The self-help cycle can be counterproductive. How do you know when enough is enough?
If you’re a self-help junkie, you know how it feels. There’s something very tempting about keeping up on all the healthy blogs, reading the latest productivity books, signing up for the newest mindfulness program — all in the name of bettering oneself.
We are constantly trying to be healthier, fitter, stronger, happier, less stressed, more rested, more flexible, more productive, more mindful, etc. all at once. It can feel like a never-ending battle to reach an unattainable goal.
While wanting to grow and improve is a noble endeavor, if we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves in a perpetual cycle — the self-help cycle — that can prevent us from truly moving forward.
How do you know if your self-help efforts are truly helping or hurting you?
How much is too much self-help?
Being passionate about and invested in your self-improvement is a positive thing in many ways. It helps you expand your self-awareness. It allows you to identify your strengths and work on your weaknesses. It can open your mind to new ways of thinking. It can change your life.
But constantly investing in self-improvement time and time again can make you feel like a mouse on a wheel — like you never quite get to where you want to go.
If you are spending copious amounts of time devouring the latest in self-help as a means to feel better, validate yourself, or to become a person you will some day accept, realize this: It will never be enough, until you decide you are enough.
How to get out of the self-help cycle
The time to accept yourself is now, not later when you have finished the latest diet craze or workout plan or mindfulness practice.
Now. In your current state. With all your imperfections. With all your strengths, and your weaknesses. With the things you’ve improved upon, and those that you still struggle with.
Despite the voices of experts and gurus who say that you are not “complete” until you clean your closet, give up carbs, or sit in silent meditation for 2 hours, you must realize, deep inside, that you are enough.
We all struggle with this at some point in our lives. If you’ve ever felt like a goal was beyond your reach, or you just weren’t good enough, you know the feeling. Cultivating our self-worth and self-belief (i.e., knowing that we are enough, no matter what happens) is a constant practice. The good news is — it doesn’t require following a plan or book or online course. It requires only you.
If you feel you might be stuck in the self-help trap — or you’re waiting on someone else to validate you — you can reclaim your power and start moving forward.
4 ways to free yourself from the self-help cycle, starting now:
1. Clear the (mental) clutter
Every day we are inundated with psychological clutter: TV, Facebook, Twitter, emails, newsletters, blog posts, photos of people doing bigger, better things. The constant chatter of everyone else’s highlight reel is buzzing around us.
This chatter can indirectly influence our own thoughts about ourselves and our lives, even without our knowledge. Our friend’s vacation post on Facebook makes us jealous. Our colleague’s success becomes a barometer to our own worth. The simplest thing we read or see can affect our mood, change our outlook, and dim our light.
What if you unsubscribed (both literally and figuratively) from all of those messages — the ones that aren’t truly serving you? What if you hid the posts, or limited the time you spent on social media? What if you spent less time consuming and more time creating and living from the space that is uniquely you?
Reducing our exposure to external clutter can help us stay connected to ourselves, without comparing and judging. It helps us keep things in perspective and stay grounded.
2. Practice acceptance
Accepting the present moment means accepting ourselves in it — even if where we are today is not where we want to be. Practicing acceptance means playing the cards we have been dealt. Our business is not growing as fast enough. One of our relationships is suffering. We hate our job and can’t get out of there fast enough. We just want to rush past THIS PHASE and on to the next.
Instead of fighting against the current or rushing through life, we can practice accepting what is. We can understand that whatever we’re going through has a purpose, and even if we can’t see it now, we can trust it will become clear to us in the future.
Even when things are not ideal, there are likely many things you are grateful for that exist in the present moment. When you find yourself wishing your life were different, make a mental note of the things in your life for which you are grateful.
3. Rely on your intuition
You can thank (intuitively or physically) the self-help gurus, experts, and people whose advice has positively influenced or changed your life. But you don’t need to give them the power to deem you worthy or ready for the next step.
Where in your life have you been waiting on others to give you permission to move forward? Instead of waiting, grant yourself permission to do the thing you want to do.
Know that you are right where you need to be, and that you will figure out the next step. Trust that your intuition will show you the path. When you believe that you will ultimately get to your destination, you can relax and enjoy the moment.
4. Be your own self-help
All the self-help in the world won’t help you if you don’t first recognize your value and self-worth.
It starts with accepting that you are enough, right now, in this moment. It starts with appreciating where you are in your life today, and honoring how far you have come.
It means being curious about your thoughts, without being judgmental. It means reading the works of others, but it also means expressing your unique voice.
It means being present, rather than relying on the future or the past. It means celebrating the small things. And the big things.
It’s appreciating the fact that you are alive, right now, on this planet. And if you’re lucky, you have your health, your wits, and a sense of humor about it all.
It’s knowing you are enough, just as you are, without any additional improvements. Knowing that you will always be enough.
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