I recently saw a video of a woman talking about how bad self-development can be and it should be avoided at all costs. She went on about other things that seemed extreme, so I immediately dismissed it. This video bothered me for days. I just couldn’t shake the part about self-development and wondered why it triggered me.
Perhaps it’s because I have been a student of self development for as long as I can remember. The books, the courses, the workshops, oh my! I don’t remember a day I haven’t made self-development a part of my daily routine. I love soaking up ideas and tools that can help me become the best version of me. I have learned to stretch and challenge myself. I’ve even written and published a self-development book! How can self-development be a negative thing?
Self-development has become a popular trend in recent years, with many individuals seeking to improve themselves and achieve their goals through various techniques. So I asked the question, “How can self-development be harmful?” Here is what I found.
While self-development can undoubtedly have its benefits, such as increased self-awareness, confidence, and motivation, there is a potential downside that is often overlooked: a focus on self can lead to a disconnection from others. Which can lead to unhappiness.
If self-development has been the trend in recent years, why is it that people feel less happy now? Gallup has been polling Americans on how they are feeling about different aspects of life and policy issues for the last two decades. Just this year, across those 29 different measurements, 38% of Americans say they’re satisfied in life.
In today’s world, we are bombarded with messages that emphasize the importance of self-care, self-improvement, and self-actualization. However there is barely a whisper about the importance of connecting with others or how to improve the community in which you live.
Self-development often places a significant emphasis on individual achievement and personal success. While this can be motivating and empowering, it can also create a culture of individualism. This can lead to a lack of connection and empathy towards others, which can have negative consequences on our relationships and overall well-being.
Furthermore, self-development can create a narrow focus on individual achievement, where the measure of success is often based on external factors such as wealth, status, and material possessions. This narrow focus can lead to a sense of competition and comparison with others, further isolating us from the connections that are vital to our emotional and mental health.
Human beings are social creatures, and our connections with others are essential for our well-being and happiness. It can provide us with a sense of purpose and belonging. When we focus too much on self-development, we risk neglecting the connections that are vital to our emotional and mental health. The Roots Of Loneliness Project found that in 2022, 52% of Americans reported feeling lonely and 47% of people reported that their relationships with others are not meaningful.
I was on a plane from Miami to Boston a few weeks ago when I met the sweetest twin girls who were in their early twenties. They were originally from New York but were currently living in the Boston area. As we spoke about the adjustment from leaving home and moving to another state, one of them said, “We are finding it really difficult to make friends. It seems like no one wants a friend.” In other recent conversations, I have heard similar comments from other young people. I have heard, “I don’t really have time to invest in friends.” Even from an eleven year old who said, “I don’t need friends, I have everything I need.” So do we really need each other or is it just one more thing we can take off our endless to do lists?
The Harvard Study of Adult development learned that it is close relationships, not money, intelligence or one’s genetic makeup, that creates lifetime happiness. By prioritizing connection with others, we can develop a sense of empathy, compassion, and understanding towards others. This can lead us to build more meaningful relationships as well as a more fulfilling life.
There are also many studies that have shown correlation between relationships and your life span. A recent 2002 study published in the Annual Review of Public Health on lifespan by BYU psychology professor, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, found that relationships matter more than genetics when it comes to aging well and longevity.
Let that sink in. Relationships can provide you more happiness, health and longevity.
So what do we do? Self-development and connection with others are not mutually exclusive. It’s possible to prioritize self-development while also prioritizing connections with others. Finding a balance between these two goals is crucial for achieving long-term success and happiness. This shift in focus can provide a sense of purpose and connection while also allowing us to grow and develop as individuals. It’s a win- win!
So can we cheer each other on while we are trying to become the best version of ourselves? Can we be friends? I would really like that! You can find me here: http://www.AutumnShields.com. If you aren’t feeling the nudge to reach out to me, please do something to better yourself today and connect with someone else in a meaningful way.