Overcoming self-improvement scepticism – and my easy ideas for beginners

Self-improvement. It can be quite a divisive topic. Some people believe it’s essential to growth as a human; others think it’s a load of arty farty nonsense perpetuated by self-indulgent millennials. I’m rather ashamed to admit that previously I fell mostly into the second category.

Reflecting on it now, I think I felt that way for 3 main reasons:

  • Societal conditioning

We British live happily with a (un)healthy cynicism and mis-trust of anything out of the ordinary. We like to stay firmly in our place and certainly don’t have time for the liberal, and dare I say American, concept of self-help. Whatever next: group hugs? No no, it’s just not cricket.

  • Lack of understanding

The concept of self-improvement seemed overwhelming to me at first and, coupled with the condescension gained from point #1, it felt almost impossible to relate to. But that was because I just didn’t really get it. I thought it was all self-help book reading know-it-all’s trying to reach some kind of philosophical enlightenment when actually, it could be as simple as feeling the positive change from making sure you start to eat breakfast every morning. It’s all about your journey.

And, as a previously brainwashed career-girl, I think I also somewhat confused self-improvement with professional development. I forgot that there was actually a me outside of the rat race.

  • Mental ill health

As someone who’s spent a lifetime struggling with mental ill health, I naturally have low self-esteem. It constantly sneers “who are you to think you should/could be bettering yourself? It doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll never be good enough.” When you struggle to just look in the mirror, the very thought of engaging in the slightly haughty concept of self-improvement is literally laughable.  

It’s a long road, but you have to start somewhere.

But as you all know, 2019 is the year of change for me. It’s about being healthy, being brave, being open – breaking away from old mentalities and comfort zones. So the idea of self-improvement naturally started to nudge its way in, whether I liked it or not.

At first, I just started thinking about ways to use my brain again and stimulate my creativity. I desperately needed to make myself (even if just a tiny bit) a priority again and think about what I needed to be a better, happier me. Writing My Anxious Life led me to putting myself out there, making new friends and taking risks that I normally wouldn’t even dream of!! The little changes started to feel good and most importantly – make sense.

Starting on the self-improvement journey also drove me to think more pro-actively about being a better person for others, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a decent person. I’m not out there driving through puddles right next to pedestrians waiting at zebra crossings on rainy days. But I can, for example, tend to be a little judgemental (despite being a ‘liberal…!’). So taking a minute to check myself and double down on the empathy is something I’ve been working on.    

I’ve come to realise that self-improvement is essential to achieving any kind of positive change in your life. You can’t sit back, lazy, scared or apathetic, and expect good things to happen. You can only expect to stay the same, at best.

And for those of you that might still be a little cynical, there’s a multitude of ways you can explore self-improvement without hearing the mocking voice of Piers Morgan in your mind deriding you for your self-indulgent, new age thinking.

Get a hobby

Whether it’s painting, photography, gardening or dancing, doing something out of your own ordinary will improve confidence, encourage new passions – and of course you’ll learn a new skill too! And you never know where new discoveries will take you.

Have a conversation with someone with an opposing point of view

It’s easy to mistake your own beliefs with fact and live your life happily in denial of whole other communities of people. Encourage yourself to be more open-minded, compassionate and understanding by talking – and genuinely listening – to someone with a different belief system to your own. Whatever your point of difference, the point is not to convert – it’s to accept there’s a place for all of us.

Challenge yourself  

Go outside your comfort zone! I’ve been so guilty of staying nicely in my zone through anxiety and fear of failure. I’m not proud of myself, but I’m making up for it now. Challenging yourself doesn’t have to mean skydiving. It could be visiting a modern art gallery, going out to eat alone or applying for a job that you’re not quite sure you’re completely qualified for. When you expose yourself to things outside of your personal norm or push yourself that bit farther, you expand your mind, your sphere of influence, your experience of others and their worlds. And so naturally, you grow. 

Learn a new language

Don’t stay in the comfort zone of ‘everyone speaks English!’ Learning another language opens you up to so many new and wonderful experiences, whether it’s being able to engage with foreign film, music or art; being able to have new and interesting conversations; or being able to ask where the coolest, no-tourist nightspots are on holiday.

Become a mentor, or volunteer

Share your passion, knowledge, talents and time with others. Could you take a junior under your wing at work or support a teen struggling at college? Could you pack bags at a food bank once month or read to the elderly at a local care home? Expand on something you’re already good at and enjoy the double bonus of helping to develop others, and yourself, at the same time.

Spend some time with yourself

Be quiet: think, reflect. Make sure to be kind. This is not the time to judge, accuse or blame yourself. The purpose is to listen to what your heart, body, mind and soul are telling you – they will guide you to what you need to move forward.

Reach out to someone who’s struggling

Newsflash – it’s not all about you! Yes, self-improvement is a very personal journey, but failing to recognise the journeys of others around you may just make you a bit of a selfish jackass. There’s always somebody that needs a gentle shoulder or listening ear, you just need to ask.

Now it’s your turn – what do you think of self-improvement, and what are your top tips?

40 thoughts on “Overcoming self-improvement scepticism – and my easy ideas for beginners

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  1. This was such a great post. I feel we can all improve ourselves in ways, and you’ve just helped struggling readers. Thanks for this!

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  2. I really enjoyed this post! Self-improvement is important indeed. The growth we can achieve from stepping outside or comfort zones is so real.
    I love how you mentioned helping others as part of this journey.
    It is beneficial to both the other person and to oneself as well.

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  3. I used to feel the same way. But it was funny because I realised there were a few self-help books on my book shelf, I just didn’t think if them as self-help. When I buy them now I just try to think if it promises transformation in 10 minutes it’s not going to deliver but that doesn’t mean all books in that section are the same and all of them probably have something reasonable you can take from them.

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  4. Great suggestions for self-improvement! What so many people (myself included) tend to lose sight of is the fact humans are subject to constant change, whether it be for the better or the worse. If we’re not intentionally taking steps in a positive direction, life has a way of pulling us along (more slowly than we can perceive) in negative one. I love that you recognized this, changed your direction, and are now reminding others they can do the same.

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  5. Self-improvement and the care we take in order to grow, etc is something I took way to long to come around to because of seeing it as self-indulgent. It’s vital and important and does need to be worked at if we’re to become rounded, fulfilled individuals. Great post!

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  6. I really like that you talked about “Becoming a Mentor” and “Getting a Hobby.” Occupying the mind with service and fun. I really enjoyed this!

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  7. Such an inspirational post. I think as humans we constantly need to work on ourselves, especially our self-esteem and confidence. So long as we are alive we can always improve and these tips are spot on!

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  8. I think, as Brits, it’s only natural for us to instantly write all self-improvement off as Americanised mumbo jumbo (especially when the word “millennial” is uttered) but once we’ve got over ourselves in that sense, it’s so worthwhile & you hit the nail on the head with every tip here. I especially love the discussion of opposing opinions.

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  9. Great post many pinpoints are right on. Getting a hobby is a great way to expand your knowledge and learning a language can allow you to be viewed as worldly. So anything can be used to improve who you are.

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  10. This is such great advice! I love that you have decided to make 2019 the year of change where you are spending more time focusing on yourself and your mental health and well-being. I know we are already halfway through, but I really hope you continue along this journey and find even more success in the next 5 months (and onward!)

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  11. Understanding is a beautiful quality to learn. There would be so much less hate in the world, I feel, if more people were understanding. Understanding does not mean you have to agree but it does mean you have empathy and acknowledge that who you understand is a human to.

    Having a discussion with someone of an opposed view is a marvelous thing to do! I cannot tell you how much it has helped me learn control, open-mindedness, and also given me a glimpse at a different perspective than my own.

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  12. Self improvment is definitly not as easy as it sounds. You make many good points. Thanks.

    I say this not to go off topic, but to add to it. I had trouble with public speaking, so I joined Toastmasters, and have had some sucess with confidence and overcoming anxiety. My wife says im less awkward in casual conversations too. Just something to think about.

    Love your content.

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  13. You are so right. One of the biggest tips I give to people is not to surround themself with “yes” men and women. It’s so damaging to your growth. Congrats on your year of change and health

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  14. Some great little tips here! Its too easy to just get stuck into the daily grind of work and everything so I think taking a bit of time to think about yourself is sometimes just what we need to do! It’s very true that something tiny can make such a difference!

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  15. This is the first post of yours that I’ve read, can confirm I’ll be reading more! I had a similar journey with self care and thinking I was essentially too cool for the whole thing. And after getting out of the habit for a bit I’m starting to dive back into it, posts like this are a really great reminder of how crucial self care is- even if it does make me receive odd looks at the pub!

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  16. I’m an English citizen living in America..for some time now. So, it made me giggle to here you talk about the differences in how we think. Because it is very true,.They are all about self help over here! I agre that is is very beneficial to your health. Just taking time to yourself everyday to relax and really be alone. Can be so good for you. But, I havn’t been into the whole reading self help books either,lol

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  17. Self-improvement is always a good thing to pursue. I noticed that there were some perceptions about people who always want to pursue more. It’s okay if people want to achieve more, and I am happy to hear that you have changed your perspective over time :). 2019 is still kicking in full gear, sending you lots of positivity to kick butt!
    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

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  18. I am constantly looking to improve myself, and I read a ton of books on it too. Recently I read Atomic Habits which is about how to create good habits and break bad ones. I definitely have a bad habit of checking social media too much, so that’s something I’m looking to change.

    I also used to be super pessimistic (and I still am sometimes!), but it improved a lot when I picked up running and yoga as my hobbies.

    Mai
    ✰ maidoesthings.com

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  19. These are such great suggestions! This year I’ve started really working on personal growth and have added a few things to my daily or weekly routines. I read more, listen to podcasts, journal, say affirmations, and I’m trying to be more mindful. There is always something that we can improve on and I’m happy you decided to make this a year of change for you as did I. 🙂
    Mariam
    bossbabechroniclesblog.com

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  20. This is a beautiful post. Most of your points are what I try to do as well, though we all get distracted, so thanks for the reminder!

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  21. I can totally relate to this! For the past year or so I’ve been trying to work on self improvement and soul searching.
    I make sure I’m the first one to smile at passers by and trying to say yes to things that would have in earlier years scared me so I’d turn them down and miss out.

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  22. Improve? Moi? Whatever for?! Ha ha, only joking. I’m all up for challenging myself with new stuff. Life’s pretty dull if you don’t scare yourself! Fab post, as always. Xx

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  23. I feel like I’m stuck in a cycle of wanting to improve and doing so in some areas, and then often allowing my fixed mindset and fear of failure stopping me reaching my potential to really push myself. These was very inspiring and just what I needed to hear. Pretty much everything you said resonated with me, thank you x

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  24. A great read, thank you! We can all do better (on self improvement I mean ;)) My fav is reflecting through writing.

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  25. What a great self reflective, self improvement post. This hits the nail right on the head when it comes to ideologies and opinions in self care. Congratulations on finding the path to your own journey and I wish you luck in your new self discoveries. Thank you for sharing.

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  26. Great post! I am of the view that it is essential to keep growing as a person, and I love some of the ideas here!

    Like

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