Written by Jiovann Carrasco, LPC
The irony is not lost on me that, as a therapist, what I'm about to tell you seems to run counter to my profession's aim of helping people to improve their lives. What if I told you that self-improvement was a waste of time? Wait, wait, wait . . . Hear me out. It's no secret that the self-improvement industry, a $9.6 billion a year industry, is having it's day in the sun, and we're all supporting it in one way or another. Do you not have a gym membership, see a therapist, drink kale smoothies, and read, I mean, listen to Brené Brown on Audible? I do. I want to get better, too! Nothing wrong with any of that by the way. I love smoothies. What concerns me is not the activity itself, but the premise that seems to be driving us in flocks toward a kind of salvation, which incidentally, never arrives. That premise is simple: You aren't good enough as you currently are.
It sounds like a harsh thing to say to yourself, right? If somebody said that to you, you'd be rightly offended. But when you say it to yourself, it just kinda feels . . . accurate. It seems right, that there are so, so many things wrong with yourself and if only you could lose another 15 pounds, keep up with the latest fashion trends, subscribe to the right podcasts, and have a witty thing to say every single time you speak, maybe then you'd be OK. But guess what? That will never happen. That's right. We can never get "there." Even if you did lose the weight and buy that Tesla, somehow the goal post always moves. And that's why we will forever line the pockets of self help gurus and fall victim to the latest health craze. We are hopelessly inadequate. Woefully mediocre. And that's, well . . . OK. It's OK. Not great, not terrible. It's fine.
I know. You want to be better than that. I'm sorry, you're not. You're just . . . you. No better and no worse. If you took away the judgement, what is that like? If it wasn't good or bad, what does it feel like to be you? To be mindful is to let go of the judgement. Don't worry, it's not going anywhere. But for a minute, see if you can release the evaluative commentary and feel into what it's like to be you, right now. If you cannot accept this, you will never be happy or satisfied. No amount of organic goji berries or hot yoga will fill that void. You may think, "OK, but if I accept myself like I am, I'll never do anything." Not true. As humans we not only do things because we have to, we can also do things because we want to. If you were perfectly happy with the body you have, it is also possible that you enjoy staying healthy and strong and being outside and drinking mango infused mineral water and wearing these amazing yoga pants. (Who wouldn't, am I right?) My point is, check your motivation. Start with loving yourself, just the way you are. Then let your actions be in the service of that self love. Self-care, not self-improvement. Mediocrity never felt so good!