Who doesn’t want to be a better version of themselves?
Well, actually, there are plenty of people out there who see no need to pursue self-improvement.
But you’re not one of them. You know you can always be better tomorrow than you were yesterday, and that’s a noble goal that can keep you working on yourself for a lifetime.
In that way, we become our own masterpieces.
But often, growing into the person you have it in you to be is a matter of subtraction as well as addition.
Sometimes, it’s the behaviors you can get rid of that have the most effect on your growth.
So where do you start?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are some behaviors that may be holding you back from true self-improvement.
1) Negative self-talk
Often, the first step to improving yourself is believing that you can.
That means ditching the negative self-talk.
We all have that voice in the back of our heads that tells us how useless we are.
It reminds us of every mistake we’ve ever made and convinces us not to try anything new, because it’s doomed to fail.
But that voice is not your friend.
As author and psychology educator Elizabeth Scott writes, negative self-talk can take many forms. Sometimes, it can seem reasonable, if a little cautious, while at other times, it can be downright nasty.
And this negative talk cannot only be stress-inducing, but it can also hold you back from success.
Dr. Scott suggests reducing negative self-talk by:
- Noticing when you’re being self-critical
- Remembering that thoughts and feelings are not always reality
- Give your inner critic a nickname to make it feel like something external to yourself
- Contain your negativity to certain times of the day to prevent it from taking over your life
- Think of yourself like a friend you want to help
- Replace negative thoughts with something positive
2) Getting caught up in drama
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
That may be a little harsh. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of gossip from time to time?
However, drama with other people is something you definitely need to avoid if you want to improve yourself.
Every social group has its own dynamic, and when it comes to interpersonal relationships, drama can be hard to avoid.
At the same time, getting caught up in the lives of others prevents you from focusing on your own journey.
No one is suggesting you should become a hermit. But when the people around you start getting into drama with each other, you’re better off walking away and focusing on yourself.
We’ve all said that from time to time. And then we find that tomorrow never comes.
You see, the thing about tomorrow is that when it arrives, it will be today.
And if you’ve allowed yourself to get into the habit of putting things off until later, there’s no reason to believe you won’t do that tomorrow, too.
But your self-improvement won’t wait.
A major part of my own self-improvement journey was discovering that there never will be any moment but the present. If you’re going to do something, do it now, in the only time you will ever have.
Starting a new exercise regime? Planning to read a particular book? Aiming to work on your business?
Do it now. Because if you don’t, maybe you never will.
4) Comparing yourself to others
This is a big one.
On one hand, appreciating and even studying the success and achievements of others can motivate you to see what’s possible.
On the other hand, comparing yourself with others can often leave you feeling incompetent and unremarkable.
The thing is, we live in a world that encourages constant comparison.
Anytime you pick up your phone or turn on the TV, you’re being sold a lifestyle that could be yours if you only buy the next product or click on the next link.
According to psychologist Alicia Nortje, social media platforms that encourage social comparison can lead to:
- Increased symptoms of depression
- Lower self-esteem
- Lower body image
- Depressive episodes
And it’s not just social media that’s to blame. Even comparing yourself to people you know personally, in your family or friend group, can damage your self-belief.
The important thing to remember is that there is only one you, and you are running your own race.
The only person you should ever compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.
As long as you are better than that, you are on the right track.
Ever heard the saying, ‘Perfect is the enemy of good’?
Of course, we’ll want things to be perfect. That’s especially true when we’re talking about ourselves and our own journey.
But real life is messy, and perfection is often unattainable.
And by trying to achieve perfection, you can often overlook something really good.
Sometimes, good enough really is good enough.
It was always my dream to be a professional writer. But if I had waited for someone to come along with a six-figure advance and a major publishing deal, I’d still be waiting now.
Instead, I took writing jobs that weren’t exactly what I wanted to do, but they allowed me to hone my skills and improve my resume.
And eventually, I found a way to make a living doing what I love.
Don’t let perfectionism stop you from accepting the blessings life gives you. Sometimes, improving yourself is a matter of many small steps rather than a few big ones.
6) Worrying what other people think
This is another big one.
Other people are always going to have opinions of you. And when you start a journey of self-improvement, that’s especially true.
Some people may miss the person you used to be. Some people may be jealous that you are bettering yourself. Some people may worry that your improvement will make them look worse.
We need to put all of that aside. Focus on your own journey.
If anybody has a problem with that, it’s their problem, not yours.
7) Being afraid of failure
Failure is the secret ingredient of success.
Nobody who ever achieved anything notable did it without first failing along the way.
And often, it’s your failures that point the way to greater success.
You’re not going to achieve your goals in a day, or a week, or a month, and probably not in a year, either. And you will suffer setbacks along the way.
It’s how you bounce back from failure that determines your true success.
8) Sitting still
I know; you’ve heard this one before.
But staying healthy and working out is about more than getting that beach body you’ve always wanted.
We are physical creatures, and we are made to move. Sitting still too much, along with having all kinds of harmful effects on your physical health, can also have damaging effects on your mental performance.
These effects include:
- Brain fog
- Low self-esteem
You don’t have to become an athlete and start running marathons. Just find time every day to get up out of your chair and get your heart pumping.
I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to my phone.
I spend more hours than I care to mention on this glowing little device, and most of it is time completely wasted.
Unfortunately, our smartphones can do more than just waste our time.
Bad news sells. The media knows this, so they focus on scary stories to get a reaction from you. When you consume huge quantities of bad news online, it’s called doomscrolling.
You may think you’re just staying informed. But actually, as this article points out, doomscrolling can damage both our mental and/or physical health.
Put the phone down and focus on the world around you instead of bad news you can do nothing about.
While not as harmful as doomscrolling, binging on TV shows and movies can also hold you back from self-improvement.
Look, I get it. We all need some downtime and are few better ways to unwind than to watch your favorite TV show.
But the algorithmic nature of modern media platforms makes it far too easy to waste hours upon hours this way.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch TV anymore. But I am saying you should be selective. Limit yourself to a certain number of hours per day or per week.
You’ll be amazed how much time it frees up for self-improvement.
11) Blaming others
Finally, this is one of the biggest things you can do to improve your life.
There are lots of things in life we can’t control. And when things don’t go away, it’s easy to blame someone else.
Our parents. Our boss. Our landlord. The predatory billionaires or the lying politicians.
And all of those things are real. But all of them are beyond your control.
The only thing you can control is your reaction to what happens to you.
Focus on that, and the world will lose much of its power to keep you from your goals.