We live in a culture that glamorizes self-improvement. Even if we aren’t looking for self-improvement or self-help tips, they are there. Slapped across the pages and covers of articles, books, and magazines, we see alluring titles that aim to trap us in by feeding us advice on how we can fix our problems or “fix” ourselves, and we eat those tips right up.
The issue with glorifying self-improvement all of the time is that it can make us feel like we aren’t good enough. So, we continuously choose self-improvement over-self care, as if becoming the best possible version of ourselves guarantees happiness. But being better or doing more doesn’t guarantee happiness in life.
“One significant issue with placing too much focus on self- improvement is that it can become an obsession,” said Dr. Flatow of Pacific Mind Health.
What happens when you read “how-tos” is that your brain translates them into “if-thens.” For instance, we start saying things to ourselves like, “if I lose 10 pounds, I would be so much happier” or “if I start making more money, my life would be so much better.” The very basis of self-improvement makes us forget that enjoying life is a journey or a process, not a deadline or a destination.
Another problem with constant self-improvement is that it can become a form of avoidance. The self-improvement industry has a way of helping you acknowledge your problems (like that you can’t stick to your diet or stop fighting with your significant other.) But the “real” problem lies at the root of the problem, which is often underlying feelings of shame or self-doubt.
Self-improvement is like trying to cover up an issue with a shiny goal, and striving towards that or merely reading about it makes you feel like you’ve solved the problem or accomplished something.
Finally, if you want to know what reinforces these feelings of shame and inadequacy, it’s also self-improvement. Our unrealistic expectations reinforce these feelings by enabling us to suppress them because we tend to focus on replacing
something about ourselves rather than improving it. Self-improvement can make us feel worse, leading to our constant need for comparison - whether that’s comparing ourselves to someone else or someone we want to be.
So what’s the solution to true self-improvement? Self-care.
Through self-care, we can learn more about who we are to discover what actually makes us happy and feel good. We can face and manage our feelings and realize that it’s okay to choose to slow down over continuous effort. There is nothing
wrong with goal-setting or building upon your qualities to be a kinder or more organized person. Still, it becomes problematic for our mental health and wellbeing if we keep choosing self-improvement over self-care. Self-improvement is like dedicating time to do things that will make you feel like you matter. Self-care, on the other hand, is taking time to remember that you already do.