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Avoiding The Self-Improvement Trap

The harsh critic that lives inside many of us is often interested in masochistic projects called “self-improvement” that it’s never satisfied with. But this can be counter-productive, resulting in you getting more stuck and feeling even more deficient, Bob Stahl writes.

To be sure, it can be helpful to seek psychotherapy and other health promoting activities when you need support. But you can also become overwhelmed with the idea that every one of your imperfections should be fixed with workshops, new therapies, a better diet, and an intensified exercise program. In some ways, it’s similar to always striving for more money or more things.

Continuously striving to be a better person can fill up a lifetime yet never be fulfilled.
In such a state, the mind doesn’t live in the present moment, which is the only place we can experience love, peace, or happiness. This can be akin to searching for your camera to preserve an experience that you end up missing because you’re searching for the camera.

Your highly judgmental mind can always find something that isn’t quite right. We tend to get the standards by which we judge ourselves by looking around and comparing ourselves to others. But if you consider how many billions of people there are on this planet, you can see that this is a no-win proposition. There will always be someone thinner, fitter, nicer, more accomplished, more attractive, etc.

This is like a military strategy based on the idea that war can create peace – that if you can blast the inadequate self to smithereens, or maybe just threaten to do so, you will finally feel okay and have peace.

Alas, the way to peace is never through war, and the way to happiness is never through (self) hatred. Peace is the way to peace, and happiness comes from happiness. If you want compassion to grow in your life, practice compassion. If you want criticism to grow in your life, practice criticism.

Avoiding the self-improvement Trap; Self-compassion, self-criticism, lovingkindness