While the concept of self-improvement may be gaining more attention these days, it certainly isn't new. We find it in religions and philosophies worldwide, dating back centuries. People have always carried a little spark within them, prompting them to work harder and reach higher, striving to achieve their full potential.
But that continual reaching and striving can also have a dark side. People can find themselves in a perpetual state of insecurity and dissatisfaction, as they try to live up to unrealistic ideals. In the long run, this can do more harm than good, as people are left feeling discouraged, deflated, and inadequate. That's definitely not what healthy self-improvement is all about!
Here are some characteristics of healthy self-improvement.
Healthy self-improvement is always something you choose, not something imposed on you.
Any efforts towards self-improvement in your life are entirely up to you. You get to choose what's important to you and what you want to pursue. You also get to choose when and how you wish to pursue things. While feedback, guidance, and even explicit direction can all be helpful at certain times, it's your life, your unique path, your special journey. You never want to feel like you're being pressured based on someone else's agenda, or pushed based on someone else's timeline.
Healthy self-improvement is rooted in empowerment and inspiration, not guilt and condemnation.
Whenever you commit to learning and changing, there are likely to be some challenges along the way. But the process itself should be an empowering one, as you experience the satisfaction of growing and developing as a person. Efforts that are rooted in guilt and condemnation might produce results at first, but this won't lead to you feeling encouraged and uplifted in the long term. Such an approach can get you locked into a cycle of feeling like you're not good enough just as you are, leading you to feel like you need to change or improve something in order to be acceptable and worthy, which simply isn't true.
Healthy self-improvement is based around your values, not someone else's.
There's a peace and comfort that we experience when our actions are aligned with our values. We feel a deep sense of calm and genuine confidence. Even if we don't have all the answers, we feel secure that we're moving in the right direction.
Compromising your values, on the other hand, is a sure-fire way to find yourself feeling lost, confused, and shaky about what you're doing and where you're headed. Therefore, it's crucial that as we work on developing ourselves, we stay true to our own values and not get swept away by what other people think we ought to be doing.
Lastly, remember that no matter where you may be at today and regardless of what you feel you need to work on, you are and always have been a unique person of immeasurable worth. You are deserving of loving, kind, and respectful treatment just as much today as you ever will be in future.
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