Sam Radford

April 6, 2022

When self-improvement is self-dislike in disguise

Rebecca Toh posted a new article on her blog the other day and this paragraph jumped right out at me:

Self-improvement can be insidious and a source of stress, because for many people, self-improvement is actually self-dislike in disguise. If we’re not careful, we can spend years on the self-improvement treadmill trying to reach our goals but feel utterly, utterly empty at the end.

Yes, yes, yes!

Clearly the notion of improvement is a positive one. Who doesn’t what to ‘progress toward what is better’?

But not if we spend our whole lives fuelled by discontent and dissatisfaction. That’s no way to live!

The key is in being sure about what is driving us. Much about our culture today is an endless pull towards more. More money, more success, more influence. More, more, more. But self-improvement doesn’t have to mean more of anything. It might well be about less. 

Are we motivated by a desire to escape aspects of what we don’t like about ourselves currently? Or are we content with and acceptant of who are, and simply open to growth and development—in whatever direction that may take us?

If we have a faulty, more-focussed view of self-improvement, we will, to use Rebecca’s words, spend our lives on a treadmill only to end up feeling utterly empty.

If we have faulty ideas of what self-improvement looks like, fuelled be self-dislike and nothing but a pursuit of ‘more’, we are on dangerous territory.

—Sam

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👉 @samradford | samradford.com