Creative Child

Forever Striving for Better - Avoiding the Self-Improvement Trap

by Rebecca Eanes


In her podcast titled UFYB 124: Self-Improvement Shame, Coach Kara Loewentheil talks about the important difference between self-improvement and self-growth. She says, “There’s a big difference between growth and improvement as concepts...Growth means change, evolution, learning. It doesn’t make you a better person. It doesn’t mean you’re improved. You didn’t go from a C to an A. There is no rating...There’s inherent judgement in the concept of improvement.”  

So, that leaves this question - How do we grow and reach our goals without the judgement and shame? The answer is self-compassion. According to The National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), there are 5 key steps for transforming shame with self-compassion. 

  1. Understand that shame is normal and is the brain’s way of dealing with the threat of disconnection.
  2. Label shame for what it is: An emotion. Giving it a name helps you get some distance between you and the emotion.
  3. Replace judgement with curiosity. Try to be curious about your emotions rather than judgmental of them. This can help you shift into a more caring and understanding perspective.
  4. Acknowledge your inner critic. Meet it with compassion and remind yourself that you are okay as you are and doing the best you can.
  5. Practice what is helpful, not harmful. Try to speak to yourself as you would a friend. Offer yourself constructive correction rather than shaming self attacks. 

I’m reminded of a quote by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, parent educator and founder of The Neufeld Institute. “All growth emanates from a place of rest.” He’s speaking here of how children will experience better physical, mental, and emotional growth when they are not striving for our love and attention. The same is true for adults, I believe. We will best grow into our highest and best selves not through difficult striving and running from shame but through resting in self-love and acceptance. Until we change the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, we can’t become better, and only when we learn to love ourselves do we realize that we were good enough all along. When I rest in love, I can grow. 

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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