The Dangers of Self-Improvement

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The dangers of self-improvement

It’s a brand new year, and since many of us are currently focused on self-improvement in some shape or form, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at that subject.

My first guest blogger for this year is Julie Gray, a holistic time coach, speaker, and author.


The other day I tuned into my intuition (or spirit guides or inner wisdom – whatever label works for you) and asked them for some specific guidance about my life. This doesn’t always work for me, but on this particular day what they had to share felt so universally applicable I wanted to pass along their messages to you.

(Click here to download the 6-minute audio meditation I used before connecting.)

First I asked what to do about my love life (because why not start with the good stuff?). Here’s what they said:

“There is nothing to do but keep opening your heart. Trust yourself that you can handle the hurt. You have held back in fear of the pain that love can cause for too long. This leaves you unable to fully experience love that is given and received without reservation. This is part of being human. Relax and trust your inner wisdom. Keep your heart open, regardless of the hurt.”

To be honest, I didn’t want to hear this message. So I quickly moved off this subject and asked for guidance about my business.

This time they showed an image of me standing at the edge of a pool practicing my diving form. Not actually diving – just practicing over and over how I would dive.

As I watched this mental movie play out, I did occasionally dive into the water, even though I didn’t feel ready to do so. It was very awkward – even painful – and I would immediately get out of the pool and start practicing my form over and over again – without diving.

This image that they shared struck me on a few levels. I’ve laid out for you below what I am taking from it but I would be fascinated to hear what you got – for you.

We want to be perfect human beings. Free of vices and addictions and bad habits and bad thoughts. We want to live in this Zen-like state where we don’t get mad at slow drivers and missed opportunities and nothing for dinner and charming men that never call.

We have fused the idea that if we aren’t chronically living in the present moment – happy and full of gratitude – then we are somehow broken and in serious need of fixing.

And this belief can hold us back from diving into life more fully. We don’t feel “ready enough” until all of the brokenness has been fixed. So we relentlessly focus on self-improvement.

But here is what this image helped me see more clearly: Self improvement isn’t about fixing; it is about growth and understanding. Stretching what we think is possible. Learning about ourselves. Experimenting.

And the truth I believe in my core: There is nothing that needs to be fixed in me or you. We are already enough. Your perfection is innate. 

I believe in developing your skills and getting the education you need to contribute at the level you crave. I also see how easy it is to use more training and improving as a way to avoid jumping in the pool, being awkward, making mistakes, and failing miserably.

None of us want to look bad. And in an effort to avoid that embarrassment we stifle the very thing we want the most: growth and development. Practicing our diving form can only take us so far. Diving more often will take us much farther, much faster – even if it is painful.

The best way to learn how to dive is to actually dive.

Who says you have to dive? Maybe you gingerly step into the water one toe at a time. Maybe you cannonball your way through life. Maybe you jump in depending on your mood in the moment.

Getting into the water regularly is what is important. Flail about. Find your rhythm. It can feel less scary to stand at the edge but living from your soul happens in the water. The hurt, the joy, the disappointment, the successes, the total neutrality of a life well lived doesn’t happen on the sidelines.

Everything is connected.

It wasn’t until the next day that I realized both messages I received – the words regarding my “love life” and the image regarding my “work life” – were one and the same: Dive in. Fixing is not a prerequisite for living. Growth and improvement happen along the way.

So get in the water, keep your heart open, learn, swim, dive again, play, work, have fun. And I’ll be right there with you.

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Julie Gray is a recovering workaholic, chronic procrastinator, and self-saboteur. After spending 15 years learning how to move beyond these challenging habits, she now coaches others to do the same using mindfulness, body-awareness, and unconventional time management to create lasting behavior change.

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  1. Avatar Harsh S. on January 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    It’s a pretty useful article carrying precious value for the readers. The beauty of the article is that each of its paragraph has some thing special which can be directly correlated with one’s behavior. There are lot of key points in the article which are truly inspirational like “Trust yourself that you can handle the hurt”, “Fixing is not a prerequisite for living” and many more.

    Harsh S.

  2. Avatar Pam Mirehouse on December 30, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Great article. I loved the way you state things and totally agree with your ideas! We are enough…just the way we are…right now! Self-improvement is about growth and understanding – not fixing – nothing is broken!

    BTW: The link to the 6-minute audio meditation didn’t work for me. I would love to hear it if you could post the link, please… 🙂 The link I was directed to said “Oops! This File Is No Longer Active.”

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 1, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out, Pam! I’ve been in touch with Julie, and the link in the post has now been updated.

      • Avatar Pam Mirehouse on January 2, 2018 at 9:53 am

        Excellent! Thanks, both Janet and Julie!

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