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Friday, 28 July 2017

When self-improvement becomes self-deterioration

My name is Tom and I’m a recovering self-improvement junkie.

After reading this article by Mark Manson I realised I was in trouble.

Mark argues that “there’s a paradox with self-improvement and it is this: the ultimate goal of all self-improvement is to reach the point where you no longer feel the need to improve yourself.”


Since as long as I discovered what life hacks were, I’ve been obsessed with self-improvement. Part out of interest and part out of feeling I can do better, be better. [Read: feelings of inadequacy!]

When I started my own journey into minimalism I really enjoyed removing unnecessary items from my life. I experienced great benefits from removing clutter to focus on the things that truly brought me value. There was a point though where I became a little overzealous and got rid of things I later had to buy back. But that’s a lesson learnt.

Since the beginning of the year I have felt a great calm come over me regarding my physical possessions. For the first time I feel like almost everything I own provides value to my life and I no longer have the desire to buy more or remove more.

There are a few items I have in mind to purchase but the process is much more intentional. No more impulse buys!

Naturally, when you begin to excavate one part of your life you bump up against other parts. I started to explore how I could improve my physical health, my mental health, my diet, my relationships, my finances.

I began to tinker with things that were maybe not even an issue to begin with.

And therein lies my problem. Because I felt deficient in one aspect of my life and noticed an improvement from tackling it; I did the same to all the other aspects and thus created a pseudo-deficiency which contributed to my feelings of inferiority.

Yes, I exercised regularly but surely I could do more right? I already ate healthy (like really healthy by most people’s standards) but I could be healthier right? I felt I had a good relationship with money but I could save more and put my money to better use right?

Do you see the pattern emerging here? It wasn’t until I read Mark’s article that I realised I had even been doing it. I was aiming for perfection in all aspects of my life which is wholly unreasonable and unhealthy.

Self-improvement wasn’t improving me, it was causing my self-deterioration.

So I’ve stopped. Stepped back, and taken stock of things.

When I really look around me and realise what I’ve already got, I realise how good things are. Like, really fucking good. I only wrote about this myself last week, how gratitude can be the antidote to insatiability!

There are still things I would like to work on. I’m not perfect. No one is or ever will be. But I’m learning to be okay with where I am, and who I am now, and balance that in a healthy way with who I want to be in the future.

I don’t think anyone will ever feel complete. There’s a naturally tendency for progress, for personal-growth. There are negative connotations associated with words like plateauing, stagnating, inactivity, which both as a society and personally we have to work to overcome.

My name is Tom and I am enough.

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