Lessons from nature
As I’ve often been riding my bike along the lake and through various parks and nature trails, I couldn’t help but realize the many different sizes, shapes, and varieties of trees that grace the Chicago landscape – providing different smells, textures, shade, and beauty. Could you imagine a world where we defined one tree as ‘perfect’ and all the others in need of self-improvement?
Yet we somehow expect – and even demand it of ourselves.
Also, a few weeks ago I wrote a guest blog on Over 50 & Thriving titled “Just the Way I Am” and then I completed the “101 things to do in 1095 days” list. These two posts got me thinking about the idea of self-improvement – and wondering if we aren’t perpetuating negative attitudes and reinforcing old tapes that convince us we just aren’t good enough.
In creating my list, I intentionally chose the headings ‘professional fulfillment’ and ‘personal fulfillment’ to avoid the term ‘self-improvement’ – a word that makes me cringe – because word connotations matter.
Improvement is a judgment that implies a lack, something is not good enough, a need to be better.
Fulfillment, on the other hand, implies a sense of happiness and satisfaction. And you can be happy and still continue to find new ways to be happy.
The concept of self-improvement feeds the perfectionism that chips away at self-esteem, destroys self-confidence, and keeps us from trying new things – for fear of failure. But unless we go around treating people poorly – disrespecting others; lying, cheating, stealing; living with no integrity – do we really need to improve?
If you do intentionally hurt others, then by all means – please re-evaluate and find ways to self-improve!
But if we don’t set out to do others harm, would the efforts we make to stay healthy, try new experiences, stretch our horizons – actually be more about being content than they are about becoming perfect?
Even the word perfect gets a bad rap. The word has several definitions – but somehow we landed on the ‘without flaw or fault’ as THE definition. What if we focused on the meaning, ‘highly suitable and just right for someone’ – or ‘having the desired elements, qualities, or characteristics’?
If we consider perfection from that angle — then we can view different aspects of our personality, the different stages of our lives, various experiences, and even mistakes – as perfect at that time, given our specific circumstances.
Please join the conversation – do you really need to focus on self-improvement or are you ‘just right’ and looking instead for continued self-fulfillment?