In this episode I explore different reasons why personal development might be dangerous or harmful. You might think: "Huh?! Why would it be dangerous?" or "aren't you talking and working around personal development yourself?".
Yes, I am ! And I love personal development, but I also believe it is important to look at the pitfalls so that it doesn't start blocking us for the very thing we want to reach or become.
Enjoy this episode! Listen to Under The Baobab Tree here.
If you want, you can read the transcriptions of Episode 10 of Under The Baobab Tree here:
Welcome Under The Baobab Tree. Today we will talk about the danger of personal development. And you may think, Why would there be a danger? And isn't personal development, the thing you're talking about and working with? Well, as you know, I am a huge fan of personal and spiritual development. But when we start focusing too much on personal development, it can become harmful. And that's what I want to share with you today.
So, first of all, what do I mean with personal development? For me, personal development is anything we do to improve ourselves, our talents, our lives. And this can be learning how to deal with emotions, how to regulate your nervous system, how to work with your mind, and thoughts, how to change habits, make different choices, and so on. All amazing things. Yes, yes. But the biggest pitfall here is that we focus so much on ourselves and what we want to change or improve, that we forget, we already are perfect, the way we are, it can become such a drive or process where we constantly try to fix ourselves, to fix yourself, you know. So in that sense, something is not good enough, needs to be fixed, or can be better.
If I look at my own life, I mean, I'm genuinely intrigued and interested by anything about personal and spiritual development. But at a certain point, it almost became an obsession, as if I would be able to become perfect untouchable, it became more a goal than a process, than a beautiful journey of remembering that it actually is. And so it took me awhile to realize that in a way, all those activities, books, classes, and so on, became my tool to cope, to avoid failure to become more perfect, to fix myself. Because "oh-so-much" that I had to do and learn to become better. And this is not healthy at all. It is the opposite of being kind to yourself, to give yourself love, compassion, understanding or some grace. Some people are able to approach personal development with that understanding and love, but I see many who are hard on themselves too, who beat themselves up. So in case you recognize yourself in this, there might be a wound of perfectionism that is asking to be healed, there might be a fear of failure, or a feeling of not being good enough. That at least was the case for me or something I've been working with, working through. So you know, this is interesting to look at. Not to add on your to do list of self development or to fix yourself, it's more to heal yourself to give yourself love. So it liberates.
The second danger is that we end up in this extreme individualism, where things are our own fault. And don't get me wrong, I believe a lot is in our own hands, I believe we need to take responsibility for how we react on situations in our lives, or how we deal with it. I believe we need to do our best. And that we can do a lot to change our lives. But also, we are not alone in this world. These days, it's often like everything is on your own shoulders, especially in the Western world or with a western mindset. And that nothing is with or on the community shoulders anymore, you know, and it reminds me of the same I once heard, "when everyone takes care of themselves, it is going well with everyone." versus "if everyone takes care of everyone, it is going well with everyone". It's a radical, different worldview, kind of like this individual worldview or this community worldview. And we are living in a world where more and more that community vibe is ebbing away. Meanwhile, many structures and institutions aren't functioning either. So this makes it challenging to change your life just by yourself.
And so bringing it back to personal development now, we are often like, "Yo work on yourself and your life will be better. You're on your own good luck." It is... It feels very sad that we have reached that point. Because actually a lot of healing, development and change can be found in group and community and not alone. It's not always the focus on yourself... me, me, me,... And in a way that even might sound contradictory to my own one on one sessions that I do with clients online. But it isn't, it is an AND AND story and working on yourself, if that feels good to you, and being or finding communities.
Another danger is that you try things out or change in such a way that your relationship with some friends or family members becomes more challenging. You can also feel more alone or isolated because of it. And this is something that happens often, your lifestyle opinions, decisions, boundaries might change. And it is not always aligned with the people who already knew you in a certain way. And in this situation, it's important to stay true to yourself. And to still find the love and connection points with these people who it's more difficult with, if it feels healthy and important, of course, but it can also bring grief. And not everyone is prepared for that, or sees that thing, it can really become a difficult period sometimes.
A fourth danger of personal development is becoming unbalanced, which is in a way also contradictory because often, we start with like working on ourselves to become more balanced in our lives. And it is also like one of the eventual effects. But becoming imbalanced, this can be because you are consuming too much information that is out there. And also consuming all that information can make that you're not really grounded or connected to yourself. It can also be because you're focused on improving one specific area in your life, for example, like just your job, or like your professional life. And then you aren't giving enough attention to other areas, which can also create an imbalance or disbalance.
And last but not least, last danger let's say, is that delving in self development can make you feel less happy or appreciative of what you already have. I also had this sometimes like, for example, "Oh, I'm able to recognize those negative thoughts now. What's next?" Like, there was always a next, always wanting more and never and it never seems to be good how it is. Let alone looking back and seeing your own blessings and achievements. For me, I am so future minded, that I literally need to make it a practice to celebrate my wins, my growth, to look back where I came from and where I am now. And especially to just be and enjoy the moment without needing to go to the next thing again. And even better to experience that being in the now is maybe eventually the real personal development.
Now I've shared those dangers of personal development because eventually they may start blocking you to reach the very things you maybe want to reach or growing. So if you recognize yourself in this, you might want to ask yourself "in which way are these things playing out for me? In which way are they blocking me? And what tiny thing can I do today to bring the balance back? What can I decide? What will I do different from that one? What tiny thing can I do?"
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