Such an American obsession, this fetish for self-improvement!
Nice piece about it in The New York Times:
“There’s a tendency to seek and seek and seek and never find,” said Kristen Moeller, creator of the Web site selfhelpjunkie.com. (The motto? “Stop Waiting. Start Living.”) “It becomes one more addiction.”
It’s not that trying to find ways to improve ourselves is a bad thing — not at all. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” the poet Robert Browning wrote. But when we’re constantly reaching rather than occasionally being satisfied with what we have in front of us, that’s a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.
“We grew up with the idea that we can do anything,” said Hollee Schwartz Temple, a professor of law at West Virginia University and co-author of “Good Enough Is the New Perfect” (Harlequin, 2011). “But we took that to mean that we have to do everything. And many women took it as you have to do everything perfectly.”
I admit it, I’ve read some self-help books I’ve found useful, from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit to an oldie-but-goodie, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m OK with this, because, especially as a self-employed person, I have no boss to guide or mentor me and only online colleagues, often very far away, to give me advice or feedback.
But there’s a limit to how “perfect” anyone can — or should try to — be. And “perfect” in whose eyes? I know there are many ways I could improve myself: lose weight (20 to 30 pounds, ugh); be much more tidy (papers and magazines everywhere); manage my investments better (a 15 percent drop this summer. Ugh indeed!)
But you know, we’re all works in progress. I keep a clean, organized home with fresh food in the fridge. I organized Jose’s closet the other day (feeling a little guilty for being so invasive). I write real thank-you notes on carefully-chosen stationery.
I’m reading, very slowly, a great biography of Elizabeth I — I think my life is complicated? Between wars and treaties and endless suitors and a bossy Cabinet and gossipy court and religious battles and the challenge of maintaining order — she had two men’s right hands cut off once to prove her point — my 21st century life is a bloody picnic, even without castles or a crown.
What do you need to improve on?