Too Much Self-Improvement can be Bad for the Brain

With endless choices of blogs, self-help books and online tutorials about how to self-improve – there’s no shortage of advice when it comes to becoming our "best" self.

Posted: Mar. 2, 2018 7:26 AM

CLEVELAND – With endless choices of blogs, self-help books and online tutorials about how to self-improve – there’s no shortage of advice when it comes to becoming our ‘best’ self.

But according to Joseph Rock, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic, when we obsess over ourselves too much, we can become self-absorbed perfectionists, which can ultimately become unhealthy for our brains.

“We get turned into perfectionists and perfectionism is dangerous because it doesn’t mean, I can meet a goal and I’ll be fine; it means, no matter how well I’m doing, I can still be doing better,” he said. “In turn, we always feel a little bit like we’re failing.”

Dr. Rock said there’s nothing wrong with taking time to self -improve, but it’s dangerous to want to change everything about ourselves.

He said trying to change too much at once can sometimes cause people to become depressed and feel hopeless.

Social media often contributes to this problem.

“We’re seeing the best part of everybody else’s life and we’re trying to live up to that,” said Dr. Rock. “They’re not showing all the bad stuff, so it’s even harder to not try to keep up with the Joneses because we start feeling inadequate.”

Dr. Rock said it’s important to practice self-acceptance and to remember that what works for other people might not work for us.

“You set goals and you set objectives; you make them reasonable; you reward yourself when you meet your goals and if you don’t meet your goals, you change the plan, because maybe it’s not working for you,” he said. “You don’t punish yourself – which is what a lot of people tend to do.”

Dr. Rock said it’s also a good idea to set goals that aren’t related to ourselves – such as making a point to volunteer more. He said having a balance between self-improvement and serving others is good for our mental health.

“One of the things you don’t want to lose track of is that there are other people in the world as well,” he said. “While I’m wrapped up in myself, can I also feel better by making sure I’m doing some things for other people?”

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