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The Dangers of Always Wanting More Self-Improvements

I work with many clients who are truly struggling in their life, whether it is in their professional or personal life, or perhaps both at the same time. These clients many times are experiencing depression and/or anxiety. They likely are seeking therapy to find a way to cope with these many life stressors. My job as their clinical therapist is to help them understand why these aspects in their life are causing stress, anxiety, or depression and then helping them find appropriate coping skills to start managing their symptoms.

Some clients on the other hand, are coming to better themselves. They may not present with any major life transition, no symptoms of depression/and or anxiety, have a pretty stable job, and stable personal life. These clients might actually be suffering with lack of self-compassion. With this lack of self-compassion, they are constantly telling themselves they are not good enough. These clients typically are very successful and are just searching for more, more, and more self-improvements. While I am happy to help them with improvements, I also gently challenge them as to why they have yet to recognize their current accomplishments and also their inability to be applauding themselves where they are today with their successes.

I recently read an article that touched on this very topic from Pocket, “The Disease of More” by Mark Manson. Manson has very insightful responses for those individuals who never quite feel satisfied as they are constantly wanting more success and more improvements.

Below are some key points from his article.

  • What is the disease of more? Manson describes the concept of the ‘disease of more’ which was originally described by Pat Riley, who is a hall of fame coach who has led 6 teams to NBA championships. Players who win an NBA championship most times are searching for “more” as they believe that winning the championship is not good enough. Sometimes they want “more” of other things such as more fame, friends, money, houses, starring in commercials, you name it.
  • More doesn’t necessarily mean better. Psychologists did a survey with a large group of people in the 80’s-90’s in which the participants were to rate their happiness on a scale from 1-10 (1 being unhappy and 10 being the happiest). Most people rated 7 on a variety of categories such as going to a kid’s soccer game to grocery shopping. The psychologists came to find out that even when people had a sad event dropping down to a 2, such as their parents getting cancer, that this time period was only a short period of time, and their happiness would go back up to a 7. Psychologists concluded that people live a life that “is fine” but not bad, not good, just fine, and always wanting to be better. Most people live their life this way, in which the brain tricks them that they could always have more and live life at a 10 all of the time.
  • Striving for better has dangers. Manson goes on to explain that people who are constantly striving for a better life end up exactly where they were in same place that they originally started. When doing this constant drive, it also robs ourselves from the happiness we have earned due to our recent accomplishments.
  • Why do I want to improve? Manson then explains that self-improvement is not necessarily a bad thing, but he challenges people to understand why they want to improve. Asking yourself the motivation behind the self-improvement is crucial. If it is just to improve for the sake of improving, then it could simply lead into a form of narcissism in which you are constantly focusing on yourself. He also describes self-improvement as a band aid, it helps you feel better, but you can always have the ability to take off the band aid once you are feeling better.
  • Life is game of trading. Life is about assessing, analyzing, and reflecting on your values. Life is also essentially an economy of efforts, as in you may trade certain things in your life based on your values. Manson finishes with the key point of being careful with reflecting on your values. It can be very dangerous to trade off a value just for a temporary hit of dopamine.

If you are currently struggling constant desire of self-improvement, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.

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