The Hidden Cost of Self-Improvement

The Hidden Cost of Self-Improvement

Before I get into this controversial subject, there are a couple of things I need to say. Firstly, an apology as this article is not horse related in the slightest. Secondly, I have to be clear that the experiences below are my own and may not be the same for everyone.

A journey of self-improvement, or self-discovery, is an amazing experience. Those who embark can bring benefits to their lives such as:

· Improved relationships
· Improved confidence
· Mental wellbeing
· Physical health

However, there is a cost to all of this which may not be expected.

The cost is loneliness.

There are a couple of reasons why those who on a self-improvement pathway may experience loneliness. The main one is that you naturally start to outgrow your current environment. This is a good thing, even if it doesn’t seem like it to begin with. Human beings are the only species on the planet with the ability to change our environment at will, and we should embrace that benefit daily.

Consider a Bonsai Tree. These trees are famously miniature versions of fully grown, adult trees that have their growth restricted by being raised in a restricted environment. These trees are grown from normal seeds, but if they were planted in the ground, with plenty of space to grow, they would flourish into the size that is natural for them. We as humans, are exactly the same, if we grow in a restrictive, or the wrong, environment we end up as much more diminished versions of our natural selves. I want you to remind yourself of this when starting on any self-improvement journey:

No-one wants to be a Bonsai Tree.

The loneliness that I mentioned previously, in my experience, can come from two different scenarios.

Firstly, you may find that your friends, or even family, do not support your self-improvement project. It’s a real shame, but a common human trait is one of jealousy. It can be really hard for someone to see their friend growing mentally or physically when they themselves feel as though they have improvements that they can make, but aren’t sure how or when to start. Seeing improvements that you make in yourself can really highlight their own weaknesses to them, and they can unfortunately start to resent your progress. Please, I beg of you, do not let this sway you from the path you are forging. It may be time to consider whether these relationships are those you want to keep having in your life if they are going to hold you back. The people you need around you are those who want to see you succeed, and be the very best version of yourself.

The second scenario comes from within you. A massive part of “finding yourself” is discovering what your true values are. It’s a difficult progress, but once you’ve found them, your values can start to help you define every decision you make in life. It also allows you to be more confident in those decisions because you will know for sure that they align with every part of you.

Everyone’s values are different. When we consider how many parts everyone has to each of their lives, there is an extremely small chance that every single value you have would align with someone else’s. However, it has been proven over and over again, that the strongest relationships we forge (whether they be with family, friends or romantically) are with those who share at least a few of our main core values. These can be with regards to something as simple as how we feel about lying, how we maintain relationships, or how we present ourselves to the outside world. It’s very powerful stuff, but once you get there, the knowledge of knowing your own values is incredibly freeing.

Where does loneliness come into this? Well, you may start to realise that the people you were once closest to, do not share the same core values as you, and therefore you may naturally want to spend less time with them. This can be disappointing, but maintaining relationships where there are conflicting values on either side can lead to toxic feelings on one, or both sides of the relationship. At this point you are outgrowing your environment, and it's time to find a new one.

These points I have made may seem scary, or undesirable, but the ultimate goal here is creating a life for yourself which is purely your own making. You get to control the environment that you live in, which is an extremely satisfying feeling.

There are two events from my own personal development journey which will always stick with me, even all these months later. One was someone telling me “the fact you talk so openly about your mental health is incredibly inappropriate” and the other was being told that “since you started talking about this mental health stuff you’ve become really selfish and don’t have time for anyone else anymore”. Both of these comments were extremely hurtful and came from people I was close to. However, the result was the removal of myself from two different situations which I realised were extremely toxic for me. Both decisions were hard (and I almost regretted both), but I’m much better off having made them. These were just, unfortunately, situations which I had outgrown, and staying within them would have stopped me becoming who I am now.

I have said this before but humans are naturally social beings. We have evolved in a way which encourages us to be in “tribes”. However, this means that every single relationship we have in our lives should make our lives better. If there are relationship within your life that are making your life worse, you need to consider removing them. Not fulfilling your own growth plan will lead to feelings of resentment, low self-esteem and deflated confidence.

I realise that not ALL toxic relationships can (or should) be removed from our lives; those with family members for example, but with these exceptions, perhaps consider setting boundaries with the person, or putting energy into making the relationship a more healthy one, for the both of you.

Everyone’s self-improvement journey is different. The results are different; the decisions made are different, and the discoveries made along the way are completely different… but that’s what makes this all so exciting!

Self-improvement, and discovering who we really are, is the most rewarding thing we can do for ourselves. Remember, if you constantly find yourself thinking “I’m worth more than this” then you most definitely are.

Aaron Cork.