Self-improvement = being selfish
First of all I’m relatively new here, I think it’s something you should know.
Maybe it’s not the perfect website to post my opinion but here I can find people who are not afraid to think critically and to question their own beliefs.
So don’t you think that self-improvement itself means being very, very selfish? I’ve just read Cormac McCarthy’s book ‘The Road’. It’s a post-apocalyptic story where people want nothing but desperately survive. And also in real life every creature’s goal on Earth is to survive, to cling to life as far as they can. In the ancient times for example, when laws changed from one country to another, tribes, nations attacked each other and if somebody’s villages had been attacked out of a sudden they had hardly any chance to survive. They either died or became slaves.
While we live in an era where we have nothing to worry about. Ok, we have bills to pay but it’s nothing compared to the cotinuous fear of being attacked.
I live in Hungary, an Eastern European country. Self-improvement is important here too, there are lots of articles like ‘How to become happy in 10 days’. But what I see is that in the US it became much more important. There are a lot of depressed people there while you(the majority on HE I think) live in a country with relatively good economy, good prospects for the future etc. (in general,there are exceptions of course). I think that in the media you hear way too much about the importance of finding yourself. There are many many books and movies in this topic mainly written by american writers. You always hear that you have to live a life and get a job in which you can be yourself and you find joy in it. (I’ve never been there so what I think is only based on what I experience on the internet, in movies and in books.) While here I’m always told to choose a job with which I can get enough salary to make a living (and my family has a quite good financial status so I’m not in the worst situation).
So I think that ‘finding yourself’ is a term that became too fashionable and overused and everybody takes it as somekind of truth and nobody asks whether it’s really that important or not. Noting happens if you don’t find yourself. People think about it so much that they become depressed if they can’t find themselves. We have this always on our minds and if we can’t find ourselves we think it’s our fault and at the end we take it as a failure. If we don’t think about it at all we’ll have much more time to care for others, to help other people who are not in such a good situation as we are. Or we could just live happily and thankfully for living in such a peaceful era and place.
(What I say is only true about modern, developed societies.)
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I wanna try to keep my answer short, so I will say that I believe self-improvement is not about being selfish, it’s about being unselfish. Self-improvement, to me, means to stop looking towards people and external things to solve your problems, and instead to focus on satisfying your needs with what you have and have always had inside you. Once you’re on that path, you start treating people much better and you begin to live with more love and kindness, and that’s the most unselfish thing you can do. I try to remind myself of it everyday.
Interesting, I think you are on to something. Adapting a life style system is important, but reflecting a system designed by another individual is not you, its them, fit for their unique accumulation of experience + knowledge. Do you agree with using these systems for context, a way to look at conclusions you eventually will have to reach anyway, then adapting the habits of the system into something unique for your life, is beneficial?
Your title, Self Improvement = Selfishness, drew me here, and though I read through your summary I cannot tell if you meant that in a good way or a bad way. I absolutely agree self improvement is selfish, but for me, the reason why you are being selfish indicates the positive/negative -ness of it.
For instance, I am being selfish and self improving so that I can become solid enough to help others. I need to face my demons and bad habits so that they do not rear their ugly heads while engaged with others, incapacitating my ability to help.
The fact of the matter is, we are all one. Doing a good deed for your true self is reflected instantly on the outside world. So in a sense, the more you help yourself the more you help others. Being selfish is really being selfless. See the paradox of it all?
@chodebalm, ‘Self-improvement, to me, means to stop looking towards people and external things to solve your problems, and instead to focus on satisfying your needs with what you have and have always had inside you.’
Could you explain this sentence more? It’ not totally clear for me.
‘Once you’re on the right path..’ When can you say you’re on the right path? This path is a synonym for the way of finding yourself, can we agree on that? When can you say you just started to find yourself? And what will the end be like? A kind of Nirvana?
Because I simply think that you can never say you found yourself. There is no state when you can say that you have nothing to do anymore because you found that ‘thing’ you wanted.
However there can be times when you feel happy in general. If you’re happy because you have not much to worry about it’s obvious that you will live with more kindness because you’ll have more time to think about your environment, the people around you. So why not skip the self-improvement part and start to be more caring and kind right now?
As we’ve grown more industrial, more technological, and more material obsessed, it makes sense that we’d come full circle. More and more people are renouncing external stimulus as a path to happiness. I’m all for that, even if that means I have to endure hearing about the shortcut gurus.
@splashartist, You made a point there. Actually one of my main theories/beliefs that fundamentally everybody is selfish. Because if you do something good for others you do it because you’ll feel better so actually you did that for your own good. So what I say is the other way around: being selfless is selfish. BUT I’ve never examined if it could be true vica versa.
@jacuzzi, I believe it’s not a matter of self-improvement being equal to being selfish. Rather it is a matter of how you interpret how others are handling self-improvement.
Self-improvement doesn’t have to mean gorging your soul with an ego fueled righteousness. If an idea(or let’s say a tool if you will) is being misused, is it the tools fault or the one who beholds it? I suppose many people may have different views about what self-improvement is and have different things they may value more than others…but to me — it means becoming a better you in every aspect.
I leave you with this lyric from a WTP song.
“there’s no bottle filled with answers
no universal standard written down
to save your life”
@jacuzzi, Well, the way I see it is you only get one existence. It can either be a happy one or a miserable one, so I think finding yourself is pretty important. Matters of survival, while necessary, are kind of boring, wouldn’t you say? I want to find something more, to really take advantage of my sentience. Otherwise it’s wasted, and I might as well have been a monkey for all the difference it makes.
@tine, Being selfish indicates the negativeness of it. My feeling and thoughts are very complex about this topic and maybe I couldn’t explain them perfectly. Please read my comment for @chodebalm. The question is the same: what is exactly what you’re looking for? When can you say you can finally stop ‘self-improving’ because you found that thing you wanted? I think there is no thing like that which means you’ll never reach that state where you can fully dedicate yourself to help others, to think about the problems on the outside, not inside you.. Until then everybody else will be the second and you are the first wich means you’re ignorant and selfish. (Maybe I’ll write a second comment about the first part of yours because I have to think about that a bit more.)
@theskafish, Ok, we can say that matters of survival are boring. But this is what I see (very simplyfied) in today’s developed societies: We are already over matters of survival. Great, we have no problems! We have nothing to do, it’s boring! What should we do? If we don’t have problems let’s create some! Now, we should ‘find ourselves’. We try and try but we can’t do it because ‘finding yourself’ simply doesn’t exist. We became depressed because of that so now we have even more to worry about..
And for your first sentence: sorry, but I think there is only one existence. ( I know that in this site the majority doesn’t agree with me on this.)
“Ok, we can say that matters of survival are boring. But this is what I see (very simplyfied) in today’s developed societies: We are already over matters of survival. Great, we have no problems! We have nothing to do, it’s boring! What should we do? If we don’t have problems let’s create some! Now, we should ‘find ourselves’. We try and try but we can’t do it because ‘finding yourself’ simply doesn’t exist. We became depressed because of that so now we have even more to worry about..”
@jacuzzi, I think this last quote of yours is fantastic, it completely describes the current psyche of many living the middle class and above life in developed countries. This is why I think it can be nice to go back to a minimal lifestyle, so that you HAVE to still deal with ‘survival’ so to speak, so you don’t get caught up in the bullshit cycles of a higher purpose.
I am a very big advocate of self-improvement, because I only have one life so it’s important to me to try my hardest at being the best person I can be in that one lifespan. I also agree with an earlier poster who stated that to help others you must first master yourself, and so selfishness is truly the first step to selflessness, and leading by example is always more effective than direct leading.
People certainly spend too much time trying to find themselves, because there isn’t a self to find. There is no hidden definition of your character that you must discover, you do not find yourself, you MAKE yourself. You choose how you want to be, and then act that way, and over enough time you become that person you wanted to be.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to change who you are, but it’s important to not get angry or discouraged because you can’t figure out who you want to be. If you don’t know, then continue going the way you’re going and if you happen upon a quality or way of life that appeals to you, begin making the necessary changes to shift towards that desired state. This way, you can remain happy with the way you are in the short-term thus avoiding the depression and frustration you’ve mentioned; and retaining the freedom to alter your character in the long term!
Self-improvement and self preservation is the least selfish thing you can do. In a grander sense, we are all the main characters and heroes of our own stories. We are all part of the universe, made up of the universe… we are the universe experiencing itself.
What any of us want at any time, is what the universe wants. If each link in a chain makes sure to do its part and watches and takes care of itself, the entire chain will be strong. There are those kind souls that give so much to others that they become ill themselves: turning them into the weakest link in that chain.
@jacuzzi, your asking a question about what it means to “find yourself”, but your opinion and ideas on finding yourself are relative to your personal opinion. You should first define your idea of finding yourself so others may better understand the arguement at hand. People here at HE are looking not only to improve themselves but progress as individuals. And not in some cheesy eat,pray,love bullshit way either. Before you tell everybody the answer, maybe you should be sure your asking the right question. Define “finding yourself”.
@eyesopen, I think that with those simple sentences I could explain the most what I try to say. (Because my thoughts and feelings on the topic are very complex as I said.) I agree we shouldn’t get caught up in the bullshit cycles of a higher purpose. But I think it’s just not an option to go back to that ‘survival era’. You should check out that book I mentioned (The Road). After you read it you would never say we should go back to concentrate on only these basic needs. (Because this situtation we are in is still 100 times better than that. Really, that book made a huge impact on me.)
But if we can’t go back and this frustration about self-improvement isn’t good either than what should we do? I think we simply have to try to forget about it. Or we can say: carpe diem, seize the day. Not in a way that we give up our jobs and give up studying so we have nothing to eat the next day.. It’s just we should not worry too much about things like that because in my opinion it doesn’t matter at all compared to worries people had in the ancient times.
I like your idea about not finding but making yourself. But still I think, we will never reach that desired state. We will never be the people who we exactly want to be. And the reason is because it depends on so many things. Even that picture of your ideal self can change every day even every minute because it depends on so many things, the environment, your mood, the changes that are independent of you.. Which means you’ll never be able to retain that so-called freedom.
“The question is the same: what is exactly what you’re looking for? When can you say you can finally stop ‘self-improving’ because you found that thing you wanted?”
I think I see the distinction, I do not self-improve as a method for singular change, self-improvement is a lifestyle, a subcategory to my “Perpetual Student” Path to life, what I ‘want’ is to learn, to grow, and to use this knowledge to Create in whichever way I can, be it help individuals, create systems that benefit society, counter-strike evil =)…
I selfishly stick to the Path of benefiting others, this has become the only Path worth taking as it benefits me and even more so, it benefits others. I have spent a lifetime using my brain to Destroy therefore its opposite, to Create, to Build, is my redemption.
Everything is selfish at the core of it. We’re selfish beings.
It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just the way things are.
The most “selfless” acts all stem from the desire to feel good, helping someone else is really just using them to feel good about yourself, at the core of it all. On the core level, we’re motivated by that one thing only, selfish enjoyment.
Whether we like it or not, that’s just the way things are. There’s no sense in being negative about it.
Also, the more established you become, the more you can help. If you really want to make a big positive change in the world, YOU GOTTA START WITH YOURSELF.
BE the change you want for the world. Build it up from the foundation (deep within yourself) and progressively outward.
The heart pumps blood, oxygenating the whole body. But to be able to do that, the heart must be functioning well, so it takes most of the top-quality fresh blood for itself. In doing so, it also assures that it’ll be around for another day to supply oxygen to the whole body. If it would just pump all the good blood out to the rest of the body, the heart would get weak very quickly and die, and then the rest of the body dies too.
When you just get straight to the superficial helping, all you do is waste yourself for very little results, but you get that instant gratification of feeling good about yourself for being a good person.
If instead you were to being by setting yourself up in a way that will allow you to help more, in the long run you’ll be able to help a shitload more than you ever could if you just went straight to the superficial helping of others.
Yes, it takes some time and effort, and you’ll have to postpone that gratification and social validation of being “a good person.” But it’s 100% worth it both for you and for those who receive your help.
I’m established, my life is the way I want it to be, so the only thing left to do is to help others. Thus, I put my whole being into helping. I couldn’t do that if I’d stuck to a day job instead of making real money (I wouldn’t have the time) if I hadn’t learned how things work and how to change things (I would be groping in darkness, making very little real results in helping people) if I hadn’t put the work in to raise my physical and mental performance to a truly awesome level (again, time and energy would be wasted for minimal results.)
I really tried helping people back then, but only got minimal results.
Now, I manage to help so many people so much with much less time and effort.
@jacuzzi, That last paragraph really resonated with me. You certainly can never reach the desired potential, but I think you can get close. That’s the fun, isn’t it, trying to reach that state and continually failing, but making gradual progress towards the ultimate goal?
You’ve got a great point here though, just simply appreciating the life you live for it could always be much worse. Food, shelter, water, what else do ya need? It makes your ‘problems’ seem pretty trivial when you realize that you have a steady supply of all of these necessities.
@jacuzzi, Just because we never reach a point that we are “complete” doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to get there. It is a point that we can get close to, but never get there. We can never get there, because it doesn’t exist. There is no “completeness”, no “perfect self that you have to discover”.
Once we learn that there is nothing that we have to be, we can begin the true journey of creating ourselves. I think that most people are at this stage when they say that they’re “finding themselves”. They are trying to decide the type of person that they are, trying to decide what their core values and beliefs are. And you can’t find something, unless you go looking for it, hence the term “finding yourself”.