Updated: Aug 13
What is self-improvement, and why is it important in personal growth?
In a nutshell, self-improvement is very much learning new habits that boost and support our personal growth. I very much think the game of life is to be better and do better and that can only ever start with us. We all have habits that can stunt our growth and more often than not they begin with limiting beliefs. Self-improvement can only ever start with self awareness and what in the hell does that mean? No, you don't have to suddenly take up yoga, visit spiritual centres or read hundreds of books on philosophy and how the brain works to become self aware ... you can start by assessing what is working in your life and what isn't? Look at your relationships, your job, your location and your living situation. What do you think were the steps that led you to where you are now? I very much believe in accountability when it comes to self awareness. Sometimes it hurts to admit but if we are in a place in our life where we feel dissatisfied or frustrated, we are to blame.
What's that? It's not your fault ... this might be the harsh reality call for you but if you are a capable adult then 99.9% of your problems are your fault. The only exceptions to this go to those that are in war-torn countries or are living in fascist countries. If you are reading this then you have the luxury of trawling the internet and you also have the luxury of instant access to so much knowledge.
Nobody said self-improvement is an easy game and there is definitely no room for molly-coddling within it ... if you don't know what that means, Google it.
If you are deadly serious about improving your life you have to start by improving yourself.
Now take a quick breather. Go make a tea or a coffee and read on when you're ready.
Where do I start?
For many, therapy and counselling are great starting places for a self-improvement journey but I know there are a lot if not a vast majority of people out there where therapy is very much out of their budgets. You can pat yourself on the back if you landed on this blog article for starters. The first step of self-improvement starts by actually wanting to improve. So well done!
There are thousands of books out there and equally as much video content out there now where everyone and their pet hamster are self-improvement gurus. Some have great tips and others are quite literally taking up valuable headspace.
Start by switching off the outside world and everyone else's opinions. I think we so easily fall into that trap of comparing ourselves to others, myself included at times, it's completely redundant. Get used to you first. Think of it like an internal date or interview with yourself but where you have no objective other than laying out all of the dirty laundry. Nothing hidden and don't hold back.
If you feel more comfortable, it might be best to write this out on a piece of paper.
In business, companies are called to do what's called a SWOT analysis where to improve their business strategy, they will lay out the company's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. What are your strengths? If you say you don't know, look at what you're good at. Look at your hobbies. Everyone has something they are good at. Remember, don't compare and if you can try and imagine you are sat at a table interviewing or on a date with yourself. It helps. Tell yourself about that time you solved a problem at work or how you could have written a better storyline than that TV show you watched the other night. Whatever it may be. Brag about yourself ... to yourself.
Feeling like a total boss?
Great. Now what do you suck at. What is that thing that gets the best of you? I hate the fact I've probably used often in this article quite a lot but ... more often than not our weaknesses aren't actually practical tasks. What do I mean? Well, I think when we lay out our weaknesses we tend to get a lot more personal with it. Like for example I suck at interpersonal relationships especially when it comes to dating. It is true but I am starting to own that as very much a me thing than an everyone else thing because I'm on the old self-improvement journey myself. So look at some of the things you might not necessarily want to brag about. Do you get annoyed at others? Do you struggle with making conversation? Do you wish you could just have more confidence? Do you overthink? Do you feel like you waste time? Really dive into what you perceive your weakness to be.
Now instead of laying out a list of opportunities because I always find when we do that we start future faking like 'I'm gonna go to the gym every day and I'm gonna do 8 hours of meditation', that's technically goal setting and let's not walk before we crawl. Your opportunity should be the self-awareness that you recognise what you fundamentally like and don't like about yourself. Outlining your strengths and weaknesses is an opportunity for growth in itself.
Finally threats! What is holding you back from changing those weaknesses into strengths? For me it's allowing a negative thought to completely spiral then I use a number of reasons to justify that negative thought. If you've had a crappy past, I'm sending you much love but you know I said earlier, self-improvement isn't about molly-coddling. Still not looked it up? What are you actually hoping to gain from using your crappy past as an excuse not to achieve your goals and your dreams? Seriously sit with that one. Are you hoping people will take it easy on you? Are you hoping someone gives you a hug and tells you they're sorry you went through that? Are you hoping the world stops to say 'poor you'? Victimhood is an extremely unattractive trait. I'm not minimising your trauma or trouble by any means and this is often why therapy works best for some people who want to improve their circumstances. This is the kind of revelations that pop up in therapy. A therapist will probe and delve into your past, they might give you a sympathetic look but they won't give you a medal.
So if it is the case that you feel like you can't get over that time Bobby broke your favourite toy or you felt like you didn't get the love from a parent, write that down as a threat. It might have happened in the past but you are bringing it into the present.
Before I go off on a tangent, our pasts especially those painful events do affect our present. You have to admit they are still causing upset first then if you really want to improve yourself and your circumstances, you have to release those past incidents.
But you don't understand how hard it is! Who the hell are you to tell me to just let go and release! I've been there and without divulging my own trauma I know how detrimental it can be to allow the past to dictate the present. We can use our past as a means to grow and in truth that's all the past should be used for. I'll do a separate blog on the healthiest and best ways to release.
Remember to take breathers by the way. Yes stop and breathe but also do tasks that help quiet the brain such as play a video game or watch a TV show or film.
What are the benefits of self-improvement?
Aside from you becoming an absolute badass in your waking life and not letting past events impede on your goals this is what you have to look forward to;
Enhanced Self-Awareness: Having a self-awareness is crazy beneficial as we recognise what comes from us and what is outside of us. We start to recognise positive and negative responses from other people when we're more self aware.
Setting and Achieving Goals: Setting goals becomes easier and we also get comfortable in that trying to achieve goals. This comes from not comparing. It's great Matilda just climbed Kilimanjaro and raised thousands for a charity. It's amazing Scott just won a Bafta for his script. That's their goals and great if you want to achieve similar ones but really look at what you want out of life. A new job? A new home? A new car? Goals don't have to be crazy, out there.
Continuous Learning: Once you start, you never stop! Lucky you. In all my years of constant questioning and trying to improve myself I realise there is always something new to learn so keep your mind open to that.
Increased Confidence: Yes you still might have those anxious days but through self-improvement you will eventually learn to accept those moments when they come. Everyone has bad days and you're allowed to too. Confidence is very much being comfortable with you. All sides of you. Even your grouchy mornings. Confidence however is not thinking you're better than anyone. It is accepting yourself and staying humble.
Resilience and Adaptability: You will hopefully learn that anything that happens outside of yourself will only affect you if you allow it. You'll learn that even if you put your foot in your mouth it is just another opportunity to acknowledge where you can improve and see everything as an opportunity for growth.
Positive Habits and Behaviour: Annoyingly you might get to a point where you realise spending every weekend drinking and getting wasted isn't so good for your liver or in helping you achieve your goals. You will start to recognise what's good for you and what isn't. Positive habits is a hit and miss because I think especially in the self help world it can get confused with toxic positivity or trying to be a do-gooder. I doubt there is a single person on this planet that doesn't fall at the hands of their thoughts or emotions but I think positive behaviour is understanding when those thoughts and emotions become volatile or detrimental and when is the right time to remove yourself to deal with those thoughts and feelings. That in itself is extremely positive and I wish more people were aware of that.
Improved Relationships: If you want to have better relationships, self-improvement is key. You'll recognise who is good for you and who isn't. You'll recognise your own bad habits such as people pleasing or having poor boundaries and eventually through self-improvement you will find your tribe. If you choose to. Maybe you'll get to a point where you're just happier being in your own company but you'll learn when you'll need to balance that out. By design we are social creatures and social interaction also leads to personal growth.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Self-improvement can definitely lead you to discovering better coping mechanisms and reduce anxiety. It's all about learning what works for you and what doesn't.
Increased Motivation and Productivity: I've just come out of a spell of burnout and I've found that through my own techniques and self-improvement journey that I tend to recover a lot quicker each time. This in itself is a huge motivator. I went from days on end of literally just sleeping because my body needed it, to not really wanting to do anything to publishing my poetry book and revamping my website all in the space of a week. Motivation can be hard to find at times but you'll learn through self-improvement that it's all about acknowledging the little victories throughout the day such as cleaning or going out for a walk. These little acts of doing and completing lead on to bigger tasks of doing and completing.
All in all hopefully this article has kick started your journey into self-improvement and if you find there are days you get a little overwhelmed just remember you are trying to improve you, for you first off. This shouldn't be about anyone other than you so it's very much your journey and you set the pace. How does it feel to be in control?
If you liked this article or you'd like me to expand on any particular point be sure to drop a comment. To find out more about me have a look through the website or check me out on YouTube