What Does All This Self-Improvement Say About Us, Really?

Photo by Gabrielle Cole.

Here's a quick question for those of us who do a lot of self-improvement-type work:

Do you see yourself as basically good, or basically flawed?

Given the question, I am very excited that I would say "basically good" because in the past I would have said the opposite. In fact, I would have thought that "basically flawed" wasn't a strong enough term for just how terrible I was as an excuse for a human.

Buuuuut, despite my belief that I am basically good, as a person, I don't think that I live as though I believe in my basic goodness on a day-to-day level. I focus a lot more time and energy on what I need to be better at or should be doing. (Instead of what? I don't know.)

Improving is good! We can all be better, and being basically good doesn't mean we should just give up and sloth out where we're at. In fact, one could argue that growth is a part of goodness - a good thing that remains absolutely stagnant may one day become problematic. I mean, consider what it was like to watch old episodes of Friends through the lens of the politics of 2018. Yikes!

But are we doing it to improve something that is already good or fix something that is broken? What does self-improvement look like when done through a lens of your own basic goodness?

Well, for one, we probably wouldn't be so hard on ourselves.

Maybe we would set different goals. Ones that assumed we were growing, not desperately proving we deserved to exist at all.

Maybe we would talk to ourselves differently about these goals. We might not put so much pressure on ourselves, or we might be able to confidently hold ourselves to a higher standard because we actually believe in our capabilities.

Maybe we would talk about them differently to others. For some of us, that would be talking about our goals at all, because we aren't hiding or covering up the shameful secret of our horribleness. For others, that would be talking about them less, because we don't have a compulsive need to let everyone know that we see just how screwed up we are.

Maybe we would have a little more compassion for how hard growth can be and would trust that we'll get there at some point.


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