The Self-Improvement Epidemic

Many of us think there is something inherently wrong with ourselves.

We are our own worst critics. The explosion of the Self-Development market is evidence for our tendencies to blame, criticize and judge ourselves.

The Self-help industry relies on people being harder than necessary on themselves and looking for answers to fix themselves and their broken, imperfect lives.

They know that people look at themselves in the mirror, emphasizing their flaws and imperfections, wishing that they could be just a little more handsome, pretty, tall, skinny, muscular, smart. We are never enough.

The Self-help industry welcomes the broken with open arms, providing compassion and pats on the back. Many have exploited the low self-esteem of the consumers in this market and feed them “practical advice” like cold-showers and waking up at 4 a.m.

They know that many people are looking to change their lives, seeking answers that would help lift the heavy burden of life off their backs even just for a little bit. Most of these “enlightened people on the Internet” understand and want to help those who are seeking answers; they were once in their positions.

But they sometimes exploit their suffering, their moments of weakness and vulnerability.

If you just do these activities everyday, you’ll feel better and be on your way to becoming the better version of yourself! Blend yourself a green veggie smoothie, change your diet to vegan, tackle crossfit, deadlift 500 lbs and wake up before the rooster everyday. Buy my guide to change your life for only $50 and find the key to happiness and love!

I won’t be the first to say that these activities don’t actually work for most people. People believe that just by following certain activities “backed by science” preached by “successful internet gurus”, they will find happiness and success in their lives.

People buy into these promises, thinking that they will finally relieve themselves of the troubles that have been plaguing their lives. They believe they will finally find the success that has been eluding them.

While I understand that people need the external motivation from time to time, I don’t think they realize the root of their problems. The daily activities that gurus suggest are simply practices that will help you change your routines, because they understand that when you change your daily activities, your mindset will change as a consequence.

You’re At Fault Too

If we stop consuming their content and realize that the problem is not in the solutions that they are providing us but within ourselves, we wouldn’t look at self-help articles as often as we do. We wouldn’t seek answers from all the wrong places. We just need to look within ourselves and make the decision to change, starting from now, from today.

But we don’t truly want to change our lives. We just want to think that we want to. Thinking about your dream life is sweeter than working toward it solely because you don’t have to work for it. You already feel like you have it, so why should you put any effort? You don’t have to face the hardships and failures.

We sit down and open 20 links that ultimately say the same thing. Some are bad, some are good, but one happens to be exceptionally good. So we start looking for one that can top that article, or confirms the words of it.

We wonder to ourselves: What if I miss the real exercise, the actual activity that will change my life? What if I close the link to that article, but that article actually had the answer to change my life forever? So we read on indefinitely, searching for the Holy Grail.

These variable rewards that we get from pummeling through these self-help articles keep us going until we run out of physical and mental energy to actually tackle the practices provided.

Tired from all the motivating energy that was used to read other motivating articles, you lay back down on your bed and continue to scroll through Instagram and Snapchat, looking to see what your friends are doing.

“I know how to change my life, so I guess I can treat myself right now. Maybe I’ll start these things tomorrow.”

You know how it goes from there. Tomorrow becomes another struggle, another battle. You know the answers, but you stay willfully blind. You know what you have to do, yet you wave it away and refuse to acknowledge it.

You don’t tackle any of the tasks you set for yourself and you feel defeated, and find yourself turning to more motivation to change your life. It is a vicious cycle that can keep you locked in forever.

Change Comes From Within

Your flaws, the negative traits that you indulge in, are like weeds in a garden.

  • Weeds grow in a garden whether you like it or not, and compete with your plants for water and nutrients.
  • The negative thoughts and habits in your life are in your life whether you like it or not, and they compete with your positive thoughts and habits for water and nutrients.

They are byproducts of our imperfections as humans, as conscious animals. We always have conflicting thoughts and emotions. We are able to be both good and evil, lazy and productive, happy and sad.

There is nothing we can really do to get rid of them forever, because they’ll continuously try to grow and make our gardens uglier and messier.

If you don’t tend to your garden everyday, taking care of the weeds that are growing, they’ll soon grow to restrict flowers and plants from growing to their potential height and beauty.

What do we do about the weeds (negative thoughts and traits) in our gardens (minds)?

All we can do is to acknowledge and eradicate them. You have to do your due diligence and pull out the weeds. Remove them completely, so that their roots aren’t able to stay in the soil and grow again.

But the weeds in your mind aren’t your average garden weeds. Even if you pull out the roots, they will grow back. They won’t be as strong as they were before, but they will always stay in your garden.

Every time you indulge in self-criticism and deprecating thoughts, water reaches the hidden root and they will come back with vengeance. They will grow high and strong, so that you have to expend twice your effort and energy to pull them out again.

There’s nothing wrong with you in thinking negative thoughts. That doesn’t mean there’s something inherently wrong with you.

Change does not come externally. It comes from within.

These gurus have never known you individually, don’t know what problems you’re dealing with. They’ll say something vague to make you feel like they understand the predicaments that are plaguing your life. They’ll make you think they know the remedy that will help treat your suffering.

No one can change your life except for you. If you don’t make the pledge to change your life for the better, to get rid of the weeds in your garden, then you’ll end up bitter, resentful and miserable. You’ll blame everything except yourself. You’ll never accept responsibility that you’re the one who has to decide to change your life.

Forget blaming your circumstances and your environment and your government and your parents. Take control of what grows in your garden. Eradicate the negative thoughts and habits that stop you from becoming the best version of you.

If you want to ask me a question or simply want to talk: @ohc.william@gmail.com. Check out my publication — https://medium.com/sapere-aude-incipe