For most of my life I have been a self-help addict. I read every popular (and even not-so-popular) self-help tome. For the last three years, I dove deep into my personal development by expanding from just reading books to hiring a coach and joining a mastermind group.
And now I want nothing to do with it.
Let me explain. I don’t regret any of it. I made more progress in the last three years because of the support of my mastermind group and coach. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the drive to find answers. And it’s because of my perseverance and commitment I have come to the point of saturation. I finally get that there was nothing to improve in the first place.
If I sound cocky, it’s not my intent. I don’t think I’m perfect. I’m flawed but our flaws are part of the journey. Life isn’t about showing up perfect. Life is about learning and growing into our purpose (that’s my opinion at least). It’s two very different mindsets.
For a long time my mindset was of the former. At the heart of my insecurities was this idea that I was broken and needed to be fixed. It was ingrained in me at a young age. That is what started me down the whole “self-improvement” road to begin with. I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, thinking that there was “one way” and I didn’t get the memo. It’s outer driven as I was constantly trying to please other people and live up to their opinions and expectations. I was trying to be everything to everyone. And it was a recipe for misery.
In the last three years I finally found myself. For most of my life I had adopted all these beliefs about what a woman was supposed to be, what she should do that I was living life off-kilter. I saw the world in “right vs. wrong”. I didn’t realize that there were many different paths and ways to live. Somehow I always managed to choose people who I was not aligned with and their confidence triggered my insecurities making me always feel “wrong”.
Now I realize my journey wasn’t about improving myself, it was about coming home, leaning into my authentic true self. It’s less about “improving” and more about shedding the bullshit society throws on us. When you know, at the very core of your being, who you are and what makes you tick, you see yourself and life very differently. Relationships are one example. I worked so hard to be interesting and what I thought my partner wanted that I never even asked if I found them interesting. It’s no wonder none of them lasted.
Another example is my career. I’ve learned having your own business is like sex. You can do it alone but it’s much more fun if you have a partner. I wasn’t cut out to be on my own. When I started looking for a job, I thought “Who’s going to hire me? What have I accomplished?” And sure enough, no one did. (Imagine that!) Then one day I decided to see exactly what I did do the last three years of trying to build a business. When I looked at the list I saw just how much I had accomplished. It was almost a college degree’s worth of stuff – creating presentations and workshops, sharpening my public speaking skills, running my own website, writing two books, learning new software, honing my communication skills, just to name a few. I had actually grown – emotionally, mentally and intellectually. Most people stop growing after gaining 3-5 years of experience and coast on it for the next 30 years of their careers. I saw just how valuable my three years of experience had been. My attitude (and my LinkedIn profile) changed. And I found a job, in the middle of a pandemic, within a month.
The past six months in isolation have revealed even more. I have no interest in self-help books anymore. There’s a few I’ll always cherish (Wayne Dyer) but there is a sleazy side to the industry as we see popular so-called gurus causing more harm than good, building careers by plagarizing others or being accused of sexual assault.
My search for self-improvement did improve me in that I became myself instead of some second-rate version of someone else. I’m less judgmental and way more easy-going than I was when I was younger. I am more outer focused now – trying to make sure what I do doesn’t (intentionally or unintentionally) bring harm to someone else. I have more of a servant’s heart.
When you like yourself and are aligned with your true nature, you have nothing to prove anymore. I know there are people who will never get me and that’s okay. I’m done trying to fit into their model.
I’m not looking to “improve” myself anymore. I am seeking growth, which may just be semantics, but for me, words matter. “Improve” has an air of needing to be fixed. It triggers the old “right” vs. “wrong” mindset. Growth is just something that all living things do naturally. For me, growth means pursuing my interests: creativity, art, design, cooking, sustainability, craft/making things and home (our physical home as well as the meaning of home). My bookshelf looks a lot different these days.
The pandemic has been beneficial, it’s helped me fine-tune areas of my life – things I’m interested in making, materials I want to work with, what travel looks like for me (I have a whole list of workshops and festivals I’d like to attend when we are free to roam again), how I really want to dress and ideas I want to explore further.
I’ve thrown away the self-help road map and I’m writing my own.