I have noticed that self-improvement sometimes gets a bad name, perhaps especially from nondualists and some psychologists.
To me, self-improvement is – in its essence – a healthy impulse. It’s a wish to better one’s own world and the world in general, and that’s far more constructive than a lot of other activities and projects we sometimes put our time and energy into.
Where does the impulse come from?
It’s good to see where the self-improvement impulse comes from and look at that early on in the self-improvement process. Does it come from neediness? Wanting to fill a hole? Wanting to escape something? Not feeling good enough? Not feeling loved or lovable? A sense of lack? If so, it’s a good idea to put those on or near the top of issues to take care of as part of the self-improvement process.
Similarly, if I notice I am engaging in self-improvement in order to please others (be acceptable to others), that too is good to put near the top of the list of what to take care of.
The impulse can also come from a wish to be more comfortable in one’s own skin, more authentic, more alive, less restricted by painful beliefs and identities, and live a life better for oneself and those around us. These are deeper and more relaxed motivations.
When we take care of the neediness behind the self-improvement impulse, we can hold it all more lightly, and we can come more from the deeper and more relaxed impulses in us for self-exploration, self-befriending, and self-improvement.
Small and big self
Self can mean little self – our human self, who we are, and it can mean big Self – Big Mind or what we are. And it’s also helpful if we can notice that the little-self improvement happens within the big Self. That too helps us hold it all more lightly and see it more as a play and exploration.
What do we mean by self-improvement?
Last but not least, it’s good to look at what we mean by self-improvement. Do I have a constructive idea of what it means? Can I adjust it a bit so it’s more helpful? When I hear the word, I tend to think of learning communication skills, relationship skills, living a life that’s meaningful to me, living more from authenticity, finding receptivity, befriending more of the world and myself, and sometimes resolving emotional issues that prevent me from living a healthy and meaningful life in the world.
This comes last in this list but first if we want to explore self-improvement.
Note: I don’t think I have used the term self-improvement here before. It’s not a term I find terribly useful or necessary but some people use it so I thought I would say a few words about it.
- getting a bad name both from nondualists and others
- very helpful
- a very healthy impulse, bettering oneself and the world
- although good to see where the impulse comes from, take care of any neediness, wanting to fill a hole, not feeling good enough etc. – use self-improvement to take care of those things early on
- hold it lighter, less from desperation, neediness, wanting to escape something, wanting to get somewhere
- small and big self
- when can do it more from the context of big self, can be held lighter
Then, we can hold it all lighter, and any self-improvement work comes less from desperation, neediness, and a sense of lack.