Getting Off the Torture Rack of Self-Improvement

Torture rack of self-improvement? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Aren’t we supposed to be improving ourselves? We could always do better, whatever that means and whatever the price, couldn’t we?

This phrase, attributed to Fritz Perls, the “father” of Gestalt Therapy, pushed a button for me when I first heard it. Many of us spend a lot of much time and effort following self-improvement advice. It may come from self-help gurus, priests, ministers, teachers, parents, friends, mentors, glamour or exercise magazines, TV commercials, or really, you name it.

There seems no end to advice-giving in our world. We follow one method after another, and seem to agree with the last advice-giver we listen to. What do we get from this? Deeper and deeper frustration and shame that we can’t be what we “should” be. As some people say, “We ‘should’ on ourselves.”  Hence, the “torture rack.”

I suggest two ways to get off this rack:

  • If you feel you must improve yourself, then when following a self-improvement method, make it your own. That is, use those parts that feel right to you, customize them to fit you as a person, and then leave the rest. (This is the sage advice given at AA meetings, by the way.) You may find that the “torture rack” disappears.
  • Begin traveling the path of self-acceptance. Find out who and how you are. Come to terms with yourself as a person and as a “self.” Throw away self-judgment, at least for a while. Slowly come to accept (which is not necessarily the same as “approve of”) your self and how you are. You may find there is much less need for self-improvement the more you are able to appreciate “you.”

I’ll let you guess at which one of these I recommend more highly (not that I’m trying to “improve” you, you understand).  :-)

Copyright 2013 Daniel J. Metevier

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