I’ve been looking at self-improvement, personal development for fifteen years now. I’ve learned a lot, and my life has changed for the better. But there are times when I can’t stomach it anymore. The constant advice to get better, be better.
Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs that’s our problem. Worse still it’s not the eating we do but life itself that we wished we had more of.
Sometimes I want to be happy where I am, with who I am. All this reading and listening is not good for me. I never seem to be satisfied. Contentment is never allowed to exist and I find myself eating so much self-help ‘food’.
This is the dark side of the self-help / personal development space.
We feast of visions of a better life, gorge on plans, consumepossibilities, stuff our faces with goals.
We’re impatient for change and growth, so greedy to have it all. We expect life to be big and grand, ‘larger than life’.
We gorge on what the personal development space has to offer because we feel we have to. Like candy, it makes us feel good, gives us hope and dreams. We want to be good at living so we consume all these ideas out of a genuine desire to be a better person, have a better life.
It’s like an all you can eat buffet and we’re loading up our plates and going back for more. Then we feel bad, guilty, ashamed because we can’t make it happen.
What’s on your plate? How many goals do you have? Like me probably a lot. All those goals and the platefuls of self-help advice create stagnation. Constipation, bloating if you want to think of it like that.
All the work, the striving, the desire, the crossing of todo lists leaves us drained.
Personal development, self-help is making us ill. Our desperation to be successful and happy sucks the joy and fun out of life. It’s become work, a chore and far more stressful.
What we need to do is be realistic and have a better content diet. We can’t consume all the content in the world, all the ideas. We don’t have the capacity or the time. There’s always going to be one more post, one more podcast episode to consume. It will never stop.
Satiety, that is to have a nice full belly will never be reached. Our desires are out of control.
Far better to admit this and focus on being more contented than to desperately consume content in a futile attempt to have all the answers. To cross the last blog post of the list, to catalogue the final piece of wisdom. Never going to happen.
Such ideas of perfection and destination only trick us to consume far too much.
It says something about our mental wellbeing that the stuff that supposed to help us can in excess become toxic. Our appetite to be better can drive us to gluttony and excess and personal development is no different.
We need to let go of perpetual desire to be different and learn to be happy with who we are. The self-help industry is not going away, nor is our desire to improve and grow. Neither are the impossible dreams we set for ourselves.
What’ needed is a ‘Calorie/Content’ Restricted Diet.
We need to consume this stuff more carefully. Perhaps a personal development fast for a short time. Fasting is thought to be good for the body, perhaps the mind too.
Set a moratorium on self-help blogs, podcasts and videos. Instead, focus on other aspects of your life.
A healthy diet is an important part of living well. But our aspirations drive us to live with another unhealthy diet, of content, and ideas. Taking on too much in a desire to improve our lot leaves us feeling bloated and exhausted.
The life we desire will always be out of reach. Like any addict, we need to come to terms with this reality and find a path that honours our need to grow. But allows us to be the imperfect, fumbling, faintly absurd individuals we really are. Perfection, purity, a fit body, a life full of adventures, these are the dreams sold by the industry.
As a result, we do battle with the person we see in the mirror.Unsatisfied, unhappy and always working. There’s no joy in it, no Joie de vivre.
Life is supposed to be fun.We have to stop the war and learn to make peace with ourselves.
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