The Self-Improvement Spiral
There’s immense value in introspection and working on ourselves.
Sometimes we have to do this work if we want to maintain certain parts of our life. Mental illness and mental health struggles are real and they require work and sometimes professional help to heal, and all of us have things we could work on to make us better partners, family members, friends and co-workers. Therefore, working on ourselves is necessary and important. It’s how we grow and evolve. But what happens when it goes too far? What happens if we get so caught up working on ourselves that this too starts to stop us from actually living our life?
Sometimes along our healing journey we can get stuck in a constant quest for self-improvement. We might think if we just do a little bit *more* and become a little bit *better* we will be loved, accepted, never experience rejection. In this way, if we aren’t careful, self-improvement can become a lot like dieting.
Here’s the deal!
There is HUGE difference between genuine self improvement that is self motivated and makes you happy/into a version of yourself you love
self-improvement that is done from a place of not feeling like you’re enough and wanting to be accepted. The idea that when you fix X, you’ll be loveable, when you understand Y, you’ll feel better, if you do Z, you’ll somehow be able to avoid the burden and pain of being human.
The first one is necessary and the second leaves you constantly on alert for flaws and areas to fix.
The truth is there is no such thing as a fully healed person. There is always going to be something to learn or work on. Even if we did *all* the work, we’d still be human; life would continue to have its ups and downs and we’d still experience normal human feelings like sadness, fear and inadequacy at times.
Therefore, every once in a while healing means putting down the gratitude lists, self-help books, and journals so that we can actually live and enjoy our life as it is meant to be lived and enjoyed…now.
We don’t want to be *only* focused on fixing and healing and learning. We don’t always have to be “leveling up.” We want to be able to float in and out of therapy. Read a self-help book when we feel like it and put it down when we don’t. We want to be *aware* of the stuff we need to work on while still living our life.
We want progress over perfection.
Something to ponder:
What if there is no “old you” and “new you”? What if we are just constantly unfolding, becoming, growing, remembering, and allowing all versions of ourselves to matter based on the seasons we’re in? What if past versions of you deserved compassion too? What if you didn’t have to outgrow who you are in order to be enough, right now?
Remember, we work on ourselves so that we can enjoy life, be more present and have better relationships, not so that we will be perfect. I believe every iteration of us is part of our journey, and every version of us deserves our own kindness and acceptance.
May we let it be so.
Do all of your activities revolve around health or improving yourself in some way? Does this get in the way of you actually enjoying anything? If you constantly feel like you’re one self-help practice away from finally being worthy, loveable, healed…it may be time to take a step back.
What would it look like if you rejected the idea of yourself as an endless self-improvement project and just “lived” the life you’ve worked so hard building for a bit? What would support you in nurturing your own aliveness, your own sense of being fully in the world, right now in this moment?
A complete lack of awareness and work on the self is dangerous. It can cause us to lose relationships, jobs, and other facets of our life. But an obsession with self improvement isn’t the answer either.