Can a fixation on self-improvement actually be a form of self-bashing? It’s a counter-intuitive idea, but sometimes when we think we are trying to improve ourselves, we are really just trash talking ourselves.
The internet is surging with self-improvement tips, articles, books, speakers, etcetera. If a problem exists, you can find a dozen solutions online. And while it’s great to have access to all of that information, self-improvement, like all things, can go into overkill.
So here is your question: Are you learning from other people or are you trying to be other people?
There’s a passiveness to learning from others and their ideas. It’s the, “Oh, I never thought of that. Maybe I can incorporate some of that into my life.” Instead of the panicky, “Oh no, why aren’t I like that? I need to start being that way.”
When we see people who are successful in ways that we want to be successful, we should feel a sort of detached admiration, not an insistence on copying them. By detached admiration I mean learning from the ideas and strengths of others, without fundamentally changing who you are and how you think. You are somewhat disconnected from it, but in a healthy way. It can’t intimidate you. It can only help you.
Consider assertiveness, as a random example. People who are very assertive were simply born that way. They were the little 2nd graders bartering for extra candy from the teacher while you looked on, probably rolling your eyes.
Sure, they reap the benefits of being assertive. However, is it really self-improvement when we try to mold ourselves into those we view as “successful?” If a timid person coerces herself to be assertive, does she really reap any benefit? Probably not. On the contrary, she might set herself back, stress herself out, or worst of all- lose sight of what she’s good at. In cases like this, we’re trying to be a different person while calling it self-improvement.
On the other hand, real self-improvement would be to look at the people who have what you lack, and try to learn a bit from them. That helps us become well-rounded. It’s a slight nuance from the previous scenario, but it makes a huge difference. In the first scenario, we are not respecting who we already are.
The simple fact is that all innate traits have benefits, even if you don’t see yours as valuable. The most valuable traits are not always the ones that get the most attention in society, but who cares? Mainstream society is typically behind in the learning curve anyway. If you aren’t reaping the benefits of your strongest traits, then you aren’t quite honoring who you are. If you neglect your strengths, other people won’t recognize or benefit from them either.
The undeniable fact remains: all varieties of people can achieve success and do so every day. I’m positive that you can think of someone who is successful, and also very similar to you in nature. None of us were built defectively, and there’s no excuse as to why you can’t accomplish something that you really want.
So instead of badgering ourselves and wearing ourselves down with loads of self-improvement homework, why not cut to the chase? Work on what you’re good at and what you enjoy.
Own up to yourself. Everyone has different flaws and strengths. If we didn’t, there’d be little reason to communicate with each other. We’d probably be living solitary lives, swinging from trees, and eating bananas because language was never invented. Maybe.
So anyway, you’ll find success much faster by cultivating the strengths you have rather than the ones you think you should have.
“Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact makes much impression on him, and another none.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Translation: For whatever reason, you are who you are. Work on self-improvement, but don’t abandon yourself in the process.