During the past 12 years of my life I’ve dabbled (at times), immersed myself (at times) and been obsessed (at times) with wanting to be “better”.
It all began when I was 12 years old and I read my first self-help book, which led me to fall head first down the personal development rabbit hole.
It was like discovering a whole new world… One with infinite potential and limitless possibilities — one where I could be the architect of my own life. This new world I discovered seem to be “better” than the one I’d known before. And I was convinced that personal development was the secret that would ultimately lead me to living a “better” life.
Ever since then I’ve been intrigued by personal development, which eventually led me to studying psychology at university, undertaking my life coach certification, starting a blog and ultimately turning my own experiences with personal development into a job.
But also during this time I’ve questioned the how and why behind my pursuit of personal development. There has been a lot of good that has come from this pursuit, however, looking back on the past twelve years of my life I can see more clearly “the dark side” of it as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still to this day an passionate advocate for personal development, but now I feel like I really need to be honest about how I feel about it and the stuff about it that bothers me.
I know for me, during the past twelve years of my personal development journey my pursuit for growth has not always come from a great place. And I know that if this has been true for me — it is likely that it may be (or might of been in the past) true for you too.
Sometimes I think at times I wanted to be “better” because: I didn’t feel good enough as I was. Because there were parts of myself I didn’t like and wanted to “fix” them. And because wanting to be better was a distraction from facing the things I wanted to ignore, like my anxiety.
Now I can see that wanting to better wasn’t always the “best” thing for me and in fact sometimes it was not a good thing for me at all.
I believe (and have witnessed) that personal development can be destructive and cause people to be even more unhappier than before. It can result in a never-ending striving to be “better” and never feeling good enough along the way.
I have seen that underneath the quest for personal development, the positive affirmations and the self-help books can be deep self-loathing, feelings of inadequacy and more.
I also think that personal development can often cause us to look outside ourselves for the answers and constantly jump from course-to-course, to book-to-book, to teacher-to-teacher all for the pursuit of wanting to be “better”.
As a (recovered) self-confessed personal development junkie, I know what it’s like to get caught up in chasing “the next thing” that is going to make us “better”. We get caught up searching, seeking and consuming that we’re left too overwhelmed to do the work or take any empowered action. And at the end of the day we can often feel worse off than before, which defeats the whole purpose of pursuing growth in the first place.
I believe that it’s (more than) okay to want to be better, to want to achieve our goals and to work towards living the life we want — but I also believe it’s important to consider our motives and to constantly reevaluate how we’re approaching our own growth and to ask ourselves: Is this actually good for me?
So what do we do when we want to pursue personal development, but not fall into “the dark side” of it?
Here are some things that I’ve found to be really useful for me to keep in mind when wanting to pursue personal development in a healthy way.
Be aware and question your motives and behaviour
I think when it comes to pursuing personal development there are two important things to keep in mind:
1. Be aware.
2. Question everything.
Be aware of your approaches, tendencies and behaviours with personal development. Question your own intentions, your motives and the why behind doing the things you do to be “better”.
It’s okay to want to be better and to want to do things to help you get there — but it’s also important to consider WHY you want these things? And to constantly consider whether it is coming from a good place or not.
Before you go to sign up to another personal development course, you might like to consider if you’re doing so because it will make you more worthy because people you admire have done it, or because you want to explore how the teachings can work for you and your own life?
Before you go to work 1:1 with coach, you might like to consider if you’re doing so because you think they’re better than you and they have the answers for you, or because you resonate with their approach and want their guidance and support in uncovering the answers for yourself?
Before you go to that meditation retreat, you might like to consider if you’re going because everyone seems to have done it so you think you should too (even though you hate meditating and couldn’t think of anything worse!) because you don’t want to ‘miss out’ on an experience that so many people have had?
It’s important to consider what we are REALLY seeking when it comes to doing things for our own growth and why we want to do them.
Back off on the pursuit of your growth if you need to.
I have some questions for you to ponder:
What if you actually didn’t need to do anything to be better? What if you’re already good enough as you are without having to try to be better?
When I realised that I didn’t have to do more — or anything for that matter — to be better I felt so relieved. Being better doesn’t come with pre-requisites and it definitely does not require another self-development course or book or program!
It’s been interesting to witness in my own life that when I backed off the pursuit of my own personal development it resulted in me actually growing and learning more than ever before. This is something I found really interesting.
I really believe that what we most need is to get out of our own way and stop putting so much pressure on ourselves, especially when it comes to being “better”.
It’s completely okay to want to be better, but if it’s because you don’t feel good enough or worthy enough as you are it might be a good idea to back off your pursuit for a little while.
You are the expert on YOU.
Something that I think we can forget on our pursuits of personal development is that no one else is the expert on what’s best for us. Yep, no one — no matter how amazing they are — knows what’s best for you.
You are the one that knows yourself the best — and ultimately you are one that knows what’s best for you.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to stop listening to anyone else’s ideas, but it does mean committing to evaluating if what other’s are saying resonate with you, implementing only what does and experimenting with what works best for you.
When I read self-help books or blog posts I now actually stop to think about and consider what resonates with me, how it applies to my own life and what I want to take away from it. Or when I come across a new approach/practice/tool that resonates with me, I try it out in my own life as an experiment with a “let’s see what happens” attitude.
I no longer look “out there” for the answers and instead use others’ words, tools, resources, etc. to uncover the answers for myself.
Even as your reading this article now, consider what is resonating with you and what doesn’t, and what (if anything) you want to take away and remember, or implement in your own life.
Danielle Laporte says, “Be your own guru.” And I agree, because you’re the best one you have!
Find what feels good for YOU.
Following along from the previous point, I think one of the best things you can do for your life (and on your quest to be better) is to find what works best and what feels good for you.
Because what feels good to me, might be completely different to what feels good for you. And I do not believe in “one size fits all” approaches to anything in life, especially personal development.
So what if instead of trying to follow someone else’s morning routine, goal-setting approach or whatever we picked the parts that resonated the most and worked out what felt good to us?
What if when faced with a decision on what to do, you asked yourself, “What would feel good for me right now?” From the way you look after yourself, to how you pursue your goals, to how you start or end your days and so on.
I think this is important to consider so we don’t get caught up in trendy self-help practices, and instead have practices in our lives that feel good to us and therefore serve us the most.
Don’t forget to take empowered action.
What you learn is important — but what you actually implement is more important.
I think this is something we often forget when pursuing our personal development. We read, we listen, we watch, we learn, we consume… And then we often don’t do anything about it.
Being consumed with personal development can be a distraction from actually doing the work and taking action.
And we don’t actually take any action, nothing can change. We can’t get to where we want to go. We can’t make those things we’ve always wanted happen.
So when pursuing your personal development make sure to take the time to implement and take empowered action on what you’re learning.
Commit to self-compassion.
What if you didn’t need to do anything to make yourself “better” but instead you just decided to be kinder to yourself and see what happened?
As Danielle LaPorte says, “The best self-help is self-compassion.” And I wholeheartedly agree.
There is nothing more powerful than being kind to yourself. No amount of personal development or self-help is as liberating as practicing self-acceptance and self-compassion.
This is something I think is so important to keep in mind as we pursue our personal development.
What I want you to remember after reading this is:
To question whether your pursuit of personal development is coming from a good place.
To continually check in and evaluate why you want to do the things you want to do.
That you don’t need to “do” anything to be better.
That no one knows whats best for you other than you.
That the answer isn’t out there… It isn’t in that course, or that book, or that person. You have the answers for yourself.
That no amount of self-help is more powerful than being kind and compassionate with yourself.
And to stop and think about how you can be kinder to yourself as you go about your personal development — and your life.
PS. I’d love to hear from you about this topic… Do you think you are (or have been) addicted to personal development before? Have you experienced “the dark side” of personal development? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments 🙂
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