An unbelievable amount of time, effort and energy has gone under the bridge in the name of self-improvement. It has become almost synonymous with other headings such as self-help, personal growth, personal empowerment and a host of other labels alluding toward the accomplishment of increasing our influence and effectiveness upon our world. But the questions arises, “What are we improving” and “Whom are we improving for?” Ourselves? Others? An ideal? What is the objective? What is this thing we call self-improvement and why do we pursue it?
We all strive, at the least most of us, to be “better” people. But what does that mean? And in whose eyes will we be “better?” For each of us who invest in the process our reasons will vary tremendously but our bottom line goal will be the same; to feel wanted, needed and loved by the world. The feeling that we are not is a primary urge resting in the core of our self-perception. Whether we admit this to ourselves or not is the most important factor in determining how we will approach the process. Since personal growth and personal empowerment are most often seen as self-improvement, our process will fall under one of two labels; either self-improvement or self-help.
In self-help there is a belief within us that we are somehow lacking whatever it takes to put us into a position in life that we feel will make us happy. Whether it is developing skills for work and career or characteristics that we believe are responsible for attracting the most desirable relationships, it is still viewed as a void that needs to be filled. What is ironic is that according to the law of attraction it is our belief in what it is that we are lacking that focuses our energy and attention toward manifesting more of the same perceived lack. In other words, what we believe about ourselves will continue to manifest until we change our belief or like begets like. This even resonates with the bible that says what a man thinketh, so he is. So then, does self-help make things worse? It does only if we start by believing that something is lacking. If that’s what we’re then faced with in self-help, what can we do?
A less “self-fulfilling prophecy” would be self-improvement. It starts from a position of believing that who and what we are is enough. Nothing is lacking. It’s just that now we want more of what we can be, do or have. The focus switches from a feeling of lack to a feeling of wanting more to feel happier. You may now say, “Doesn’t wanting to be happier come from a lack in itself?” I’d say yes, but the want is much more general in its focus. Focusing directly on the lack of a skill or characteristic is specific and augments our energy in a way that focuses and accelerates the perceived lack specifically emphasizing its manifestation. Focusing on being happy is more general and diffuses the energy leaving our field of concentration and endeavor more open to its satisfaction from more than one specific focus, namely, the skill or characteristic. It leaves our fulfillment open to the “universal manager” which certainly brings us what we want, but most often, from avenues that we least expect. The dynamic then bypasses our mind lock and specificity which are then minimized or moved “out of the way” of more preferable yet unexpected benefits manifesting from avenues which we hadn’t considered. So, based on the Law of Attraction, focusing more on what we want rather than what we lack is the better way to go.
So, self-improvement is more preferable over self-help. Yet, with our perceived lack in a much more defused and expanded focus, it is still aimed at increasing something which we feel is an elusive and indescribable lack. But, what is it that will make us happier? Even with self-improvement, we’re right back to wanting to feel wanted, needed and loved. Granted a lack but a lot less focused and a lot less likely to create our own resistance through specific “pointing” of our energy and attention.
In becoming self-improved we believe that if we do more, have more and are more what we want will materialize. But, where did we get this belief from? In whose eyes do we believe that this is true? Others. The people we know, love and admire. The people who we believe are happy. The people we believe that are outside our reach, outside of our world and, essentially, disconnected from us. We want to belong. We want to be accepted. We want to be reunited with what we believe is our source, that place where there was no separation before we were born into this polarized separated world. This is the place in the bible referred to as the Garden of Eden. This is the ancient memory of our all being one: a union of feeling in the empathic ocean. But I digress.
So, what are the hazards? There is only one. It is believing that being wanted, needed and loved by someone or something outside of ourselves will make us happy. We’re still playing the “tapes” that originally taught us to believe that all that is important and that all that will answer our need to be wanted, accepted and loved comes from our parents. While this may have been so when we were helpless infants we’ve since then buried the recognition of this attention and urge from this non-verbal time deep into the unconscious as our thinking mind became the overlay determining how we discriminate what we seek. Then we continued the outward attention by simply transferring the expectation to others who remind us of family members. The fact that we were trained to look outside of ourselves during a non-verbal time accounts for most of the difficulty we have in believing that we create our own circumstances through how and where we focus our energy.
When we focus on others to fulfill what we believe will make us happy we also subject ourselves to their unpredictable changing of like, loves and dislikes who, even in the best of times, have difficulty keeping their preferences focused and consistent. As they change their preferences we end up feeling like we’re chasing our tail. Many time we don’t even realize that they’ve done so. Happiness provided by them then becomes totally elusive and frustrating.
So, what is the answer? For most people it is an extremely difficult one to put into action. We must first learn to become accountable for and accept the decisions that put us in positions that we feel are undesirable and, second, we have to come to realize and accept that our happiness rests in using our energy in a way that makes us feel good NOT panders to the whims and approvals of those whom we believe hold the key to our contentment and security. Since we live in such a materially oriented world, this is an extremely difficult pill for many to swallow.
So, what’s the primary hazard of self-improvement? Believing that what we need comes from outside our own heart. What can we do? We can all start by creating and relishing more quiet and alone time and learning to enjoy our own company without outside stimulation. Can you do it?