It could be said that we live in the age of self improvement and this is not limited to one area of life. In America for instance, the self help industry takes in billions of dollars every year. So there is the chance for one to ‘improve’ their mind, body, physical appearance, relationships and personality, amongst other things.
For some people, self improvement is a big part of their life and something they literally can’t live without. And then there are going to be other people who might dabble here and there, and then people who have no interest in changing anything.
One might also find that they alternate between wanting to improve themselves and then slowing down or not even bothering. This may depend on what is going on in their life and therefore how they feel.
When someone is into self development, they might have a certain area that they like to development or they could have a number of areas. This is only natural, as one only has so much time and energy and it is not possible for them to focus on everything.
And while men and women can focus on the same things, it is also possible for them to focus on different things. For example, a woman’s main focus might be looking good and so cosmetics will be important for her. A man on the other hand might focus on his body and on getting the right supplements
One might feel the need to look good and this in part, is due to how society focuses on appearances. What matters the most is looking good and not on what is taking place on the inside. People’s value is often based on how attractive they are and not on their level of intelligence.
Very often, if one looks a certain way, they have made it in the eyes of the media. It doesn’t matter whether someone has morals or what their values are; it is primarily about image. So if one focuses on their appearance and does everything they can to look young, then they’re more likely to be accepted by others than if they were to develop their mind.
This is not to say that one can’t develop both, as there are going to be people who focus on both sides. Nevertheless, if one had to choose between the two and was in a position where gaining the approval of others was their priority, then focusing on their appearance might be the best option.
When it comes to inner development, one may have the desire to feel more at peace within or to change their self image. And if one is experiencing inner unrest or conflict and/or doesn’t have an empowering self image, then it is a good thing that they are reaching out for help. As opposed to suffering in silence and feeling like a victim.
Looking for guidance and wanting to gain a better understanding of oneself is one thing, it is another thing when it becomes an obsession. Just as there are some people who take pride in their appearance and others who are constantly changing how they look or who have the need to ‘look perfect’.
The world doesn’t stop and so, there are always more books and ways for one to change or to enhance their appearance. It is then not possible for one to settle down and to just be; there is always something else that they need in order to feel good about themselves.
If they step back and allow themselves to just be with their feelings and their thoughts, they might find that they’re trying to avoid what is within them. And that their obsession with self development allows them to run away from themselves.
One might feel as though they are missing something and this is then what drives their obsessive need to develop themselves. They believe that through reading another book or taking another course, looking different and/or through gaining or losing a few pounds that their life will change.
The Missing Piece
And like the missing piece of a puzzle, once one gets what they need, they will finally be enough. However, if it is an inner issue, it won’t matter what one does. What can create the illusion that one is missing something is when they are carrying toxic shame.
This could be something that one is aware of or it could be just out of their awareness. However, it will cause one to feel as though they are not enough and it doesn’t matter what they do.
And because of this, one can end up using self development as a way to elevate themselves and to finally feel that they have value. Toxic shame is something that will permeate ones whole being and is then not just a feeling, it is an identity.
It then doesn’t matter what one does or how they develop themselves, as one feels flawed and that is the end of it. Self development can be seen as the only option they have and how if they were to stop, they would soon come crashing down.
Healthy shame causes one to feel bad, but it doesn’t mean they are bad. Toxic shame causes one to only feel bad, but to believe that they’re inherently bad. The former is a vital part of having a conscience; the latter has no benefit to ones existence.
It is ones childhood experiences that are usually the cause; however, it could be an identity that one has formed as a result of their adult experiences. Verbal, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can all cause one to feel as though they are inherently flawed.
The years then pass and this then becomes an inner experience that one does their best to avoid. When one feels ashamed, it is going to be seen as a reflection of who they are and this can then stop them from reaching out for support and dealing with their toxic shame directly.
Toxic shame and the other feelings that are associated with it are then trapped in one’s body and need to be faced and released. This can be done with the assistance of a therapist or a healer.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.