When “Self-Improvement” Becomes Unhealthy

A large part of the human experience is about improving ourselves, setting goals to achieve. We’re always wanting to be somehow better than we are now. Whether it’s getting in shape, making more money, getting a promotion, a bigger house…we’ve long been “programmed” to keep upping our game.

But how far should we go in the quest to be “better”?

Self-Acceptance is Key

In the morning when you wake up, do you feel good about yourself? It’s easy to be critical of ourselves and find lots of reasons why we don’t “measure up.” But have you ever wondered why we’re made to feel this way? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Social media is ingrained in our lives, especially the lives of young people. Many teenagers feel as though they don’t have a choice when it comes to being on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. It’s mandatory. But those platforms have become so damaging to teen self-esteem that an Instagram executive was recently called to attend U.S. Senate hearings about protecting teenagers online.

But adults are far from immune.

These channels feed a steady stream of “less than” to young and old. Why aren’t you living that fabulous life, hitting that cool club, wearing that trendy outfit? It’s relentless. Many feel they must portray some idealized version of themselves online. This leads to a rejection of the true self and toxic, impossible comparisons.

So let’s think about this. Who benefits from making people feel less than they truly are?  For example, teenagers often feel that they must wear a certain brand of sneakers or risk being shunned by their friends.  Social media hits that nerve hard, between ads, “influencers” and more; it’s a vicious, never-ending cycle taking you further away from the best part of who you truly are. While logging off from social media may not be entirely possible, limiting exposure to it will do your self-esteem (and mental health) a world of good.

Taking Back Control

Set goals that you can realistically achieve. Unrealistic expectations are a magnet for disappointment. You start out with great hopes, but when things don’t work out the way you pictured them, you’re left feeling discouraged, sad, and hopeless. Healthy goals should be challenging enough to keep you interested and focused, but not so hard that they make you feel defeated if you fail at them. Keep them minuscule if needed. Your task is to not go to “that place” where you throw in the towel and beat yourself up.

Strive to Be A Little Bit Better Today Than You Were Yesterday

We should be easier on ourselves. The next time you think about buying something you don’t truly need or consider a diet, ask yourself if this is genuinely going to make your life better? Or are you setting unrealistic expectations because you’re being made to feel inferior?

Comparing yourself to another person is never healthy. However, comparing yourself to who you were yesterday through baby steps that move you forward in achievable ways is the best kind of “self-improvement.”

-Kim Clark

Photo by Shiromani Kant on Unsplash

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