“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.”
Athlete Steve Young
Personal growth, personal development, self-improvement, self-help: these are topics that many of us explore. Maybe most of us. But can we be overdoing it sometimes?
The top three bestseller book titles on Amazon at one point were the latest Harry Potter adventure, the “vampire love saga” Eclipse, and Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, by Wayne W. Dyer.
Some statistics on the Freedom From Self-Improvement post include:
* The U.S. self-improvement market totaled $9.6 billion dollars, up from $8.5 billion in 2004 and $5.7 billion in 2000.
* Almost $700 million worth of self-improvement books were sold in 2005.
* Between 1972 and 2004, the number of self-help books published more than doubled. One in three Americans reports they’ve purchased at least one self-help book.
* The first self-help book is commonly reported to be Dale Carnegie’s 1936 best-seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
But with all this wealth of self-improvement material, some of it, and the marketing, may at times get into snake oil territory.
The image is from the dark comedy short “The Debt” (1993) which includes an irritating, pushy salesman of a questionable self-help book: “Think Positive Now.”
Of course, there is probably value – even substantial value – in many of these books and programs, and any authentic personal growth endeavor should be encouraged.
And I am certainly not specifically criticizing the work of Dyer; I have included a number of references to his writings over the years, such as: “Other teachers and writers who talk about the power of visualization include Shakti Gawain, author of Creative Visualization, and Wayne Dyer, author of The Power of Intention” in my article Using Visualization For Creative Achievement.
But maybe there is a limit, a point where we are doing ourselves a disservice to be so consumed with “being better.”
Self-improvement can verge into a kind of cultish thinking: that we are imperfect or damaged, and need the expertise of a special teacher, author or guru. Or a good cosmetic surgeon.
It reminds me of some aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous, with their 12 Steps including these two items:
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable”
“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
[By the way, AA fails the majority of those who seek help in their groups for drug and alcohol problems – see the article Why hasn’t alcohol rehab worked for Lindsay Lohan and 93% of the problem drinkers in the US?]
Zen teacher Cheri Huber thinks real change comes from awareness – not willpower: “If self-improvement worked, it would have by now. Getting where you want to be has everything to do with awareness, and nothing to do with willpower,” she says on her Audio CD Unconditional Self-Acceptance.
Parents may want to consider new research on self-improvement strategies for kids and babies.
The article “DVD and video hinder infant learning” said that programs such as “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby” “may slow down infants eight to 16 months of age when it comes to acquiring vocabulary, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute.”
Author Jennifer Louden has warned that “Beating ourselves up because our thighs aren’t thin enough, or because we still haven’t perfected the art of ‘positive thinking’ hasn’t made us happier or the world a better place.
“Inner peace through endless self-improvement only serves to make us endlessly dissatisfied and disappointed. The biggest paradox in trying to change ourselves is that nothing happens until we embrace who and how we are right now, imperfections, perceived flaws and all.”
In his article Self Improvement Is Masturbation, Lee Nutter notes he took the title from a line in the movie “Fight Club” by the character Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt):
“Self Improvement is masturbation, self destruction is the answer.”
Nutter comments, “What Tyler is saying is that society has instilled some values in most people that are way off the mark. They aren’t doing anyone any good. You can use affirmations and other self help tools to help you progress, but basically you are building a sky scraper on a plot of land originally designed for a tin shack.”
He adds, “Self improvement is incredibly important, it isn’t just playing with yourself, as this quote seemingly implies at first glance. Affirmations and other self help utilities are more than just toys, they are tools that help you be the person you want to be, to get where you want to go.”
Personal Growth Information site – books, ebooks, articles, programs and other personal development resources.
Article publié pour la première fois le 24/11/2013