The Limits of Self Improvement

on March 9 | in Individual Improvement | by | with Comments Off on The Limits of Self Improvement

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Self improvement is about changing negativity to positivity within the limited scope of our egos. I firmly believe in it as a limited-use tool for healing, but ultimately it’s a dead end path.

Whether we are bound up with hatred and sorrow or boldly walk with conviction and capability, our relationship to the world comes from our conceptions of ourselves. Capability is clearly closer than sorrow to happiness, so it’s appropriate and maybe even necessary we work to improve our stances with self improvement.

But self improvement can never lead us to happiness itself. When we operate out of conceptions of ourselves, we ultimately are bound by the cyclical nature of life. No matter how empowered you are, you will ultimately face a failure of power. No matter how healthy, your body will die. No matter how skilled, you will find yourself in a place where your skills are irrelevant.

Negativity & Limitations

Negativity is negative thinking. Negativity is the ball of thoughts of the accuser, that self-doubting and self-limiting vicious circle that happens when we internalize the criticisms of others or adopt an attitude of victimhood. Negativity is both the beliefs that create limitations and the limitations themselves, because those beliefs and the limitations are the same thing.

The limitations in negativity are the boundaries of our consciousnesses – a state of contracted awareness, where our focus is on our anger and fear. When we have failures of willpower or ambition that correspond to judgment, we begin the process of self-justification that preserves our sense of self. Our egos change form, even if to a negative construct, because we seek to define the relationship between our lives and the world in language and thought.

Positivity & Self Improvement

Positivity is the opposite of negativity, it seems on the surface. It’s positive thinking, empowerment, and an expansion of consciousness. When our thoughts become a supportive framework both arising from our beliefs and creating those beliefs, our minds expand to the possibilities and we become enabled to make forward progress. Positivity is about positive beliefs overcoming negativity.

We don’t need to address positivity specifically on the mental and spiritual levels, which we do through meditation, prayer, and affirmations. When we exercise, diet, or overcome an addiction we adopt new beliefs and thoughts. The ramification of all self improvement is positivity – through it, we reshape our egos to a more positive construct with a happier understanding of ourselves in the world.

Moving Past Our Egos

To become unbounded and free, we ultimately need to move past our egos. To do that, we need to understand what the ego is… and here, I’ll turn to Eckhart Tolle. In A New Earth, Mr. Tolle describes the ego as the mental framework containing everything that has to do with your sense of self. Anything you consider to be things you own, things you are, things you do, things that uniquely speak of you – all of that has nothing to do with the world in which we live or the spirit within us. All of that is just the ego, a bundle of thoughts containing your understanding of your place in the world that started with your first possessions as an infant. Much of your sorrow and loss is just the tearing and ripping of your ego, much of your success and triumph is just its confirmation and expansion.

When we exercise our willpowers and expand our consciousnesses in self improvement, we work on this mental construct that is apart from the truth within us and the show before us. Positivity is about overcoming fear and healing your relationship with yourself. But once we stand, self improvement can become about endless acquiring and striving – it can become corrupting.

The untamed ego is about expansion. I am more if I am wealthier, and so self improvement is instrumental in making our world an endless gobbling consumerism where greed begets greed. I am more if I am more attractive, and so self improvement becomes vanity. I’m more if I’m a better man or woman, so self improvement stirs up a whirlpool of gender and sexuality questions about virility, fertility, and acceptability.

Even when the road of self improvement takes a spiritual slant, it still is the endless seeking of the ego. I am more when I act with more virtue, when I give more, when I pray or meditate more. I am more when it’s clearly visible that I am a more spiritual person than all of those around me. All of that is clearly not spiritual, and so in a sense self improvement is the root of the hypocrisy that corrupts religions from their roots in mysticism.

Spirituality – Just Being

Ultimately, self improvement should just be about climbing out of holes and reclaiming your personal power. Beyond that, self improvement becomes error. Growth is still relevant, of course – we naturally become fitter, more skilled, and possess more wisdom just from the course of life and doing what it is at hand to be done. But self improvement itself becomes pridefulness and the struggle for power after a while. There’s no ultimate happiness in those things.

Positivity and self improvement are ostensibly about happiness, but are in essence about the ego. I can do this, I am able to overcome this. We don’t actually need specific things and specific situations to be happy. We don’t need to acquire things or have security or be famous to be happy. We just need to relax away all of the strivings and desires, and find happiness in the here and now. The cultivation of happiness may start with self improvement, but it ends with the laying down of ego. When the ego vanishes from sight, only the radiant spirit remains visible. As long as we consider ourselves to be deficient, we are attached to the temporal, or we consider ourselves to be a specific type of person – there can be no rest or happiness.

Spirit and happiness are about the laying down of thought. And all egoism, all conceptions of ourselves, is just thought – ego is not the self. Just accept, just be. We can feel self-satisfied and empowered after we strive for something, but we only feel happy when we lay down striving, ideals, and self improvement.


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