Je Regard, And Yet I Cannot See
Self-improvement or self-harm with extra steps?
There’s a fine line between self-improvement and self-obsession.
Self-improvement is an admirable aim. I respect people who aren’t satisfied taking only what they’ve been given and adding nothing to their existence. It’s like having a beautiful house but never replacing the peeling wallpaper or putting fresh flowers on the table.
Why not? Why not take what you have and multiply it through effort and care? Everything—your meals, your errands, your body, your relationships—would be a little bit better if everyone just cared to try a little bit more.
I care to try. I want to write better, eat better, speak more clearly, connect with people more deeply, think better, sleep better—I want to be better. I don’t care what limits were placed on me by nature or society, I care that I’m doing what’s within my ability to surpass the limits I can. Why should I settle for something less, when I could strive for more?
Self-improvement easily slides into something darker than productivity tips and workout plans.
To improve anything in any way, you must take stock of its current state. You must see what’s there in all its flaws and untapped potentialities; a pre-mortem post-mortem. Few people want to look at themselves in the unforgiving light required to see what they’ve neglected.
When we look at ourselves, we’re blinded with bias.
You hate your nose, stomach, inability to stay focused, or lack of discipline with more passion than is rational. Few people probably hate the quirks you’re hung up on as much as you do. They probably don’t feel anything about them at all; they’re too fixated on their own flaws to spend time on yours.
For as much as we scrutinize ourselves like our own mortal enemies, we give ourselves a pass in ways we never would with others. When you’re short-tempered, it’s different, right? When you look at your phone instead of reading a book, it’s not as bad as those other phone addicts, right? When you interrupt people and rush to get your point made in conversation, it’s just not as bad as when it’s done to you.
We’re both our harshest critics and our worst enabler. Everything we do is either shit or totally fine when we do it.
Of all the things we see most often, we are the thing we see least clearly.
Self-improvement requires seeing yourself like a scientist sees a lab rat: a cold, rational calculation of reality. But seeing yourself is risky business. Not only are we bad at it, but seeing ourselves can be a path to madness.
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