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Is Being Addicted to Self-Improvement Bad?

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Would you say you’re someone who’s obsessed with bettering yourself? I am. It sounds like a great problem to have, right? But what if you’re never “good enough?” As it turns out, having an obsession with self-improvement is the hell you never knew existed. I’ve even put off making friends and dating because I don’t consider myself ready yet.

Because this is still a problem for me, I went digging for answers. In this article, I’ll explain why we feel the need to improve ourselves, how we can avoid taking it too far, and how to plan for success.

The Obsession with Self-Improvement

Many of our goals for self-improvement start with comparing ourselves to the people around us. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually, we compare ourselves to others because we want a better life for ourselves. But in doing this, we forget what’s good about our individuality. What makes someone else happy may not do the same for us.

Society also wants people to be productive and pushes that on us from an early age. There’s a general consensus that if you’re not improving yourself, you’re lazy or “stagnating.” This can be worse for people surrounded by family or friends who insist on being nosey and urge you to do more with your life. You may feel wrong for doing what makes you happy.

In addition, the media has a habit of telling people what they should improve about themselves to sell products. Companies display people who buy their products as happier and more successful, which, in all honesty, is an effective sales tactic. Unfortunately, most of these products are embellished to give you an impression that’s not entirely true.

How Bettering Yourself Becomes a Problem

Wanting to better yourself is great if you have a limit to what you want to improve. However, when you become obsessed with improvement, you find out it’s endless. You can always be better looking, smarter, or get more work done. Then, you feel guilty for sitting around watching Netflix too long and mentally bully yourself for wanting to relax. In your mind, that time could have been useful.

This kind of mental abuse and overworking can lead to burnout, stress, and depression. Anxiety and self-hate also become a problem when comparing your progress to others. You’ll always see someone else doing less work but getting better results and, in your mind, this will be completely unfair.

When it came to losing weight, I struggled with this the worst. Before recently, I would eat too little and overexercise, then when I didn’t see the results I expected, I would get upset and binge eat. This would keep me from being healthy for years until I finally discovered slow weight loss and a healthy relationship with food.

If you’re looking for help healing your relationship with food, I have an excellent recommendation! Befriending Your Body by Ann Saffi Biasetti is a book written to help readers reconnect with their bodies. It graciously teaches you to have compassion for yourself, pay attention to your thoughts, and heal from the inside out.

Befriending Your Body gives you the power to discover who you really are and opens the door to healthy self-improvement. It also offers many simple practices using guided meditation, yoga, and journaling. If you want to learn more about the book, I wrote a complete review of it here.

Click below for quick links to the book on Amazon!

How to Avoid the Self-Improvement Trap

The first step to avoiding the self-improvement trap is understanding you don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else. It’s alright to not be as productive as others and to have smaller goals. If you want to set goals for yourself, do it at your own pace and reassess when you need to, keeping your mental health in mind.

For example, I’ve had to take a step back from blogging many times over the past few months. I get stressed over the goals I set for writing and force myself to take breaks. Writing doesn’t come easily for me, so I know it takes more mental energy for me than for others. Because of this, I don’t compare myself to other bloggers and take my blogging slow.

When you’re getting too stressed, make your goals smaller, or give them more time to reach. If work is the cause, speak to your manager about cutting back on your duties, or consider changing jobs. I know this isn’t an easy option for everyone, but if your mental health is suffering, you should make the necessary changes to take care of yourself.

Don’t beat yourself up when you need to take a step away. Burnout actually sets you back in the end, so taking time off may help you.

Lastly, learn to ignore ads and limit who you see on social media. Don’t follow people who claim they lost 40 pounds in 2 months or made full-time income with their blog in 6 months. These overnight success stories simply aren’t realistic. Ignoring these people and following influencers who are honest about their success will give you a better template for your personal development plan.

"It's very refreshing to go away and take a break, to clear your head, and just get into something else." – Francois Nars Share on X

Making a Personal Development Plan

When making a plan to reach your goals, don’t look at other people’s progress. Try to see your past self as your rival, but keep it a friendly competition. Remember that while bettering yourself, you don’t need to be perfect. Put S.M.A.R.T. goals into your planning to increase your chance for success.

Don’t obsess over reaching your goals at any cost. Instead, plan your goals around what’s possible for you. Work on staying motivated by making a plan that’s achievable and as painless as possible. Don’t restrict yourself too much or make your life miserable. Make a list of small goals to focus on and celebrate every small victory you reach.

While working, put in effort for short bursts of time with no distractions, then give yourself a break to take your mind off it. I found out recently if I work for half an hour, then let myself watch a show on Netflix, I’ll get much more blogging done than if I tried to plow through it. Trying to do all the work at once makes me want to procrastinate.

Don’t forget to set a time each week to go over your plan, make sure it’s still achievable, and check in with yourself. If you have to take a break, be kind to yourself for needing time to rest. Remember to look back at the progress you’ve made and remind yourself you’re doing great, even if you didn’t reach your goals.

Pink-haired young Woman looking forward through binoculars holding a laptop and binder. Self-Improvement focused.

Addicted to Self-Improvement: Conclusion

When it comes to bettering yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, it’s best to understand not everything that works out for someone else will work for you, and that’s alright. Secondly, self-improvement isn’t always a good thing that makes your life better. Stay mindful of what you see in the media.

Lastly, if you want to improve yourself, make a personal development plan that’s tailored for you. Having realistic expectations for your goals will keep you from losing motivation or wanting to quit. Then, even if you reach your goals more slowly than someone else, you’ll know you did it in a way that was best for you.

Have you ever obsessed over self-improvement? How did it work out for you? Share your story in the comments!

That’s it for now everyone. If you’ve found some value in this post, please share it to inspire others too! Thanks!

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18 thoughts on “Is Being Addicted to Self-Improvement Bad?”

  1. It seems like so much messaging around self-improvement is built on the foundational idea that you’re not good enough as you are. That’s a really harmful message to send, but there are a lot of people making money off of tapping into others’ insecurities.

    1. Definitely, and now people like myself have crippling anxiety because of it. There’s gotta be a better way to promote health and happiness without obsessing over specific things.

  2. You’re right. We should just go at our own pace and not compare our work to others’ work. It can be soul-destroying if we do.

  3. Ang, great post. We should never stop learning or being curious. And, when we need to be more consistent or better at something, we can map out a plan and execute it. We should also remember maintaining weight, conditioning or shape requires continual effort.

    With that said, the old saying comes to mind that “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” To me, our goals should work for us and be sustainable. I do not want to look like Dwayne Johnson, nor can I, but I do want to be in a sustainable decent shape at the same weight corridor. If we set goals that are unattainable and un-sustainable, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

    It is like jogging. You set a Personal Best Record (PBR) and want to improve on it, not someone else’s time. If you want to run a 5K under 25 minutes, then be proud when you do and don’t lose esteem because your buddy ran 21 minutes. Keith

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s alright to want to improve, but not aim for perfection or try to be someone else. That’s when you’re going to end up disappointed.

  4. I didn’t realize I had a motto in this area, because I have become fairly balanced with self-improvement… but here is is! Improve what you can/want to, leave the rest. I was like you awhile back in that I wanted to improve everything. Fortunately, I spent a great deal of time and found someone that I was quite compatible with, which we were both about to give up on dating. So… the point. By surrounding yourself with your tribe aka people who share your deepest interests, I think some of these knots may work themselves out.

    1. I’m glad to hear you worked your way out of the self-improvement trap. I think that’s what I need to do. Make a list of things I want to improve and let everything else be.

  5. This is an awesome post, Ang! It really opened my eyes because, from reading this post, I now realize that almost 15 years ago, I too become obsessed with self-improvement and it was, as you mentioned, because I didn’t think I was good enough. All I could see was the people around me enjoying success while I lived in an apartment, so I dove into self-help books. Back then, I hadn’t found my purpose yet. Granted, they helped me a lot, but I soon craved more, more, more and I was never satisfied. Thankfully, I’ve managed to dial that down a bit and I believe it’s because I’ve finally found what I love to do so, I center my self-help around my interests. Thank you so much for the A-ha moment! 🙂

    1. I happy to have helped! I’ve been staying cooped up too. Over the past year I’ve been finding ways to get out more. Even though I still want to improve 🙂

  6. Wow I had never thought about the negative aspects of such an addiction… you’re right, constantly trying to change who we are to be ‘better’ by common standards can definitely eliminate our individuality… ironically, I’ve always thought I was too weird to be me!

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