To Heck with Self Improvement

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I get my back up when people start talking about what they “should” do or what they “ought” to do. You’d think that given my training and background that I’d be into self improvement as a concept but I eye it with distrust. I think it’s because self improvement starts with the assumption that you need to be improved upon and it seems like so many of us get stuck in that part of the message. I’m not about self improvement; I’m about self growth.

I like to assume that we are exactly where we are meant to be at exactly this moment and that we can grow. Growth feels like a kinder way to talk about change than “improvement.” Growth assumes that change is natural and built into us; improvement has the sound of failure, like not good enough.

We are good enough. We can also get better. Both of those things can be true. Both of those things ARE true.

Self improvement says, “Do the thing, do it right! Run the race! Avoid the food! Organize the tasks! YOU’RE A MESS!”

Growth says, “What would you like to do? How would you like to do it? What can you learn from the process? What can failure teach you? You are just fine and you can get better.”

Self improvement starts with, “You are deficient at something.”

Growth starts with, “You are always evolving so how would you like to evolve?”

Those of us who had challenged childhoods are already living under the weight of perceived inadequacy. We’ve usually been given a litany of failures right from the start — too sensitive, too difficult, too MUCH, too little. It’s no wonder that we join in with the chorus. I like to begin with the assumption that where we are at any given moment makes sense in context. If we grew up in a world where it was always raining, is it any wonder that we can’t leave the house without an umbrella? We learn to protect ourselves and take care of ourselves in a specific context. What is dysfunctional now in our current life had a function at one point; it used to make sense.

Recognizing the need for change is in itself a triumph. Do you know how many people don’t change? Won’t even see that it’s positive or even possible?

So instead of starting with the presumption that we are failures when we recognize a need for change, how much more powerful would we be if we saw that recognition as a success in and of itself? How would it change us if we started from that place of success and built on it?

Look at you, a growing evolving human being! Look at you orienting yourself to change and inspiration! Aren’t you amazing? How can you improve upon that? No, you don’t need to improve, you just need room to grow. You are perfect right here, doing the best you can! And yes you can be even better! But know that you carry your perfection — your imperfect human perfection — through your growth, even when you feel like a mess. Your imperfect human perfection will carry you through to what you need to know next if you will let it.

To heck with self improvement; and yes to self growth.

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