Warning: Adult language below!
Why it’s time to Stop Buying into Self-improvement.
Years ago, if you perused my rustic bookshelf stocked with texts of all things spiritual, scientific, environmental (and a little bit o’ fiction), you’d also find a whole slew of self-help books.
With self-improvement as my primary focus back in the day, I devoured popular titles such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, You Can Change Your Life, and The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.
Somehow, I believed I was an imperfect human being with a less than stellar, albeit dynamic, personality. In other words, I succumbed to the notion of inadequacy and felt certain that I was the complete opposite of all the perfect, enlightened beings who surrounded me.
We’ve bought into a collective consciousness that supports constant improvement in an effort to make ourselves look and feel better—always grasping for the next best solution, with no end in sight. It’s fucking exhausting, isn’t it?
Certainly, there’s room for enhancement in any situation. I’d never discourage a single one of my friends from getting involved with something that could potentially help them when they’re in obvious deep trouble. But could we, just for once, shut the fuck up about “bettering” ourselves?!
I’m getting the impression nobody’s fucking happy anymore.
Let me let you in on the kinds of conversations I’ve been privy to lately:
Person A: Hey, how’s it going?
Person B: Eh, I’m alright. It’s a constant struggle, you know.
Person A: What’s going on now?
Person B: Harry still thinks we should be dating other people. For the last six months, he hasn’t been happy with the direction of our relationship.
Person A: Really? What did he say?
Person B: He says we’re growing apart. He insists that we need to improve our relationship. He is always droning on about Jane and Ryan’s awesome relationship.
Person A: Even after the last eight attempts you’ve made to try to build trust, like tandem bungee jumping for couples? I guess it’s true, though. Jane and Ryan’s relationship tops all of ours. William is always going on about them as well.
Person B: Yeah, he’s probably right. I’ve been a little too focused on building my career, and I’ve gained like five pounds. Maybe I should call that counselor Jane suggested.
Person A: I’m right there with you. After the baby, I can’t lose weight at all. William keeps trying to get me into CrossFit. I guess it can’t hurt to try just one more option. You could also check out that relationship guru gal, Sonia Aranoff, who gives advice on how to create a relationship that is filled with a sense of joy and admiration…
This is just one example of how we’ve built a culture that aggrandizes ever-evolving growth. Got an acre or two filled with huge, majestic trees? Let’s knock that shit down and build an empire. Tummy looking a little chubby lately? Let’s enroll in a gym membership, try the Atkins diet, and work on that six-pack. Girlfriend’s unhappy with your performance in bed? No problem: sexual counseling for you, my friend!
We could all probably remember that initial point where we somehow got “livestock branded” with the idea that we weren’t good enough. Maybe it was because Daddy got a phone call while we were performing our school’s version of “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” accidentally ignoring our God-given potential as a ballerina. We then spend massive amounts of time, tears, and money in counseling trying to figure out where we went wrong in life and why we never pursued dance. But, we’ve got therapy sessions and proper medication to treat that—oh, and here’s a book on How to Get Your Life Together in Three Days.
Our personal buy-in to this belief that we are not enough, that we are subpar, doesn’t help anyone. But it’s just that: our buy-in. For even though we are steeped in a culture that has a fucking orgasm anytime anyone offers the latest strategy on how we can improve, it is we who impose this belief upon ourselves.
I’m not saying a touch of development here and there is a terrible idea. If we have something that we’re passionate about—a career, a relationship, or whatever the fuck we give two shits about—we should do ourselves a favor and invest the time and energy. But, shouldn’t that only occur if we truly know there is something amiss? We all recognize that gut feeling that arises when something isn’t working. If it appears, then by all means, listen to that webinar on “The Five Languages of Love” or read that article on “Five Habits to Improve Your Chances of Nailing that Interview.”
My suggestion is simple: drop the “I should” drama or statements we use to compare ourselves to others.
After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful to just recognize your infinite beauty and potential—which, by the way, includes all your imperfections? Laugh at the daily bullshit you tell yourself and hear from others. Cackle out loud when someone says you need to lose 10 pounds. Smile at your friend’s success, and then go do whatever the fuck you want to do in life.
If you want to improve your life or yourself, then by all means, take the necessary steps to do so. But, please for the love of humanity and yourself, stop buying into the “I don’t measure up” perspective. That kind of mentality prevents all of us from authentic intimacy with the world, our loved ones, and most importantly, ourselves.
Author: Nicole Pedersen
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman