Too much self-development can make you feel worse.
Have you ever done that thing where you read a guru book, feel inspired, try to make the changes they suggest and end up just having a new reason to judge yourself harshly?
Me too. In fact, over the years, the more I learned the more that happened. I found dozens of reasons to berate myself.
Waking up too late, waking up in the middle of the night, going to bed too early, exercising too little, exercising too much, doing the wrong exercise, eating too much, drinking the wrong things, you name it, I tortured myself with it. From the moment I woke up until the moment I plonked myself on the sofa at 8.45pm, that gremlin in my head would judge and keep score.
It’s little wonder that I turned to alcohol and sugar by the end of each day. Success or failure, I just needed to shut down the score-keeping. But, of course, I woke up to the gremlins every morning and my score would be below zero – “you did it again! What’s the point of working so hard if you’re going to throw it away every night? Get up and fix what you ruined!”
The more I tried to ‘improve’ myself by adding things – journalling, gratitude, meditation, active questions, yoga, pilates, HIIT training – the more tangled I got. I couldn’t work out what to prioritise or how to fit it all in and no matter what I did, I felt like I was doing something wrong.
When I gave up alcohol and sugar, I woke up without the guilt and judgment. That – and writing this blog – gave me the distance I needed to pay attention to the fundamental thing I’ve been overlooking all this time.
Self-development is about choosing what you’d like to develop – doing the things you need to do in order to close the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to be. My approach to self-development was to close all gaps. I was trying to do everything.
In a world where so much information is available, we run the risk of doing too much and getting nowhere. If the point is to move forward, that should be the measure of success – and if the things we’re learning are causing us to stand still and berate ourselves then we’re probably better off finding a different ‘jumping off point’.
I’ve finally realised that no matter how good the advice if it makes you feel worse about yourself, it’s not the right advice for you.