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gggritso's avatar

Are self-improvement and being yourself mutually exclusive? Which is more important?

Asked by gggritso (5448points) February 13th, 2010

Whenever questions like “How do I impress this person?” or “How do I become popular?” are asked, there is a prevalent response: “Don’t worry so much, just be yourself.” For the most part, I agree with this sentiment; it’s very important not to sacrifice your integrity to achieve a goal. However, I have a problem with the implication.

I think we all have small qualities or characteristics that are recognized universally as “negative”. I’m not talking about personality quirks that create individuality, but specific negative attributes.

Instead of “being ourselves” should we pursue to improve ourselves in the long-term by eradicating these “bad” qualities? If so, how do we make sure we don’t lose track of what makes us who we are? If not, should we just embrace these imperfections? Which qualities should we seek to keep, and which to ditch?

What says The Collective?

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17 Answers

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

“Acting natural” is a paradox.

Better to be natural, though that doesn’t prevent a person from improving themselves.

wundayatta's avatar

Why can’t improving yourself be being yourself?

Steve_A's avatar

I consider self-improvement and being myself somewhat one in the same. When, say the growth be it physically or mentally is to obtain goals,wants, and needs out of life.

but because I want them, and I am doing it for myself. So in the end I might change but still myself in the end or at least thats the plan ;)

susanc's avatar

Yes: “acting natural” is paradoxical, a contradiction in terms.

For the concept of “self-improvement”, maybe substitute the concepts of learning and growing. Anything you learn changes your “self”. You grow new neural connections; you become better-informed, more complex, possibly wiser, more awake, and maybe more amusing. Is this an abandonment of the Self? I don’t think so. Does the Self improve? Often.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Anything you adopt and retain becomes “you” and “you” are ever changing, ideally for the positive.

faye's avatar

People who are rude, then say “It’s just the way I am”, need self-improvement. Does anyone know someone who did improve on that?

drhat77's avatar

You know what they say about not being able to go through the same river twice… You’re a new you. So you can be yourself AND be better than you were simultaneously.

efritz's avatar

Trying to impress someone or be popular is NOT being true to yourself, it’s trying to obtain a goal on someone else’s terms. Truly being yourself means living your life and dreams based on what you want – which usually includes real self-improvement mentally, physically, or whatever.

SeventhSense's avatar

Never try to eradicate a bad quality because you create an oppositional energy which actually strengthens it by focusing on the bad habit. Studies have shown drivers who are directed to look at a cone and steer around it in a skid invariably hit it. Likewise intrapersonally, what you resist persists. When you notice a bad habit simply notice it and decide to make a different choice. But first just observe it objectively as if it were happening to someone else.

Cruiser's avatar

Being anything but yourself will be a temporary at best charade with less than genuine results. Being yourself is like always telling the truth you will never have to worry about the lies.

augustlan's avatar

Great question, G. I think it matters how negative the trait is. In order to fully be myself, I did have to accept some of my ‘negative’ qualities… but that required first realizing they really weren’t that negative in the first place. Just different, you know? Some of what we (or others) perceive as negative really might just be an important bit of our true selves. Now, if the negative trait is universally damaging (to ourselves or others), it does require improvement. But as long as the improvement is made for our own inherent reasons and not outside influences, like popularity or impressing someone, I think that is still being true to yourself.

partyparty's avatar

We are constantly doing and learning new things. So our personality is constantly changing.

We are still ‘being ourselves’ but differently.

Harp's avatar

When people say “Be yourself”, they really mean don’t attempt to put up a false front so as to make others have a certain impression of you. It’s the element of pretense, of playing a role, wearing a disguise.

What you’re calling “self-improvement” is a different matter altogether. It starts with the very sound conviction that we’re not beings written in stone. We’re fluid, adaptable, and responsive. Our harmful habits and problematic aspects of our character are, more often than not, just failures on our part to flow/adapt/respond because we’re stuck in some particular way of being. Working on loosening those knots of thought and behavior isn’t a matter of putting on a show to deceive others; it’s a return to our fluid nature.

mattbrowne's avatar

Mid-term only authentic self-improvement will be successful.

Silhouette's avatar

Being yourself implies knowing and fixing your flaws.

judyprays's avatar

Have you heard this prayer?—>

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I think self improvement is learning how to be yourself – how to embrace the truths of your character and make them work for you, not against you.
For example, establishing the difference between difficult truths (I have more enthusiasm than energy/time) and bad habits (I commit to too much).

mattbrowne's avatar

@judyprays – The serenity prayer is wonderful! I think about it quite often and it has helped me in my life.

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