoy yourself along the way.

There is one phenomenon that I find especially interesting. For me, when I discover through self-exploration something that I would like to improve, I can make a plan for how to do this, and work towards that goal without negative effects. However, when external sources points out numerous flaws or weaknesses that I didn’t even know I had, the negative effects begin. I try to improve so many things at once and end up becoming more stressed because of it. It seems like everywhere we look there are ads, blogs, people telling us how to eat “clean”, how to work faster, how to run marathons, how to have a “perfect” body, how to have the “perfect” relationship, etc. It can be pretty overwhelming especially when we probably thought there was nothing wrong with most of those parts of our lives before. Somehow, the self-help industry plants these doubts so that we feel we must buy their product or try their method to change our lives.

Instead, I would encourage you to take the time to find things about yourself that you would like to improve through careful reflection and open-ended conversations with those close to you rather than from a TV commercial or an ad. Celebrate your strengths along the way. Then, when you do identify something that can be improved, create a realistic goal and a plan you can stick to and see where your determination can take you when you are focused on your strengths.

On a final note, don’t take this as a directive to give up on all self improvement. Of course, it’s great to improve yourself, just don’t forget to love and embrace who you are right now!

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