Like anything in life there is always going to be the good and the bad. Roses are beautiful and they have a wonderful fragrance. However, many have thorns that can pierce even the thickest of leather gardening/ work gloves.
There are two main points that comprise the dark side of improvement.
Understand that there is no magic pill for self-improvement. Self-improvement is a process which takes time, effort, and planning. It can’t be as simple as taking the red or the blue.
We are creatures that have evolved from an early man and woman that had to fight to survive. Therefore, we learn best from pain. When you were a child, first learning how to ride the bike, your parent likely did all she could to prepare you for that first ride. She showed you how to balance the bike, pedal, and control its direction. However, despite her best attempts at keeping you balanced, you probably fell a few times before you got the hang of balance.
Pain doesn’t have to be bad, nor dysfunctional, as long as we learn from it- and as long as it’s not willfully inflicted on us by others. As you move through your plan for self-improvement, expect to fall down so that you can get back up stronger.
Every year we make resolutions, only for most of us to give up on them before February rolls around. You start with all of the enthusiasm you can possibly have to support your optimistic belief that this will finally be the year you accomplish…
Only, in the end, you end up with disappointment as your enthusiasm fades, or you fail to end up where you wanted to be. Understand that while the concept of self-improvement can turn into something of a rabbit hole for us, it can be a powerful tool.
One of the fundamental aspects of our humanity is that we feel a need for improvement. It’s possible that this comes from some archaic evolutionary survival tool for ancient men and women. While it is a useful tool, it can become toxic for those of us who see this need for improvement as a flaw.
Going back to the bike analogy: That child, be they you or someone else, approached that bike ready to learn how to ride without training wheels. He was excited. However, the first time he fell off, he probably felt a twinge of discouragement.
It’s important to remember that he didn’t approach that bike with the physical practical knowledge of how to balance it. He likely knew how to operate it mechanically thanks to the safety of his training wheels. But just because he could still improve on his ability to ride without training wheels doesn’t mean he was fundamentally flawed. It just means that he had room to grow, and something to learn. He had a way to improve.
Also, bear in mind, that like the child learning how to ride a bike with training wheels, the point of growth in self-improvement doesn’t occur when the goal is reached. It occurs when we learn.
A child who is learning to ride her bike without training wheels is probably going to fall. For older generations, this entailed some form of knee skinning. Regardless, the entire experience is a teachable, and learning moment passed down from one generation to the next. For those who teach themselves such things, the experience is added to.
We tend to see our goals just beyond our reach. When we stumble while reaching it’s important to remember that the stumble, or trip-up is a learning moment. Not a failure. The dark side and toxicity comes when we throw in the towel when we stumble rather than getting back up.
As a side note, remember that you are always going to be your strongest critic. This doesn’t mean that you should judge yourself. The process of self-improvement requires honest assessment, not self-judgement, and there is a big difference (Handel, S. (2011, May 28). The 10 Commandments of Self Improvement: A Basic Introduction to the Core Principles of Self-Help)