Self-Improvement: Doesn't Work?

23 Apr 2022

Self-improvement is a popular way to attempt to change our lives for the better. But after reading hundreds of books and articles, is it working out for you? Why do self-improvement books, courses, and workshops don't lead to lasting changes?

Some people who try self-improvement tend to become more optimistic and confident about their ability to improve their lives, but this optimism isn't always borne out in reality.

It usually starts with reading self-help books or listening to personal development podcasts to understand themselves better and then begin working on fixing whatever they believe is wrong with them. Now, according to recent studies, this approach doesn't work. Instead, most of the time, it makes things worse and more confusing.

How Self-improvement is defined

Self-help or Self-improvement is the process of enhancing one's abilities, habits, and character. The goal of self-improvement is to become a better person than you were yesterday. There are many different ways to achieve self-improvement, but the most important thing is a commitment to the process.

Self-improvement starts with setting goals; first, you need to identify what you want to achieve and then develop a plan of action to make it happen. Once you have your goals in place, you need to start taking actionable steps toward achieving them. This may require making changes in your lifestyle or altering your behavior patterns.

The key to self-improvement is consistency. You need to be persistent in your efforts and never give up on yourself. It's important to celebrate your successes along the way, but don't let them derail you from your ultimate goal.

The fallacy of self-improvement

There's something wrong with you. You're not good enough. You can't do it. You're a screw-up. These are just some of the things that run through our heads daily.

We let these thoughts consume us, and we've become our own worst enemy before we know it. We don't believe in ourselves, and we let this lack of self-confidence hold us back from achieving our goals.

Self-improvement has become a booming industry in recent years. Books, articles, blogs, and podcasts abound with techniques for improving every area of your life. But what if I tell you that this focus on self-improvement may be doing more harm than good.

When you constantly strive to improve yourself, you set an impossible standard. You can never be perfect, so you are always left feeling like you have failed.

The assumption is that if we can fix ourselves, we'll be better people, and our lives will improve.

But there's a problem with this line of thinking: It's based on the fallacy of self-improvement. The belief that we can become better people through our efforts is seductive, but it's not supported by evidence. Research shows that self-improvement is often counterproductive.

Rather than trying to improve yourself endlessly, focus on being your best self possible. Accept yourself for who you are, and work on developing your strengths. This more sustainable approach will lead to greater happiness and success with your own rules.

The paradox of self-improvement

Self-improvement is a paradoxical pursuit. On the one hand, it is making oneself better; on the other hand, it is an endless journey with no clear destination. It can be a source of motivation and growth or addiction and a trap.

The paradox of self-improvement is that the more you improve, the more you realize how much there is to improve. As you gain knowledge and experience, you become aware of your limitations and shortcomings. This can be discouraging, but it motivates you to continue working on yourself.

The pursuit of self-improvement is a never-ending journey that leads to nowhere in particular. There are no guarantees that you will ever reach your goals or become perfect. But this doesn't mean that it's not worth trying. On the contrary, the journey itself makes life exciting and fulfilling.

The illusion of control

In our society, we are constantly told that if we just put in enough effort, we can achieve anything. We are sold the idea of self-improvement as a way to become happier and more successful.

And while it's certainly true that working hard and improving ourselves is important, there is an underlying assumption that we have control over our lives and our outcomes. But the truth is, we often don't have as much control as we think.

We see this illusion of control when people try to change themselves through self-help books or programs. They assume that if they do things the right way, they will be able to fix their problems and improve their lives. But even when people follow all the instructions perfectly, they don't always get the results they want.

We make goals, set plans, and put all our effort into making things happen the way we want them to. However, the truth is that we have very little control over what happens in our lives most of the time. Circumstances can derail our best-laid plans, and things often don't go the way we want.

This can be frustrating and disheartening, but it's important to remember that the illusion of control is an illusion; rather than getting caught up in what we can't control, it's better to focus on what we can do to make things better. Striving for self-improvement and being proactive rather than reactive are two key ways.

The problem with perfectionism

Perfectionism is often viewed as a positive personality trait. After all, who wouldn't want to be perfect? However, research has shown that perfectionism can be quite harmful.

Perfectionists are typically very hard on themselves, and they constantly strive for excellence. This can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety. In addition, perfectionism can interfere with productivity and creativity.

It's important to realize that there's a big difference between striving for excellence and perfection.

Excellence is about doing your best and being your best self. Perfectionism is about being perfect, which is an impossible goal. If you struggle with perfectionism, try to focus on being your best self instead. Be gentle with yourself, and don't put too much pressure on yourself. It's also important to have healthy habits, such as exercise and relaxation techniques.

Perfectionism can be a harmful habit because it can keep you from taking risks and trying new things. It can also make you feel like you’re not good enough, leading to low self-esteem.

If you struggle with perfectionism, you can do a few things to help yourself.

First, remember that nobody is perfect, and mistakes are a natural part of life.

Second, set realistic goals for yourself and don’t expect too much from yourself.

Finally, try to accept yourself for your flaws and all.

The dangers of comparison

We are constantly told that comparison is the thief of joy. And, it's true, but a comparison can be incredibly destructive. It can make us feel inferior and lead to a lack of self-confidence.

When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we're never happy with what we have. We're always looking for ways to improve ourselves, which can be incredibly damaging. It can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

The truth is, we are all different, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. So there's no point in comparing ourselves to others because we'll always come short; instead, we need to focus on our journey and work on becoming the best version of ourselves. When we do that, we'll find happiness and contentment.

The danger in constantly comparing oneself to others is that it can lead to a never-ending cycle of self-improvement. It's easy to get caught up in the idea that if we just had thinner thighs, a higher paying job, or a more muscular build, we would finally be content with ourselves.

But the truth is, no matter how much we change, there will always be someone out there who is thinner, wealthier, and more muscular than we are. So instead of using comparison as a motivator for self-improvement, we need to learn to be content with who we are and be the best version of what we truly master.

The power of self-compassion

Self-compassion is often seen as a weaker alternative to self-criticism, but new research suggests that it may be what we need to achieve our goals.

Self-compassion has been shown to improve well-being, increase resilience, and decrease rumination and negative affect. It can also lead to greater motivation and goal attainment. One study even found that high self-compassion people were more likely to persist at challenging tasks than those low in self-compassion.

Why might this be? One possibility is that when we’re kind and understanding with ourselves, it reduces our stress levels and allows us to take a more objective view of our failings. This can then help us learn from our mistakes and progress towards our goals.

Self-compassion is one of the most underrated tools we have for self-improvement. When we're hard on ourselves, we set the bar too high and are likelier to feel disappointed in ourselves. This can lead to a downward spiral of negative self-talk and decreased self-esteem.

On the other hand, self-compassion allows us to be gentle and understanding with ourselves. As a result, we're less likely to beat ourselves up over our mistakes and more likely to forgive ourselves and move on. This can be incredibly liberating and empowering.

Self-compassion makes it easier for us to be kind to ourselves - which is essential if we want to improve our lives. It's a tool that we all have at our disposal, and it's one that we should use more often.

Final Thought

We are constantly told that our lives will be better if we only improve ourselves. The problem is that self-improvement rarely works.

Think about it. How many times have you tried to improve yourself and failed? How often have you set new goals for yourself, only to give up a few weeks or months later?

Self-improvement is hard. That is why some people stay in their comfort zone rather than challenge themselves. And that's why most people fail at self-improvement. They don't want to put in the hard work necessary to see results.

So should you give up on self-improvement altogether? No, of course not. There are plenty of things you can do to improve yourself. But don't expect it to be easy, and always be focused on how to improve your primary skills first.

It would seem that self-improvement, as a general rule, does not work. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to improve oneself inside of what makes you unique. I always recommend networking with others who can help you become a better version of yourself.

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Great article. Self improvement must be focussed on oneSelf and not be distracted by those around you. I agree comparisons are un helpful as you only see what others want you to see.
Great article!! Self-compassion is key :)
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