The trap of self improvement ✋🏼 // Transcript of I Feel For You podcast episode 30
Find the shownotes for this podcast here, with all the links to listen.
You’re listening to I Feel For You, a podcast that supports you to be more you.
I’m dionne, a creative coach, yoga + movement + meditation teacher, dj, writer and well, storyteller, using various tools to hold space and help you feel more free, to be who you are and all you are becoming.
This is episode 30!
Hello my darlings
How are you doing?
How are you feeling?
Let’s take a little moment to check in and see shall we?
Where are you at today?
Wherever you are and however you’re feeling, i’m honoured to spend some time with you and hope that together we can open up a little more space and tenderness today.
My people! 💜
I’ve been on a little hiatus. It was my birthday in February, shoutout to my Pisces crew! Sorry to everyone else for the emotional waters that so many have been wading through in pisces season! All of the feelings! All of the emo!
That’s my favourite place to be.
So first of all, thank you to everyone who has reached out to me over the last few weeks and ever, really, to share your lovely words of support about this podcast.
It really has been a labour of love and intended to be an offering of solidarity and connection and encouragement to be more of who you are, so it’s so wonderful to hear when it resonates with anyone, it truly means so much when you feel it and connect with it and it’s useful to you in some way.
Thank you for your reviews on itunes, for subscribing and recommending this podcast I love when you share me with your people cause i enjoy good people. This is a good people appreciation club.
Thank you too, for sharing and the podcast on your socials! Especially those of you sharing on instagram stories! I always appreciate you tagging me there, it means the world! I love to know where you’re listening from too - shoutout to Jasmine + co in Argentina if you’re still out there.
You all are the best and my goodness, i love my people!!!!!!
And whilst we are on updates, some of you who get my digest or who follow me on ig might know that last week i launched my next project on my birthday! My new online coaching programme BLOOM is now live and i’m so excited to have her out in the world.
BLOOM basically grew from my feelings of loneliness on this path, and recognising my friends, who don’t live nearby, also felt that way too. I kept noticing there were a lot of people i’d meet online who also felt this way. Who yearned for real and true connection, with likeminded people, who were interested in growth in a way that wasn’t patronising or made you feel like crap, a space that celebrated and encouraged you to be more like yourself, so you could, um like yourself!
It can be hard and often lonely on this road, life, if you like, but living life rooted in your truthiest-truth, one rooted in integrity and open to exploration. There are so many layers to unravel, so many things to unlearn, and so much to explore, in finding ways to be more ourselves! And i don’t know about you, but i thrive in places where i feel safe to be me. Where i’m given room to go deep, but also have some structure and accountability to kind of hold me along the way, so i can still feel a sense of progress and achievement whilst diving into the layers.
So i created a 7 week programme to support others using tools that have been so useful to me on this path over the last 20 years or so. BLOOM is an online group creative coaching programme embracing the season you’re in journeying with different styles of yoga, movement, meditation and mindfulness.
I really hope this offering is useful and inspires you to cultivate confidence to bloom in your own way!
You can get all the details on my website dionne.space/bloom or check the shownotes for a link. Hope you can join me!
Ok. so, updates galore onto this week’s episode which is about trying to avoid the trap of self improvement. It’s kind of a rally cry to remind you of your enoughness, but also, a little bit of practical advice about how to do that for times when stuff gets in the way. We’ll put that into action later on in the show too, so we can make this stuff real.
It’s kind of a follow up to the last podcast episode which was episode number 29 so feel free to delve into this subject if it resonates.
I really hope you enjoy this episode. And remember to like and subscribe to the podcast if you dig it!
Let’s get into the show!
Avoiding the trap of self improvement
There is so much talk about self improvement.
But what if we did something radical. And instead of trying to strive to be something else, something more, to have more to be more to acquire more
To be more neat. More fun. More healthy. More fit. More comfortably off. More well travelled. More woke. More liked.
What if we instead,
Stopped trying to work on ourselves. Change who we are. Be better. Be best. Be something else. Do the most.
I mean, i spoke about this already in some ways in a previous podcast Episode 3: Learning How to Be
And written about it too in a blog post a journey of learning to like my Self(ie)
I’ll link both of those in the shownotes.
There is such a quest for transformation. When the most radical transformation to ever exist lies in you, already being you. Accepting you.
I don’t mean, be an arsehole and accept you’re an arsehole.
I mean, being with yourself. Truly getting acquainted. And seeing yourself, with compassion and dare i even say it, some love.
I know. It’s especially hard for those of us who haven’t got there yet. Or haven’t been shown how that’s possible.
It’s understandable. We live in a world where value is placed upon what you can do. Show. demonstrate. Document and display.
Nothing wrong with those things either it’s just that….
Life exists beyond that.
Life is you. I mean, you are life.
*Sigh*… is this becoming too chasing of one’s tail?
Ok.Let’s explore this in another way.
We can spend so much time trying to improve, show, change, acquire, get and be anywhere but here.
that we miss it.
We miss life.
I’m not going to put that John Lennon quote here cause i don’t really feel anything for John - sorry friends i grew up listening to Earth Wind and Fire and didn’t hear Beatles until Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which i might add was a great moment. We love you Matthew Broderick. Anyway.
Sometimes we use things, and need things to hide behind.
Being more busy, improving ourselves more, being on our mission to do more. Have more. Show more. Be more.
Sometimes we use those things, and need those things to hide behind.
To validate us.
To give us or others some kind of meaning.
To define something about who we are.
To bolster an identity
To armour us with authority and somehow make sense of this weird and amazing experience that is ...life.
We try to control by pushing and being busy and staying within the lines and playing by the rules and any other idiom that works here.
We assign ourselves roles and routines and rituals and ways of being that make sense according to what someone else said perhaps 5 minutes or 5 thousand years ago.
Terrified to be extracted, extradited, called out, shamed, maimed and told we don’t belong.
Shunned and left out. Ostracised or ridiculed for not fitting in.
Not following the rules.
Not being a good person.
Not doing wellness right.
Because we have been told that there are a certain number of things we need to do before we hit 25, then 30, then 40 cause the gap starts to widen because this is the last moment of time you have before it’s too late. Life is over, apparently. Being 25 is deemed old. Old isn’t shiny and new and fresh and desirable anymore.
That’s when you’re supposed to secure the bag, the cheque, the child, the career, the house, and set up a comfortable retirement plan.
…I’m being sarcastic here of course darlings because deep down we know this is all nonsense. Don’t we? Especially those of you born 1980 and later and/or live a quote unquote unconventional life slash career and or live within some kind of margin or beyond some kind of border, knowing otherness with a capital O.... Don’t we? Do i need to do an episode about this? Shall we talk about age? Especially those of us who identify as women in this world? Let me know. Send me a message.
So what if we rejected the option to constantly be more?
What if we surrendered.
And accepted ourselves right here and now.
Sure, it might feel pretty unsteady at first, i mean, what are the rules for that?
What exactly should we do in terms of finding that self acceptance?
How should we behave?
What should we order from the menu? What’s good? What’s bad? What should be expected of us? What will we find when we get there?
How will we know?
…Cause, we need to know, right? In order to measure something.
But what if we rejected measuring and analysing and comparing ourselves in ways that never allow space for satisfaction, self acceptance or god forbid, trusting that we are enough and whole as we are, right now?
How do we do that? How do we avoid the trap of self improvement when it’s leading to us feeling worse about ourselves?
I think it has a lot to do with noticing if feelings of unworthiness are getting in your way.
Do you often feel unsatisfied no matter how much you achieve?
Are you reluctant to slow down and savour each task you complete and are instead onto the next thing?
Do you find yourself constantly seeking the next thing that might help you feel better?
No critique here, cause seeking is a wonderful asset, but do you feel you have to look until you find this magic remedy that resolves everything?
A good sign of that is for example, in my lifetime of yoga teacher training, i have met so many people cause you know, yogaland has its issues with bubbles of privilege, where i’d meet people that literally did nothing but spend their time going from one yoga teacher training to the next for example.
I mean, of course, i was envious, who wouldn’t want a life that enabled access to studying wherever you wanted, but i would be agape at their lifestyle of traveling the world and jumping from one training to the next.
Of course, i’m a massive encourager of every yoga teacher developing their education and studies, cause you’ll know as soon as you start teaching it’s only the very very beginning of the road! However, i guess i’m grateful for all those broke-ass situations of living as a poor yoga teacher in Norway, cause it made me really make the most of the resources available, but also to absorb, test and explore what i had been taught.
Which is probably why i’ll never commit to one school of thought in yoga.
I took what i learned.
Tested it on myself.
Explored it in classes, workshops, retreats.
Developed my own methods.
And i think it has made me appreciate the “absorption” part of learning as much as the “learning” part.
It’s the same i see when working with many clients running their businesses. They have an idea about what they should do. Often show up having taken many many workshops online, only to feel deflated when they don’t follow through or finish something or achieve the changes they imagined or felt they should have done. Then because they feel like a failure in some way, that unworthiness sends them into seeking the next thing that will make things right or fix them.
And the cycle continues.
Because let’s face it, you can buy all the trainings, workshops, courses and manuals in the world, and they won’t have the greatest impact cause they’re starting from that base level of dissatisfaction. Striving. And judging for not being at the final post yet.
You know, like, when you think back to any exam you’ve ever taken.
Or if you’ve ever run a race or played a sports game. You’re often told not to try to train or revise right up to the moment. Because your brain needs time to digest information, just as your body needs time to absorb nutrients. And the best way it does that is through rest!
Same with if you’re building strength and after an injury using weight bearing activities, you can’t keep using your muscles without giving yourself recovery time afterwards.
Or if you’re working on a creative project. And that can be anything. Do you notice that things inevitably FLOW better when there is space for ideas to come through?
It’s the notorious inhale and exhale analogy right? Between both of them is a period of rest in the transition. We need space to absorb and do nothing.
We also need space to and time to pause and perhaps review. Consider what works, what doesn’t. Without it, we can become so focussed on one path that we might not necessarily have any resonance with.
And i’m interested in us always being able to consider:
- Is this thing working for me?
- How do i feel?
- Can i allow for the full process? ...Which means including breaks as part of progress?
It’s something i talk to my clients about when they might spin out with overwhelm from giant goals they put on themselves that never seem to get closer. They might achieve something spectacular but be so consumed with the next thing they need to do. And we all know where that leads, right?
Burnout my darlings.
And i have a lot to say about that. Cause it’s certainly not fun at all.
So advice i offer to my clients is, to dig into what is pressuring you to keep doing more and seek out the next thing. Is that voice urgent and anxious?
Recognise when unworthiness rears its head.
And tells you you aren’t enough.
The inner critic has a lot to answer for my darlings. And if you haven’t already heard, i made a podcast episode talking about going on a date with your inner critic which i’ll link for you in the shownotes. (It’s podcast episode 29 in case you want to make a note.)
The inner critic can get in our way. It can make the difference between a healthy goal and a toxic one. That’s the trap.
Here’s how the trap works.
So you set a goal, right?
You’re stating what you want.
Wanting can lead to striving. And striving can call forth judgement. And judgement can add a critical lens to everything.
And if you’ve been on Twitter as long as i have, or looked at any newspaper column written by a black woman and dared to read the toxic comments, you’ll know that judgement never stops. It has no limits or dead end. It can spiral into a negative and painful loop that is really hard to get out of… it’s not helpful or constructive. It’s often linked to something in the past - comparing to something that has happened before, or occupied with the future, striving to be somewhere else.
It’s not present.
We are off, somewhere else.
See, there’s nothing wrong with setting a goal. Wanting to go for something. Being inspired to craving change. Nothing wrong with that at all. So long as it’s sustainable, and rooted in accepting who you are. Having a foundation of knowing you are already enough to begin with.
Which is hard to swallow if you’ve never done that before, or ever been shown how to do that.
Presence can offer us one hell of a potential to anchor to something. It can set us off on the right foot. Not to be striving about where we should be, or reminiscing about something from our past.
These are the moments of your life right now.
Being in a place of presence is where the magic can really happen.
This is the space where we can absorb!
…Know what i mean?
Is this too trippy?
To buck wild?
I hope not.
I’m not saying either, we should try to disassociate from helpful self improvement goals or plans or that feeling of being able to move forwards.
Rather, i’m encouraging us to look out for when it becomes unhelpful, when and if the inner critics behaviours of self criticism, self judgement get in the way. Telling us we “should” be some type of way.
That we’re not enough as we are.
Or perhaps making us compare ourselves to others who have a completely different experience of this life than we do!
It can be a really violent and toxic place to be. And exhausting too.
Learning to be with ourselves, with tenderness. Acceptance and self compassion can be radical.
And offer us an opportunity to check in, practice presence, and find ease and hopefully love for ourselves just as we are.
So shall we try something right now?
Like for real.
If you’re not driving or walking around or obviously operating machinery or something like that, if it feels appropriate and safe you could close your eyes.
And just do a little check in right now.
Just like taking a little mental photograph of yourself in this moment.
How are you feeling?
How are you breathing?
Can you notice without needing to adjust anything right now?
Observe and be curious about what you discover?
Log that information, recognising by doing this, you are already demonstrating the power you have, because noticing is the first necessary step in the capacity to change anything at all.
It’s the first and biggest step.
So check in.
Without judging or attaching a meaning to what you discover.
Explore what’s there.
befriend yourself in the process.
Especially if you come across tension.
Notice your jaw. Your shoulders. Your hands.
Your tongue. Your belly. Your scalp.
Notice it all.
Perhaps even greeting them like old friends.
"Hello mate, how are you feeling?”
Listen for the answer.
Then, if you have come across tension on your adventure of discovery,
Ask yourself if any of that tension is necessary for you right now?
Sometimes, we need tension. It can be useful for a short time.
For example, holding a bag of groceries or puppies. - Ok maybe not puppies. Let’s do a bag of groceries. We hold the handle, so we can carry the weight, before putting it down.
The tension is temporary because we eventually, put the bag down.
So ask yourself, is there any tension i’m carrying right now that i can soften?
Without needing to create drama or judgement around it.
Soften just a little.
Soften your jaw. Your shoulders. Your hands and fingers. Your tongue. Your belly. Your scalp.
Then see if you can let your breath feel as supportive as possible. Not forcing control but rather inviting ease.
And meet yourself again. Check in.
“hi, how are you doing my friend?”
How are you feeling?
And again, without judgement, notice and log what’s there.
And repeat that as many times as feels good. Interesting. Curious.
When you’re ready, if your eyes are closed, gently open them. take your time to take in your surroundings.
And if it’s helpful for you, try this technique at different points in the day.
You might use it when you have a particularly busy day with lots of tasks involved.
Using the same technique.
Notice what is going on. What’s there. How are you feeling.
Is there anything there that’s causing unnecessary tension?
And if so, how can you soften that tension? What can you do right now?
Is it, for example, addressing a particularly time sensitive task immediately so you can be free from worrying about it?
Is it saying no to doing something you initially said yes to?
Is it taking a damn break?
Is it simply adding more time to practice remembering you are enough right now?
And if you need help with that, i have an episode you might listen to Learning to trust you are enough (especially in challenging times)🏆 // Shownotes for ‘I Feel For You’ podcast episode 28
So my friends.
If you can take one thing away from today’s episode, it’s this:
If you find yourself caught up in the trap of self improvement, remind yourself that:
Transformation doesn't have to mean change, it can look like acceptance. acceptance doesn't have to seem passive, it can look like self compassion.
This is powerful and radical work in terms of creating long term, meaningful and sustainable change.
And always useful to ask ourself if we see the inner critic flaring up at the first sign of self improvement.
I hope this supports you wherever you’re at today.
And i’d love to know what you think of this episode!
Have you ever felt caught up by the pressure of self improvement? If so, how? What did you notice?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, tips and musings about the topic.
You can leave a comment in the shownotes, perhaps contact me on social media - find me on instagram + twitter too, links are in the shownotes.
And please let me know if you’re listening to the show, perhaps take a screenshot and tag me in your stories! Let me know where you’re listening from!
I am so grateful to spend time with you in this way. And if you would like more free resources to encourage you to be more you, feel welcome to sign up for my Digest, which is a lovenote from me to you via email. You can find it by heading to dionne.space/digest.
Thank you, and i love you. Take care of you. Until next time!