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  • Writer's pictureMegan Filoramo

When is self-improvement just too much?

When is self improvement just too much?


Do you have things you want to do with more consistency? Do you come home and want to have the energy to make a healthy and delicious dinner for your family? Do you want to work out or get together with friends? Or maybe you are in school and have assignments that need to get done. 

Most people feel like they would like to improve some part of their life, something that challenges them but feels important to work toward.


Self-improvement sounds like a great idea. 


But sometimes, oftentimes, work gets in the way. Work is exhausting so the plans made in the morning to exercise after work seem impossible when the time comes. Compounded with the fatigue from the work itself is the fatigue from lying awake at night, worrying about the job, or the “improvements” that you keep putting off, or your lack of progress. 


The salad that you planned at 8am to have for dinner turns into pizza when dinnertime actually arrives. 


And now self-improvement turns into self-punishment. 

It turns into shoulds.


I should get up early.

I should really eat better.

I should stick to my goals.

I should be more patient with my kids.

I should do my schoolwork on Saturday so I’m not staying up until midnight on the day it is due. 

I should be able to work all day and get at least one thing done in the evening. 


And then, the shoulds lead to discouragement and discouragement to frustration with your job (which of course we blame) and with yourself. 


That’s when self-improvement is too much, when it makes you miserable, when it turns into self-judgment and makes you feel worse. Positive change doesn’t come from feeling worse. Trust me, I’ve tried that. You probably have too.


Of course, you know I can’t leave it at that. The converse is also true.

Self-improvement is never too much. 

Self-improvement is never too much IF we define it appropriately and control the narrative.


The truth is, we are drawn to trying to “improve” our lives because we believe it will make us happier.


And we CAN do this, even when our jobs are tough, even when we are tired. 


Admittedly, I had to drag myself off the couch to write this. Work has been crazier than ever (maybe you can relate) and I was tempted to jump into the shoulds. I should batch write these articles so that I don’t have to do it when I get home. I should go for a walk because I want to get into better shape but it is 90 degrees outside and the thought of putting my shoes back on is abhorrent to me. I should be further along in my business and more organized at my full time job. 


I should be coping better with the stress.


I was tempted to go there. Ok I started to go there but quickly back peddled. 


The last few weeks at work have been more crazy than usual, we are opening a procedure suite and moving our office location. As is typical, there will always be something in life that will be stressful or out of the ordinary. If I was measuring self-improvement in the number of healthy meals I’ve had or the resources I have created in my business this week, the number would be dismal and I would be discouraged. 


But self-improvement doesn’t have to be a measurable number of achievements within a specified amount of time.

That’s right, SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound), don’t apply here. 


Ignore the collective gasp from the self-help gurus as I say that.

 Forget about SMART goals.


When it comes to self-improvement in times when work is hard and energy is low, the definition of self-improvement may not be in the form of checkmarks on a to-do list.


Self-improvement for me has looked very different over the last few weeks. 

Self-improvement has been reminding myself to slow down instead of speed up, to reassure my nervous system that I have this under control.

Self-improvement has been reminding myself to “be where my feet are”, to try and keep my brain focused on where I am and not all the other things that are going on, to be present.

Self-improvement has been journaling my spinning thoughts about work and then making a list of the actual facts…and realizing they aren’t that bad.

Self-improvement has been acknowledging that I am working toward being the person who exercises every day. This week, that looked like hikes on the weekend, moving furniture into the new office space on Monday and lying on the couch on Tuesday. Today I opted to write this (fulfilling my desire to continue to provide resources in my business) and just do my physical therapy exercises (which take 7 minutes). No exercise records smashed yesterday or today.

Self-improvement today did not include healthy meals but did include gratitude for my son making burgers.

Self-improvement is about BECOMING, not achieving. It is about prioritizing what is most important today and being kind AND UNDERSTANDING with yourself through the process.


“But what about consistency and dedication?!?!?” yell the gurus.


This IS consistency and dedication. This is understanding that becoming a person who does things differently takes time and acceptance of imperfection. It’s ok if every goal doesn’t move along at the same speed. It’s ok if you have to slow down and allow yourself to regroup. It’s ok if you sometimes eat a half a sleeve of thin mints before your last patient of the day. 


It’s ok because if you are kind to yourself when moments of imperfection occur, then the discouragement and frustration don’t set in and the energy that would have been wasted there  is preserved for better things.


I know I will never be done improving because I love to work toward things. Acknowledging that this is a lifetime paradigm is reassuring. I will never be behind and I will never be ahead.


The “improved” me is going to be the same me as I am now, not more worthy or better, just the same person who has become new things. 


Anything I do today IS enough.


And everything you did today is enough. 


Sitting in enoughness is a decision, a different version of the same story, and it feels so much better than sitting in the shoulds.

Sitting in enoughness IS self-improvement.


 

Changing our thoughts IS the secret sauce to feeling better AND actually making progress on your goals. It isn't hard once you learn how to do it. It is a skill, like any other skill and it's exactly what I will be teaching in next week's class/coaching call.

Join the call: Community Coaching for Nurses on Thursday, June 6th at 7pm EST.

Register here, now, while you are thinking about it.

Are you willing to try something new to bring some relief to your life? I hope so.

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