This is a guest post from Emma Scheib of simpleslowlovely.com
Hello, my name is Emma, and I am a self-help junkie. I am always searching for ways to improve myself. It’s a thread that’s run through my life since I can remember. But this thread has become a tangled mess over the last 38 years. In my innermost core, where logic mixes beautifully with my heart and soul, I know that self-improvement isn’t a bad thing. And yet I’ve grown up believing that it is.
I’ve grown up believing that self-help is selfish, and an admission of failure. I’m determined to stop this cycle and raise children who will always seek to improve but know that improvement is NEVER perfection.
Perfection is never the goal.
Perfection has been the ever faithful co-conspirer alongside my self-help addiction. Something I’ve always chased, sometimes as if my life depended on it. I have no doubt that this drive stems from my warped perception that once upon a time my life did depend on my perfection.
As a baby given up for adoption at birth, I’ve grown up with a sense that I was not perfect, and therefore was rejected. For the last 38 years, my limbic brain, where the veiled memories of my conception and birth sit, have told me that perfection is the goal. Because when we aren’t perfect, we are rejected.
This strive for perfection has permeated almost all areas of my life. And is, of course, part of the reason why I constantly seek to improve myself. I am literally like a kid in a candy store when I see the newest shiniest ideas on how to be a better person. And yet, very soon after the sugar rush I am hit with a strong sense of guilt and shame for wanting a better me. Guilt because perfection shouldn’t be the goal and also because I am spending time on myself. Shame because I am admitting my imperfections, and also because I fear others will see me as selfish.
Of course, so much of this is simply my perception, and not necessarily what people think. However, these perceptions have also been shaped over the last 38 years by society’s commentary that people who seek to improve themselves are simply navel-gazing. That they are self-indulgent and placing excessive focus on themselves at the expense of the rest of society.
This resistance to change and self-improvement has its roots in the culture I was raised in. The culture that says “she’ll be alright” and believes that whatever is wrong will fix itself… eventually. It’s the culture that has helped produce generation after generation of men (and women) who are ashamed to be vulnerable, ashamed to be seen going to counseling. Ashamed to admit that their way of doing things might need improving.
And I feel the results of this guilt and shame, real or perceived, all the time: in my local library browsing the self-help/psychology section; when I spend an extra 20 minutes doing yoga instead of doing something for the family; when I desperately want to enrol in an online course that helps introverted mums flourish. I feel the guilt and shame so strongly that I don’t visit the section in the library. I do the extra load of washing instead of yoga. I back out of the course at the last moment and decide that it’s not worth it. I’m not worth it.
Well, I’m done. I’m done with the feelings of guilt and selfishness. And I’m done with the never-ending race to perfection. These things are excess baggage in my life journey and won’t be continuing with me.
It’s costing me too much.
And the price of this baggage is far greater than just missed opportunities to change for the better. It’s missed opportunities to engage more meaningfully with the people I call my family. And most importantly, it’s missed opportunities to create powerful examples for my children and stop the cycles of guilt and shame that have permeated my life thus far.
So this is why I need the self-help movement, the self-improvement books, and courses. This is why I won’t shy away from the self-help section of the library anymore! I am far from perfect in EVERY aspect of my life. My failures are many, my faults are big.
But I’m learning to be okay with imperfection AND to hold the courage to change – in the same hand.
I’m making a stand. Self-care, self-help or self-improvement, whatever you want to call it, has always been a part of my life, and always will be. I will do whatever it takes to improve myself. Partly because I desire the best for my children. I have two girls who are growing up with me, the apple of their eye, as their first, and most influential role model. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them anything less than my best, but unashamed imperfect, self.
I want my girls to grow into brave authentic women who are not afraid of vulnerability. I want them to seek and pursue positive changes that will empower them to thrive and succeed. I want them to see that this is all possible, without perfection. It’s possible, even when the world tells us we are self-indulgent or selfish.
And yes, I want them to be unabashed self-help junkies. In fact, I’ll hold their hands and lead them to that section of the library or the bookstore. I’ll show them, by example, that investment in yourself is OK. I will hold their hands as they too cut the threads of guilt and shame.
And together we will create a new cycle of self-care, self-acceptance, and love.
Emma Scheib gained her Masters in Psychology in 2013 and has since worked full time in corporate research positions for government agencies. She recently gave up her “dream job” to pursue being a (happier) mum, living a slower pace of life. She is also dipping her toes back into her long-lost love, creative writing. She writes regularly over at Simple Slow & Lovely, and you can also connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.