Help, I’m a Self-Improvement Junkie: Discovery Series

I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Manson articles lately. I really like the guy. He gives good advice, hard advice, with wit and swearing and a little (okay, a lot) of ouch.

There was one article he wrote that had me sitting back heavily in my chair, blowing a breath into my hair as I stared at the wall above my computer.

He said too many people have become self-improvement junkies. And this was not a good thing. Well, he said it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not as good a thing as the junkies think it is either.

Here’s what he says about junkies:

Self-improvement junkies feel like they need to jump on every new seminar, read all the latest books, listen to all the podcasts, lift all the weight, hire all the life coaches, open all their chakras, and talk about all their childhood traumas — both real and imagined — incessantly. For the self-improvement junkie, the purpose of self-improvement is not the improvement itself, rather it’s motivated by a subtle form of FOMO (fear of missing out). The junkie has this constant gnawing feeling that there’s still some magic tip or technique or piece of information out there that will create their next big breakthrough (again, both real or imagined).

Self-improvement for the junkies becomes a kind of glorified hobby. It’s what they spend all of their money on. It’s what they do with their vacations. It’s where they meet their friends and network. – Mark Manson

That’s me. To a T. I know me, and that’s me. Yikes.

I’ve turned self-improvement into one of my major interests. I was proud of it. Super duper proud, because I knew I was just getting better and better all the time.

But wait, what about my panic disorder that developed in the midst of my junkie reading? What about the latent anxiety that has gone unresolved since childhood? What about the depression I struggled even to accept was real? What about that?

Self-improvement books hadn’t made it go away, no matter how many techniques and toolkits I built.

I had the positive thinking down. I knew how to reframe situations. I could throw a book at anything.

I was a junkie, riding the highs of each book and inspirational article I came across. It’s the exact same feeling I have when I get a new idea for a story, or a new idea for a D&D campaign, or a new idea for a crafting project. In other words, it flows just like all my other hobbies and interests. It makes me happy, but that is not the same thing as being healed.

So I’m a junkie. Great. Now what?

Fortunately, Manson tends to follow up his brutal life lessons with practical advice.

The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become fully fulfilled, or to become “self-actualized” (whatever the fuck that means), is to, at some point, stop trying to be all of those things. – Mark Manson

His advice? Become a tourist instead of a junkie.

Other people only come to self-help when shit has really hit the fan. They just got slapped in the face with a divorce or someone close to them just died and now they’re depressed or they just remembered they had $135,000 in credit card debt that they somehow forgot to pay off for the last 11 years.

For self-help tourists, self-help material is like going to the doctor. You don’t just show up to the hospital on a random Tuesday saying, “Hey Doc, tell me what’s wrong with me.” That would be insane.

No, you only go to the hospital when something is already wrong and you’re in a lot of serious pain.

These people use self-help material to fix whatever is bothering them, to get them back on their feet, and then they’re off into the world again. – Mark Manson

This is golden advice, even to my junkie mind. I want to be in “the world” again, or even for the first time, since I’ve spent most of my waking memory engrossed in the improvement of every aspect of myself.

But the problem with obsessive junkies is, as Mark points out, flawed, because it assumes that there is something to be improved. Something wrong in the first place. It stands in the way of the present, the now, where life is actually lived and enjoyed.

I like how he relates his solution to the 80/20 Principle as well, telling us to just focus on not messing up the biggest decision in our lives. He doesn’t mention what those might be, but I would put job and marriage in there for sure. Maybe attitude as well, especially regarding a growth over fixed mindset. Raising kids with love would be another one. But the little things, the daily habits, morning routines, perfect fitness regimes, and all the other stuff junkies (aka me) thrive on…maybe those don’t matter as much.

Not maybe. They don’t. On my deathbed I’m not going to have my habit trackers before me feeling proud of all the checkmarks. I’ll want my family around me, my legacy, my work made with love.

I feel like a lot of people are junkies, and a lot of them don’t realize there’s anything wrong with it. I was just like that the instant before I read Mark’s article. I thought all those books would help me live life, but while I was busy reading about having a great life, the life itself was moving away from me.

Thanks, Mark.

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9 thoughts on “Help, I’m a Self-Improvement Junkie: Discovery Series

  1. I understand where you are coming from, a lot of times I take actions, under the name of “improvement” When really I’m looking to feel good about myself. Neither are bad in their own right, only when mistaken for something else, does it lead to problems. I feel only by experiencing life, can one truly find the next step, to move towards.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah, I enjoyed reading some self-help books, but also noticed after a while that the advice and tips were repeating themselves. I wasn’t learning anything new from them, and realized it’s because I already know pretty much all there is to really know, I just haven’t been applying them to real-life. It’s procrastination, really. Putting off the actual act of self-improvement by trying to learn more about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OMG. Yes to this. Amen.

    I was definitely a self-improvement junkie. Prior to that I was a horoscope/New Age junkie. I’m okay now. Hahahaha.

    The New Age thing was interesting because I began to realize that I was taking it all too seriously. Like I didn’t want to make a decision without consulting my runes first. Seriously. Stop laughing. Or I’d do an Animal Card spread or a tarot card spread about a guy I was crushing on and stupid stuff like that. I knew I was addicted so I gave all my divination crap all away. Now I wish I hadn’t, but it probably was for the best.

    Self-improvement addiction naturally followed and boy did I consume a lot of it – for about two decades. I did a lot of audios. I got my boyfriend really into it, too. And then I pulled myself away from it because I was burnt out.

    I also began to realize that some of the “advice” is quite simplistically hollow and can’t apply to certain situations. You feel good while you are listening or reading (and I suppose you are getting a ‘high’ as well) but then you apply these advices to your life situation, and you realize – this isn’t working, therefore, I suck. Cycle continues.

    Another thing is the “sage wisdom” can be incredibly insulting when applied to truly tragic situations like famine or rape. The “positive thinking” mindset or “your thoughts brought you here” is more than a slap in the face; it’s an empty-headed robot-like mantra that only applies to like “middle class America” or something.

    So, as MM has figured out. I, too, only dip into the pool when I find myself depressed or needing a kick in the rear. What a great and important reflection Audra! I’m off to troll MM. xxoo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes yes yes! It can be so addictive, running us in circles and never moving forward; I think that’s the saddest part. Just stuck in a never-ending cycle of positivity that doesn’t actually make anything better. But hey, we’ve recognized it. First steps!

      Liked by 2 people

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