If you’re anything like me, you’ve explored the realms of “self help” and “self development” because of that inner fire pulling at you to be more. One of the common difficulties we get caught up in is the assumptions, culture and stigma associated with self development. The shame and the secrecy that can sometimes hold us back.
This may look like avoiding the topic with friends, thinking of other activities to say when asked about any “hobbies” you have, or buying e-books so that no one can see the cover of your latest self development book!
In some spaces, wellbeing and self-improvement are automatically linked to ill mental health. The idea of “to fix something, there must be something broken.”
In other cultures, it’s expected that anyone who is healthy will strive to better themselves. The Last Samurai movie comments on people devoting their attention to the perfection of their chosen craft.
Perhaps my chosen craft is to be my best self.
The Biggest Pressure Often Comes From Ourselves
There is so often a sense of pressure that comes with self improvement. The biggest difficulty is often jumping in because of that sense of “this is the right way” and “fear of missing out” if we don’t follow the next step as soon as possible. We are afraid of missing “the one true answer.” I know that fear; I’ve been there.
Even without looking a single thing up, I can rattle off twenty “must-have-habits” that I’ve felt pressure to build since I was eleven or twelve.
From daily meditation, free-form journaling (morning pages) and drinking 8 glasses of water all the way to waking at 5am, compiling to-do lists or wearing the same clothes every day to minimise time spent on ‘pointless choices.’
Advice is Everywhere
Unplug from your devices, keep a gratitude log, get outside in nature. Learn a new language, read a TON, single-task things which matter… it goes on. The pressure builds.
And yes, it sounds helpful. To me, those ALL sound like useful, rewarding habits I could get behind. Yet, most of them I’ve just given up even trying to do.
I spent a lot of years trying to “fix” myself. Decades trying to understand why I am weird, strange or broken purely because I want to improve. And when I listened to those negative thoughts, the idea that failing to create ‘successful habits’ was a failure of me as a person.
Thankfully, our habits do not equal ‘us’.
When you’re exploring self-improvement and feeling stuck behind the shame or fear, you’ve likely come up against one of these blocks.
It’s part of our seeking nature. The good news? We can move past any of these obstacles with the right approach.
However, there are some key difficulties when looking at the idea of self-improvement and habits to begin.
- Overwhelm. Where on earth do we start?
- It’s surface-level. The desire is not deep without an accurate sense of the meaning.
- Limited time. Whenever you choose to prioritise a habit, you’re taking that time away from another potential habit.
- Unrealistic Expectations. What are you hoping to gain from this, and is that actually where you want to focus your time and attention?
- Too many changes. Similar to expectations, we try to change too much and it’s just not sustainable.
- Not checking we even WANT it. I recently had a comment from a reader saying “everybody jumps on that train without asking themselves why they feel drawn to doing this new thing/habit/whatever.” This is a really important step where people get derailed.
The phrase got me thinking about the shame we feel over failure. There is a stigma around making changes in some scenarios, and we often don’t even know what we’re hoping for.
Especially if you’ve experienced low mood, anxiety or a sense being ‘broken’, you may know those overlaps between mental health and seeking improvement. They can lead us to second-guess, to throw ourselves at the next “this will fix your life” idea. And into another ‘quick-fix’ that doesn’t fix things.
If you’re drawn to self-improvement like my readers, we are a rare and beautiful species. When you’re struggling with it, my first tip for you is to pause and ask yourself one question:
“What is my inner compass pointing me towards?”
We can’t do everything, so if you’re unsure where to start, let your intuition guide you.
Need Help with Your Map?
I help curious human beings who have that ‘feeling of being drawn forward’ to plan out the next steps ahead and feel ‘alive’ instead of ‘broken.’
The tools I use to make those changes focus on building emotional resilience, putting our wellbeing first and becoming aware of those negative thoughts that can hold us back.
If you want some hand-holding as your make those first couple of steps, take a look at these Focus Sessions.