Real Life: Thinking Critically about Self Improvement

I am a self-professed lover of “self-improvement”. Books, articles, teachings, quotes, cleanses – you name it – I’ve tried it. I find it fascinating to hear from those who seem to have found the key to living their best life and want to tell everyone about it. However, I have been thinking a bit more critically about the entire “self-improvement” movement. I recently saw an article on one of my daily web reads that promised to give readers steps to live their most “authentic” lives. I opened it up and was eager to read perhaps about breaking free of inauthentic relationships, refusing to settle, or tapping in to your intuition. I was stopped dead in my tracks when the first step was “eat a plant based diet”.

“Why would telling someone to change their eating habits make their lives a more authentic expression of who they are?” I thought. Well, perhaps the author is suggesting that you should eat a healthier diet, heavy on the veggies so that you feel your best. I kept reading….

“Eating meat causes you to ingest the suffering of living beings.”

Nope! This is not simply about eating healthy, this is vegetarianism. Ok. So, let me get this straight. In order for ME to live MY AUTHENTIC life, I need to adhere to YOUR LIFESTYLE CHOICES AND VALUES.

Well, this makes no sense at all. I closed the article.

I think that those  - yoga teachers, bloggers, nutritionists, personal trainers etc -who have the privilege of capturing an audience who are looking for “self-improvement” ideas and guidance, need to be very careful. People are seeking information and answers and sometimes may be in a vulnerable state. I feel like we need to be mindful of our influence on others and how we share our ideas and values, even if we are coming from the best intentions. The thing is, these are OUR ideas and values and they may not be right for everyone. I know yoga teachers who are vegetarian and believe this is an important aspect of their yoga journey, some who wake up with the sun to meditate every morning, or make sure to practice every single day. All of these things may be great for some, but certainly aren’t realistic for all. 

After thinking more critically about the self-improvement materials that I take in, I feel that the message for self-improvement that I find the most helpful is that of empowering an individual to make the choices that feel right for them. Maybe it’s about teaching people to tune in to their little voice that wants to guide them to live their authentic life, but that they push aside daily. Maybe it’s about encouraging them to do more things that bring them joy or simply figuring out what that is! Or, maybe it's about encouraging people to think critically about the self-improvement materials they take in. But, in my opinion, it certainly shouldn’t be – live like me and your life will improve. I mean, this is real life, and in real life, sometimes cheeseburgers make my life better, but that may not work for you :)