The Trap Of The Self-Improvement Movement

As a life-long seeker of knowledge, what seems like never-ending fuel of curiosity, and a tad of an “ADD brain”, I find myself increasingly pondering the necessity to limit the amount of information I absorb. It is a trap for a brain wired to crave newness, learning, and engagement.

I am referring specifically to the barrage of mental health/self-help/self-improvement advice that we have become inundated with. With the overload of information, one can easily undertake the message and belief of “I’m not good enough as I am”, even on a subtle wavelength. Think about it: we are faced with self-help books, articles, blogs, gurus, webinars, classes, quotes (I do love a good quote), and newsletters with a “How to…” in the title, insinuating you are missing something of which when it is discovered you will be whole and then accepted.

I know I have found myself in the self-improvement trap WHEN I am not mindful of my head and heart space and intentional about keeping balanced with the information I take in.

When we are in the trap, our self-talk has too many ideals, too many “shoulds”, “have to’s”, and “musts”- not to mention the harsh self-critic voice. Suddenly, this self-improved ideal becomes a never-ending elusive entity. Staying true to ourselves equates to staying on the path with YOUR ideals and not what you think you are “suppose to” be or what that inner judgmental critic has (un)consciously made up about you.

Speaking of quotes (Ha), I love this one by Lao Tzu: “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are you and know what you want”. If I had to summarize my approach/lens of how I practice psychotherapy, this is it! It doesn’t matter how many books you read, how many self-improvement blogs you subscribe to, how many gurus you follow…yes, I know, perhaps it’s a bit of a contradiction for me to say that. In fact, I often make recommendations to clients to read a certain book or expand consciousness via a particular article/blog, but at the end of it all, I think this can be a slippery slope. We can become a little obsessed (is it just me?) with the latest therapy modality, mantra, emotional health “diet”, or psychology research.

The world is constantly giving us the message that we are not enough or that we do not have enough, that something is missing. It is an ILLUSION to think that a person, a book or Facebook post can fully impart in us the belief that we are okay as we are, that we are not inherently broken. Underneath the trauma, pain, blocks, and walls, discovery and re-connection await. You know who you were meant to be- before the trauma, before the addiction, before you were victimized or mistreated. The steps might just be unclear how to get there- how to get to wholeness, aliveness, self-acceptance, thriving with full life engagement with YOUR unique self.

Yes, the genre of self-help material can help you get there. And I’m not discouraging it. I simply want YOU to know that right here, right now you are okay the way you are. You are not the self-defeating voice in your head. I’m not saying you are feeling okay; I’m not implying a settling for being “okay” as an end point. However, with the practice of self-acceptance, mindfulness meditation, and practices to calm the nervous system, you can learn to be in the present moment in order to gently meet yourself where you are without judgment. This is when the process of deep and lasting healing begins.

Within your brokenness, in the wound, lies a gift of healing for which therapy can help. What I have learned is that it is within relationships (not books, articles, blah, blah) that we heal. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and raw in a safe context such as the therapeutic relationship- without fear of rejection or shaming, we can restore our innate capacity and need for secure attachment. It is here that we return to our original selves before the trauma, disruption, chaos happened. No book alone can give this gift.

As a psychotherapist, I don’t give advice (most of the time). I give recommendations, provide an emotionally safe environment for expression and identification of new insights, and model “skills” for coping with the energetic whirlwind of life. I guide clients using experiential practices so they can feel it for themselves…beyond simply understanding it on a cognitive level. To really know “I am good enough as I am” (for instance) on a body level vs. a cognitive level is a wildly different kind of experience. When we feel less constricted or fearful of our bodily sensations, we can come back to our true selves with greater ease and confidence to handle life’s ups and downs. This inner felt sense of being grounded, accepted, safely connected to the body, securely attached, and feeling emotionally/physically safe is your true self and the therapy relationship provides an opportunity to return there. Give yourself this gift. Call me today for a free consultation.

I look forward to speaking to you and being a part of your journey back to wholeness.

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