Self-Improvement the Healthy Way

I have a problem with most lifestyle and self-improvement advice.

Don’t get me wrong, they have great ideas. But they usually go at them the completely wrong way. They start by saying Most People Don’t Do This Thing, and then explain why This Thing is so Great that You Should Do It, and how You Are Just Not Doing It Because You’re Self-Defeating, and Why Don’t You Do This You Idiot.

Then you realize that doing That Thing is actually really hard and might take a lifetime to accomplish. In comes the perfectionism, and the self-loathing, and the depression. Out go your dreams of becoming a better person, reaching for the stars and fulfilling your life’s purpose. And before you know it you’re worse off than when you started.

It is possible to improve yourself without beating yourself up. But you have to start in a different way. Here’s how I do it.

1. Don’t postpone your happiness

Choose to be happy now.

Like this guy.

I’m serious. Choose to be happy. Right now.

It’s easy to find reasons not to be happy. The world isn’t perfect and neither are you. There’s always going to be something you’re doing wrong, something you can do better, or something that could be fixed.

But there are also lots of reasons to be happy. You can find them if you look. Odds are, if you’re reading this right now, you have eyes. That’s one thing to be happy about. Eyes are great.

Happiness is a choice, and if you delay making that choice until you have a perfect life, happiness will never come. Why delay it at all?

2. Separate your self-worth from your standards

It’s okay to have high standards. It’s perfectly healthy to want to have a better life and to be a better person.

But remember that you are not the sum of everything you do and have done. You are you. No one else is you and no one can take you away from you.

Look, we’re all human. We all make lots of mistakes. We’re all pretty dumb. I’ve met thousands of people, and I have yet to meet a single person who’s worthless and not interesting to talk to. Everyone has a story to tell, even if it’s a stupid story.

Fact is, you’re awesome just because you’re you. You don’t have to do anything to feel good about yourself. You can feel good just being a person. Which sounds better, feeling miserable until you’ve done X and Y, or feeling great about yourself and then doing X and Y?

This guy feels great because he is himself. And he climbed on a rock.

3. Believe in yourself

Now I’m getting really cliché. Sorry. But this is a real thing.

The effect of believing in yourself, and how it allows you to accomplish more and become better at things, has been proven so many times that it should be obvious. Self-doubt is nasty, though, and it can climb into your brain almost without you realizing it. And if it gets bad enough, you might actually act out your self-doubt to make it real.

“It’s not messing up or making mistakes–everyone does dumb things and makes bad choices–that is part of being human. Psychological self-defeating behavior comes in two intertwined forms: the belief that you aren’t going to succeed, and taking actions, consciously or subconsciously, to ensure that outcome.”

To find out whether or not you have secret self-doubt, ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Am I smart?
  • Am I handsome or beautiful?
  • Can I get along well with others?
  • Can I be really good at something?
  • Can I achieve my dreams?
  • Could I do something amazing?
  • Am I a good person?
  • If I play a video game, could I win?
  • If I play a sport, could I win?
  • Could I run for President after I turn 35?
  • Could I start my own business, if I wanted to?
  • Could I get a degree at a university, if I wanted to?

If you think you’re being honest, and you answer a ‘no’ to any of those questions, and you don’t have a really good excuse (even paraplegic people can be good at sports) then you probably have some self-doubt.

Don’t worry, self-doubt is normal, but it’s also removable. There are loads of self-help books, tutorials, and fantastic articles about it all over the web. If you want to start improving yourself, I’d start right there (and the other steps in this article should help a lot with that, too).

4. Everybody makes mistakes

In fact, 118 a year at work alone.

Scratch that, 119 mistakes a year.
Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash.

Seriously, if you make mistakes, don’t worry about it. That means you’re normal. That’s great. Move on.

I really have nothing else to say about that.

5. Don’t focus too much on productivity

There’s so much more to life than just getting work done or accomplishing tasks. Relationships, learning, growing your talents, trying new things, even just sitting and relaxing for a while, are all a part of life you don’t want to miss.

There are studies out there that talk about how taking breaks can actually help you be more productive. I would go a step further and say stop worrying so much about productivity. Don’t stew about how much you’re doing, focus on what you’re doing and why. Otherwise you might end up in a rut, churning out bits of productive work without really ever doing anything worthwhile.

(But also, remember that you’re still worthwhile no matter what you do or don’t do. See Step 2 and 3.)

Just be nice to yourself!!

Now that you’ve read these five tips, you should be good to go through any other self-improvement article you find out there. You should be safe from the perfectionist devils that lurk out there, waiting to drag you down into a pit of sadness.

But just to be safe, you might want one of these.
Photo by William Isted on Unsplash

In the end, it’s all about attitude. Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself. Recognize that you’re a great person and deserve to feel great. Just because you’re you.

And, to sum up this entire article:

Stop feeling bad about yourself. It’s not worth the effort!

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