Huh? An article on 5 ways personal development is bad for you from a blogger who is the biggest fan-boy for personal development?
This is more than just a clickbait topic to grab your attention. These are real struggles I have come across after becoming obsessed with personal-development.
If you’re why I’m revealing them. It’s important to be honest and Charlie Munger recommends the principle of inversion. He says you should be able to argue the other side of anything better than anyone before you take a side.
So, let’s peel back the curtain and show you what creepy, crawlies lie behind it…
1. You’re Not Ever Okay With Who You Are
“You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don’t have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you’re beautiful because you feel as though you’re not beautiful already. You follow relationship advice because you feel that you’re unlovable already. You use visualization exercised about being more successful because you feel as though you aren’t successful enough already.” -Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck
You can’t just be yourself.
Self-development is mainly about improvement. You can learn to improve your charisma, humor, physique, strength, fitness, fashion, empathy, focus, reading speed, memory, speaking skills, relationships, dating life, wealth, business skills, and more.
Without doing some internal work and being okay with who you are, self-help can lead you on an endless chase for more.
There’s always something else you can improve in. Until you decide on a reasonably attainable metric for being enough, you’ll never stop stretching to feel validated or belonged.
While there’s a healthy type of never-ending growth, such as Warren Buffett’s century-love for improving his investing skills, that’s usually grounded in a security with self-esteem and who they are. They’re pursuing growth for enjoyment.
There’s also the unhealthy type, which often revolves around a chase for the approval of someone else and insecurities within. This “someone else” could be anyone from an always-disappointed parental figure to what you think society believes is attractive enough to get a hot date.
I’ve found myself a few times looking around and realizing I was in this rat race. I start off mindful to not get into society’s approval-seeking machine and with decent self-esteem. But I get so caught up in the heat of improving myself that after a while, I discover that I’m trying to improve fashion, physique, fitness, wealth, social skills suddenly more for the approval of what women will think than myself — feeling a bit burned out and disillusioned.
In addition, you’ve gone from innocently wanting a bit of self-improvement (think “3 tips to look more professional at a job interview”) to an obsessive level of self-development that based too much on the superficial and external validation. Think people who are overhauling their style, becoming a bodybuilding junkie, listening 3 hours of audiobooks a day, and working until 3 am every night — all for what? To get a girl, society, or your parents to like you? .
All the while, you’ve bought into the belief that you are not accepted or good enough as you are, without the muscles, money, status, influence, or knowledge people tell you that you need.
To prevent and/or work on this, you’ve got to address the root problem hiding behind all of this. That would be the buried insecurity you have with just being who you are now. Maybe it’s just a small insecurity. But it can grow bigger if you’re not keeping tabs on it.
This psychological work is probably deeper than I have the expertise to explain here. A therapist may be best for this.
For starters, though, acknowledge that biology, reality, and society may tell you that you’re not enough, but that can still mean you are enough as you are. Maybe you can’t get that hot girl truly because you aren’t rich or famous or handsome enough yet but that in no way means you aren’t a wonderful, awesome human being to be respected and worthy of love right this moment. Screw what evolution and corporations say.
If you focus on certain foundations of self-help first, you can build something more resilience. Learn about the science of happiness, fulfillment, purpose, passion, or flow because these areas can be generally improved without ruining or influencing how you feel about who you are right now.
Why does 21st century society try to convince that we must chase more money, beauty, and luxury as (false) keys to our happiness?
Because it makes corporations more money and it’s part of consumers’ genetic nature to chase whatever will increase their survival and reproduction (status, resources, better mates, youth, fertility, physique, etc.). It’s ironic that part of the cause to the problem is under the same disillusion.
2. You Develop an Unhealthy Standards in Others
Here’s my story. I suck with getting girls. I improve all areas of my life to get girls. I develop a value for work ethic, discipline, saving money, investing money, and learning. I meet beautiful girls who lack as strong a discipline and work ethic as me. I feel repulsed by them because I’ve come to admire these values as I’ve grown them, and I feel frustrated because I’ve realized most people, including girls, lack strong amounts of these traits.
That’s a simplified generalization, but you get the point.
With self help, you can develop traits, only to find that you now have a hard time finding anyone can match your traits.
It’s ironic. You start mediocre. You use self-development to improve every part of your life. And now, you end up looking down on people you wanted to like you.
When you become successful, you develop a strong work ethic. You have the discipline to do what’s not enjoyable but necessary to succeed daily.
That’s what happened to me. But along the way, I developed a contempt for laziness and sloppiness in any area of life.
If others are eating junk food, while you’re forcing yourself to eat a salad, it sucks, and you grow jealous. If others are slacking off, while you’re working, same deal. If others are blowing all their money paycheck by paycheck on clothes and living it up, while you’re saving it for the future, that can eat at you.
To counteract this unhealthy behavior, develop more self-love for yourself, honesty with yourself, humbleness with where you came from, and compassion for others.
Some hard-working person never face this issue. They’re content with moving forward regardless of what others do. So, you must ask yourself why this occurs.
For me, it partially stemmed from jealousy that people had it easier in the short-term and maybe some undercover narcissism. I have to be honest with and kind to myself.
I realized that I slipped up and ate junk food frequently as well, for example, so I wasn’t on such a higher level than I think as them. I also have to remind myself that if you want the long-term gains others won’t get, you must pay the short-term price. Part of me was unwilling to pay that price and it was likely manifesting in this toxic way.
Without fixing this, you can repel others even if you hide your contempt. It seeps through in some shape or form.
I don’t claim to have the magic, complete cure for this, but I do know what will help: practicing self-love for yourself and others and reducing narcissism.
If you love yourself and others, you’ll show compassion for their faults. You’ll give yourself time to do unproductive, enjoyable activities for yourself because you value yourself and believe you’re valuable enough to deserve fun time. You won’t fall into a cycle of overwork for the approval of others and resentment that these others still don’t like you or aren’t what you wanted.
With self-love you’ll find mentally healthier motives. You’ll work out because you love yourself and want to take care of your body because you only get one body and you want it to run well. You won’t do it simply for the approval of women. That way, your motivation and process will be smoother and last longer.
Your compassion for others will help you realize that everyone has weaknesses and faults, just like you. You’ll give people a break and forgive them for their shortcomings. You don’t have to run away from people who are less than you like they’re toxic because successful people tell you that you’re the “average of the five people you hang around.”
Instead, you’ll alter the distribution of how long you hang around with moderately. You’ll still hang around people rather than isolate yourself completely because they’re not as good as you in some area.
And you should realize that there will always be people you can learn from and get better. People can be beautiful and hard workers. You’re not the emperor of the world. And the secret is that you can learn something useful from everyone you talk to.
If someone is slacking off, not hustling as hard as you, or focusing as much as you, no need to express disdain or bitterness. In the long term, the world will deliver the results that they deserve. All those small moments of dropping the ball will eventually add up so that they will fall behind their competitors who put in the extra work.
Moreover, your resentment may more so be a reflection or projection of yourself. It may be symbolizing your envy or frustration with your extra effort not yielding greater results than others you see working less than you in the short term. And the short term can be the next six months or even five years.
You will find fault in most people since the average person has faults in most areas of life, which puts a wedge in your relationships and interactions. No one is perfect, so you’ll keep finding reasons someone is beneath you if you look for them.
That leads me to my next point…
3. You Can Get Too Picky With Who You Hang Out (And End Up With Few or No Relationships)
I’ve heard everyone from Will Smith to CrossFit athlete, Lauren Fisher, to Tim Ferriss say you are the average of the five people you hang around most.
It’s one of the most famous and foundational self-help principles you live by. But is it always good to live like this?
You see, the average American is overweight, doesn’t exercise, makes a modest salary, doesn’t save for the future, has mediocre relationships and social skills, and is moderately happy. It’s a low bar to beat and you can lose sight of this when you’re constantly studying and comparing yourself to the best of the best.
But the average is important because it makes up the bulk of the population.
You’re not likely going to meet a group of millionaires, super-star athletes to hang around at your local gym. You’re going to meet people hovering around the average.
Sure, you can try to isolate yourself and use the Internet to network with the best in the world. But what if you can’t reach them? And even if you did, you’ve only made the problem worse by further surrounding yourself with only “the elite.”
If you only chase after the best, you forget where you came from. You forget the life lessons you can still learn from ordinary people.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and one of the richest people to live, didn’t. He learned and talked from the average customer on the ground floor even way into his years when Walmart was a massive success.
Chasing after and surrounding yourself with those better than you will lift you up. But looking back at where you came will prevent you from becoming someone who beats himself up too much or stays unhappy despite how far he’s come.
If I wanted living people I could talk face-to-face with, I had to intentionally lower my standards.
They’re not going to be elite at every area, but neither am I. I hang out with people who are above average in fitness when I’m at the gym because that’s where they can lift me up. They may be average in wealth and career but that’s okay. We’re there to train.
And no, they’re not world-class athletes. But they’re some of the best I can find in my area and I have plenty of world-class advice online to support me.
Similarly, when I’m at my Toastmasters chapter meeting, the members aren’t award-winning speakers. Some are even beginners or worse than average. But they are some of the most dedicated in my area to improving their communication and speaking skills. And I can learn something from that and the Toastmaster process.
Of course, I’ll try to hang around the subgroups of people in these venues that embody trains I admire and value, such as kindness, a positive attitude, and life-long learning. But I understand people are human, so I’m okay if they’re not perfect at every area of life or even above average.
Sometimes, I’ll meet someone who is good at fitness but has a negative attitude or scarcity money mindset. That sucks but you make compromises. If you can get the whole package, great. If not, find the next best.
4. Too Much Learning and Not Enough Action
News flash: Reading 200+ books with advice from the world’s most successful people won’t do much if you don’t act on a fraction of it.
That’s from personal experience.
I’ve come across plenty of armchair heroes who read and review tons of science-backed or achievement-backed self-improvement books. What separates it from being a hobby and something that helps you achieve your dreams is action.
There’s a gulf of difference between someone who reads through a book and someone who reads through a book and finishes all the exercises at the end of every chapter.
People lean too much on the achievement of reading many books as a crutch to brag about and not take any real action to change their lives.
On some unconscious level, they know it to be true. But they continue to rely on this crutch because it’s more comfortable to show off than do what you fear doing but know must.
And honestly, you don’t get much reaction or reward if you tell people how many books you’ve read anyways. I’ve tested this out and the lack of response is disappointing.
5. You Get Become A Dick About People Wasting Even A Second of Your Time
Years before Gary Vaynerchuk started sermonizing about how he squeezes the juice out of every second of his time, I was already familiar with the idea.
Plenty of other successful people had mentioned how you don’t want to waste a bit of your time because you have a limited amount and it adds up. After you hear it enough times, you internalize the idea.
Time is the most important resource because you’ll never get any of it back. So why not start early?
Even before I got into self development, a lesser version of this idea bubbled into my brain with anxiety from one of my classmates and friends. He told me how competitive the college application process was and how you had to use every moment of your time to build your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars to do well.
My schedule was classes all day, then piano practice, then homework, then studying, then SAT’s. But, that wasn’t enough. I had to squeeze out more time by sleeping less and studying to 1 or 2am.
This pent-up stress and focus on nothing but academics reared its ugly head with fights. I was so full on anxiety about not wasting a second of my life that I refused to spend an hour of my time hanging out with my family.
My parents forced me to, but my bitter attitude eventually caused them to give up long before the hour was up and let me go.
The craziest part was I thought I was doing them a favor because they would see how hard I was working. Looking back, my parents wanted to spend some family time with me and were cool with me sacrificing some time studying.
The worst part? I would piss away most of my productivity by burning out and binging with video games or YouTube at the end of every other week. And since it was an impulse break that turned into a much longer break, I didn’t even use that fun time most effectively!
I could’ve spent more of that free time with family but instead, I used it staring at an electronic screen alone.
As I’ve grown, I’ve become wiser with my productivity and breaks.
The horrendous balls-to-the-wall schedule sounds mathematically efficient but I rarely, do it anymore because we’re not robots. While some of us, like Gary Vaynerchuk, can work up to that level eventually in life, you must remember that those who have, are older in life and have found their complete passion so that it doesn’t feel like work to them anymore (while you may be gritting your teeth through a lot of it). Also, even Gary spends his weekends with family and sports since he prioritizes it.
It’s great away that you shouldn’t waste time, even the seconds. Most people aren’t. They’ll burn through hours of time every day from a small conversation here and a scroll through Instagram there — it adds up.
But you’re still missing a piece of the puzzle until you find the maximum, sustainable weekly total volume. I use the words “weekly” and “total” intentionally because I believe that your total matters more than single, intense bursts.
It may look more heroic to see that one kid work an extra 4 hours through the night. But that’s not sustainable and maybe he only does it one or two nights in the week. Little Suzy, on the other hand, may only be staying 1.5 hours later every day and get none of the attention. But at the end of the week, she’s put in a total of 10.5 extra hours and has peace of mind, while the other person is more burned out and put in a total of 8 extra hours.
When one acts like his time is worth more than gold and treats others rudely or poorly when they waste a second of it, he becomes a rude person. It ends up spreading negative vibes and damaging your reputation.
I’ve caught myself in this hurried state before when I was younger and it’s not always pleasant for those on the other end, whether family or friends.
The truth is that my time isn’t that valuable right now. I’m not running a billion-dollar company and I’m not close to dying. I have enough free time to get through all seasons of Game of Thrones in two months, which I did.
So, acting like I’m too busy to hang out to appear high status is dishonest and useless. Spending extra time with people who want my attention or help rather than hurrying them along is probably the best use of my time. That’s because I improve my reputation and personal brand, while delivering value in the world. I can afford to spend that time and still have enough time to catch up on the latest TV show.
You can still use your time wisely and be polite about it. Gary Vaynerchuk does a great job of this when he must leave a business meeting for another meeting. He kindly cuts them off, shows empathy and care, explains why, and goes.
I’ve struggled with this because I’ve been too scared of offending people, so I don’t try to leave, or I deliver it in a brisk way that could have been done better. But you get better with practice.
Lately, I met someone at my gym who has a calm, patient, relaxed vibe to him. He’s not rich but he’s happy, a hard worker, and has good relationships. When he interacts and helps me, it inspires me because there’s no rushed undertone to what he does.
Without even explicitly teaching anything, his energy and behavior shows me that there are other ways to succeed rather than having a hurried, rush undertone to your behavior. From personal experience, doing it that way reduces your enjoyment in life and increases tensions and stress. Plus, it can convey to those you interact a negative attitude of “I have better than stuff to do than interact with you; you’re beneath me.”
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson
I am not saying that you should give up personal development. In fact, it’s useful. But as any effective scientist will tell you, you must poke and prod your own theories to identify any weaknesses. Self-help is not a golden pill that’s always just good for you. Avoid the weaknesses and you will be better off.
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