The Dangers of Self-Development

Darryl Bachmeier
Jun 19, 2020

The average human yarns for perfection, to be free from the shackles of flaws that come in the form of addictions, negative thoughts, dream killers and other minor vices. We will do anything to achieve that Zen-like state where it looks like everything is in order and life simply becomes a sail on a smooth, peaceful ocean. If we don’t achieve such a state of mental utopia, we begin to see ourselves as failures, as people who definitely have faults and should do anything to get it right.

This thought in itself is majorly a trap, because that state of ‘perfection’ doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. It is a destination that continues to remain a mirage even as we approach closer. The problem here is that many people have little or no idea that they are chasing shadows. They continue to live in dissatisfaction which causes them not to enjoy life to its fullest.

This is where the concept of self-development comes into play. Self-development has been preached to us for decades with a promise that one day we will reach a state where everything is perfect, where all our faults and flaws are totally fixed.

Don’t get it wrong. Self-development is a necessity if you are looking to see growth and development in any aspect of your life. The problem with the concept is the fact that people who practice it sometimes don’t know when to stop. Basically, the foundation of self-development is built on the identification of weaknesses and seeking out actionable steps to take to eliminate those weaknesses. Unfortunately, most people who decide to practice self-development continue to diagnose their weaknesses to a point where their strengths become so infinitesimal and ignorable. This is where the danger lies.

To put it into perspective, the industry that caters to people who subscribe to constant self-development has built itself into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Every new week has one new publishing house or another vying for space on your bookshelf with their new paperback about “How to conquer so and so and become a better you.” Many of these books, T.V shows or podcasts are necessary and must-haves but the pressure they bring can be mentally subduing to an extent of inducing depression.

Some other major dangers associated with self-development include:

For one thing, the adherence to the message of self-development breeds unrealistic expectation on the part of the practitioner. The controllers of the self-development industry understand the minds of their subscribers. To keep them hooked, the continue to churn out new techniques that promise change. In truth, people who buy into these ideas never really experience real change. All they end up doing is rewarding themselves with temporary satisfaction from pseudo-achievements.

The ideas in self-development materials can cause a lasting damage on one’s self-esteem, especially when the person in question hasn’t accepted themselves and their flaws. Most subscribers go into self-development with a complacent attitude of ‘let me just go through these self-help materials and see if there will be any positive change in my life’. After a while of going through a hundred techniques and tips without any action, they find themselves even more disgruntled with all of the instructions and revelations from these materials. At this point, self-doubt and pity begin to creep in and they find themselves giving up anew.

Self-development can lead to self-centeredness where a person only wants to receive from life and the people around them. At some point, self-development can become an obsession that can lead to further confusion. This is that point where a person reaches the ‘it is all about me’ stage. They find themselves perpetually in search of new ways to experience more joy, to become better entrepreneurs, to reach spiritual enlightenment e.t.c. All of these are valid pursuits, but they are also some of the fastest ways in which people can lose themselves and the true essence of their lives. What they don’t get to understand is that self-development isn’t done in isolation. It is a collective effort with contributions from the people that hang around the individual.

Lastly, the process of self-development can lead to the exaggeration of one’s flaws. No one is perfect but we are all built with reserves of strengths, admirable virtues, beautiful qualities and a dose of greatness. In the pursuit of self-development, we are forced to take our gaze off these and place our focus on the flaws. And focus always has a way of exaggerating the subject so much so that it becomes the one thing the eyes can see. Many pseudo-self-help instructors littered around the industry bank on the fact that they can trick their numerous subscribers that they are full of flaws which can only be corrected through self-development. This is where the obsession starts. Once focus is created and the flaw is exaggerated, the unending rat race in search of perfection begins. Soon, nothing matters anymore. All you see is the unattainable goal that keeps you in motion without a true destination.

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