3 Reasons Why Constant Self-Improvement Can Be Damaging

Self-improvement is a continuous cycle necessary for personal and professional growth, no one is denying that. But with social media influencers constantly screaming at us to ‘be the best version of yourself!’, eat more healthily, journal, do yoga, or whatever lifestyle hack is currently in fashion, there can be a lot of pressure to keep up.

Whilst all those things are good habits to get into, striving for continuous self-improvement can at times be more detrimental than beneficial. Trying to keep up with lifestyle trends online can be exhausting and unrealistic, and the myriad of self-help books available can leave you feeling more demoralised than empowered. Don’t get us wrong, self-improvement is important, but don’t let it become an all-consuming endeavour. Make sure you’re taking time to live in the moment, appreciate how far you’ve come, and acknowledge the strengths you already possess.

In a recent article, self-improvement was described as a circle, without a beginning or an end. It’s a process, where improvement is advancement, but ultimately it is a continuously moving cycle. Success is a moveable feat, once you hit one self-improvement goal, you’re already looking to the next one. It doesn’t matter what the goal was, perhaps it’s committing to going to the gym five times a week, eating more sustainably, or learning a new language. Once you smash one target, you’ll already be looking at the next one. As a result, self-improvement can become a pathological and exhausting struggle, and we risk missing the world moving around us as we become fixated with what’s going on inside.

Constantly looking inwards and critiquing yourself can be so detrimental to your mental health and self esteem. That’s the thing about self-improvement, it requires a level of self-awareness that encourages you to see the flaws or areas that could be improved. Without a healthy dose of positivity, acceptance, and empathy, it can wreak havoc on your self esteem and actually deplete your self worth rather than add to it.

Self-improvement leading to burnout

You might be surprised to learn that development burnout is a pretty common thing. Constantly striving for improvement can become a hindrance to your mental health in many ways, particularly when it forms an obsessive habit. You’re more than likely going to experience some shame or self loathing if you fail to complete one of your self-improvement tasks which ultimately negatively reinforces the shame cycle.

Due to the cyclical nature of self-improvement that we discussed earlier, constantly trying to reach a moving target can be an all-consuming and exhausting exercise. Burnout tends to appear as a result of overwork and low self esteem, a common trait for someone trying to continuously better themselves.

It’s just as important to take time to reset and recharge your brain and body whilst you’re striving for self-improvement. Particularly if you’re making changes in how you think and act, it can be draining and taxing for your mind. Taking some time to recuperate is not a step back or a sign of failure. In fact, you’re more likely to get to where you envisage yourself more quickly than working your fingers to the bone and suffering burnout as a consequence.

Continuous self-improvement can depreciate your self worth

Everything in moderation… yes, even self-improvement! As we mentioned before, constantly seeking out your flaws and areas that could do with some improvement is bound to have a negative effect on your self esteem and self worth at some point. Associating improvement with value is a dangerous game, and it can be so easy to think ‘I need to improve because otherwise, I have no value’.

It can also start to drag your own insecurities into play and get you hyper-fixating on improving them. Believing that once you fix something you dislike about yourself or see as a flaw, you’ll be happy and content, is a mental trap. As we said above, it’s an ongoing cycle, so once you fix one thing you’ll automatically look to the next, and you’ll never feel content or happy with who you are, which only leads to more negative thoughts and feelings toward yourself.

Your mind is easily influenced, and the more you think something the more that it becomes ingrained in your belief systems. Eventually, you’ll look in the mirror and dislike the person staring back at you because you’re struggling to meet the increasingly high, and often impossible, standards that you’re setting for yourself.

Continuous self-improvement can mean you overlook your strengths

By continuously focusing on your weaknesses or areas that you want to improve, you aren’t acknowledging what strengths you already possess. Occupational psychologist and business coach, Claire Keogh, suggests that one of the main reasons self-improvement can be detrimental is that people become focused on their deficits, what they need to do better, and in doing so they neglect what is already working or consolidate their strengths.

Whilst it can be tempting to look at what you aren’t very good at or skills you want to improve, it can be just as beneficial to work on improving what you’re already good at. Building on your strengths and making them even stronger is often more attainable and more sustainable. Ever heard the saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none’? What this means is it’s usually better to consolidate your strengths and get those down to a fine art, rather than trying to improve every other skill or characteristic. That isn’t to say neglect them, but don’t over-exert yourself trying to master every little thing. 

Focussing so much on what’s going on inside can often mean we miss what’s going on around us. Life moves quickly, and it’s short, so don’t forget to live in the moment. Becoming all-consumed with self-improvement often distracts from self-reflection. Self-reflection is a crucial cog in the self-development machine, it helps you appreciate how far you’ve come, help to define your goals, and stop you from getting caught up on unattainable goals. Setting yourself impossible standards is a surefire way to ensure you fall at the first hurdle, so prioritising self-reflection is just as important as working on yourself.

Self-improvement tips

Remind yourself that you are in control. Any changes that you want to make in your life are voluntary, and first and foremost should be about improving YOUR lifestyle. When self-improvement feels like it’s running away with you and you’re losing your autonomy, it’s time to hit the brakes.

Set attainable targets. Never let your mindset depreciate enough that you doubt your value or self-worth. If you feel that starting to happen, take a moment to reflect on your strengths and remind yourself of your goals. Remember, even Mary Poppins was ‘practically perfect in every way’, so don’t set yourself ridiculous goals and beat yourself up when you fall short.

Don’t let others influence your journey. Get. Off. Social. Media. Social media has a myriad of wonderful traits, but it can also be wholly destructive. Everyone is different, everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses, and no one’s journey or life path is the same. Remember that what you’re seeing online or what you’re hearing from someone else is only part of the story.

Practice affirmations. If you feel your mindset starting to slip into negativity, boost your mental health with some positive affirmations. Remind yourself of your value and worth, without honing in on what you’d like to improve. Work affirmations into your daily routine and make them a staple part of your self-improvement journey.

With Morale in your pocket, you can now boost not only your own mental health, but those in your network too! ‘How’ we hear you ask… by downloading the app you will be able to send positive affirmations to your innermost circle every day. By sharing some positive vibes with those around you, how you perceive your own self-worth will improve, AND you’ll be actively supporting someone you care about in their own self-improvement journey. Download the app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store today.

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