The word self-improvement means to improve one’s self. This is a term widely used as a means to becoming better. That is, we are not what we would like ourselves to be and we want to improve ourself. So, we go about improving ourselves and self-improvement becomes a motivating factor to live our lives better.
But, we have to see carefully what is implied in this process of self-improvement that we have got wrong.
- There is only one self
Self-improvement implies that within us, there is the self that has to be improved and another self that is trying to improve the other self. So, where are these two selves located? Is the improver different from the self to be improved? Or, is it a deception caused by thought? There is the consciousness which consists of innumerable thoughts and emotions, which is considered the self. When we identify ourselves with some thoughts as the “I”, we create the improver. But, the improver or the “I” is the same self that we are trying to improve. And, therefore, we can never succeed in improving our self, because there is only one self.
- We are not a fixed entity.
We are changing all the time. Our thoughts, our reactions, keep changing with the circumstances, physical changes, and our sensorial responses. Therefore, how can we have a fixed image of our self which we want to improve. All that we try to do as self-improvement is to improve what happened in the past. And, that is never going to change the self that is in the present. When a situation has occured, we capture it in memory, and then the process of self-improvement happens. But, this is based on the past memories, and therefore it can never work for the present self.
- The idea of the better self is always rooted in the past
When we get angry, and which we do not like about ourselves, we want to improve ourselves. We then have an idea of not being angry. But, this idea of the better self is based on what happened in the past. The memory of me getting angry creates the thought that I should not be angry. But, the better self is again only a thought, whose roots are still in the anger. Therefore, any self-improvement activity is still within the field of anger, and so does not change the anger.
So, self-improvement is never going to help. It is like a cat running after its tail. Understanding the self is the beginning and the ending of the self.