I hate the term self-improvement. Even the term personal development is slightly dodgy, though I use it for want of anything better. Why do I resist these terms?

Because you don’t ever need to improve yourself. You are just fine. Any problems you are encountering are not about your essential self; they are about the way you have adapted to what life has thrown at you.

So many of my clients feel deep down that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, which has to be fixed (and which they fear can’t ever be fixed). I used to feel that way myself, and it’s horrible.

It’s also a crock of sh*t.

No-one needs fixing. No-one is broken. But many of us hold deep set beliefs about ourselves or how we interact with others which cause us repeated pain.

How these blocks get created

Many of these beliefs (and related patterns of behaviour) are created in childhood. When we’re little we reply completely on our care givers not just to look after us, but also to teach us about how things work. If their world view is distorted, we pick that up too. We may well realise that something isn’t right, but we assume that the problem lies within us. That’s safer than recognising that those we completely rely on are fallible, or even toxic.  As we grow up, we may discard some of these beliefs and perspectives as we see them disproved through our own experience. However, very often we hang onto the blocks, and subconsciously seek out experiences which will confirm their truth, and strengthen them further.  

So, for example, if we had parents who found it hard to express love (or didn’t even feel it), we may conclude that this is because we are not loveable. We may then be attracted to partners who are emotionally unavailable, like our parents, and who appear to confirm our deep held belief about ourselves. But, of course, this doesn’t actually mean that we actually ARE unloveable.

Someone in this situation doesn’t need self-improvement to become more loveable. They already are loveable. They need to undo the layers of false programming, and learn to love themselves again. This obviously isn’t a simple, overnight kind of process, but with time, patience and guidance, it is absolutely possible. And it isn’t about fixing them.