5 Self-Improvement Habits That Are Draining and Harmful to You

Self-improvement is not a new phenomenon for human beings. It’s been shown in advertising commercials and just generally seeing people living “better” lives than us. However it’s picked up a lot of steam in terms of popularity in recent years, from Rich Dad Poor Dad to The Secret.

From the Napoleon Hills in the last century to the Tony Robbins of today, self-help and self-improvement has achieved a cult following. This pursuit of more and better things, whether they be better health, clothes or money has been normalized but to the detriment of people’s well-being. It’s almost embarrassing to not be hustling, improving yourself in any way or sacrificing yourself for the title of a hustler who made it to the top.

This mindset is twisting society’s views and not letting people have a sense of peace in stillness or in the awesomeness of who they are. We all love the story of the underdog who made it because we feel like we can do it too. And that’s a powerful belief to have. But the self-improvement culture can make us feel disempowered like we should be someone else, so here are 5 time-wasting self-improvement habits that are harmful to you. 

  1. Extremely High and Unrealistic Expectations

There’s nothing wrong with setting goals. In fact, having them means you have something to work towards and can place your energy into. 

However, when we’re trying to elevate ourselves, we can and often do compare ourselves to people who we idolize and whose lives seem so much more beautiful and better than ours. We end up comparing our successes and creating wild expectations of how we want to be where they are in the same amount of time or the same way.

We may even subconsciously start adopting their ideals and expectations for themselves. This is a harmful habit because we are not focused on ourselves and our enjoyment of life, we are too busy trying to achieve other people’s ideals. We need to define our own ideals and make our own goals, forsaking all comparisons to others’ success because comparing yourself to other people is an insult to you. You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to be real and you need to be yourself.

  1. The Hustle Culture Mentality 

“While they’re asleep, I’m grinding.” Not everyone is a night owl and is able to grind at night. Maybe you work the night shift and that’s why. 

Silliness aside, these quotes about how you must never give up, you must constantly hustle and you need to sacrifice your sleep are actually damaging. While I can see how this mentality might be trying to motivate you to keep going, it’s more of a stick method than a carrot method (although, some people thrive with the stick method). 

Sometimes, you need to give up and it’s not a bad thing. It can be heartbreaking and tough, but it’s necessary especially and if it’s not working out or it’s draining you. Not everything is going to be successful and that’s normal. As much as there are people who have to support themselves and/or others and work many hours, constantly hustling without taking moments for yourself to get your bearings leads to devastating burnout. And sleep shouldn’t have to be sacrificed for your goal to be achieved. Quality sleep is a vital part of wellness and enjoying life.

  1. Putting Aesthetics Over Health

Social media is an in between tool when it comes to self-improvement and also almost everything else. It has helped a lot of people to change their lives for the better but it’s also definitely distorted how we see ourselves and each other, especially physically. 

We have been sold this idea of our bodies looking a certain way as a measure of desirability and importance instead of them being a certain way as a measure of people looking how they naturally look and promoting healthy lifestyles and practices. Women are implored to get dangerous, unnecessary cosmetic surgery and men are told to be jacked and in the gym by any means for those gains.

Our bodies are not trends that we should be ashamed of and indoctrinated into plucking, plumping and injecting for social media likes and strangers validation. You can look “good” but not actually be good healthwise. Being obsessed with how you look in the mirror really eats away at your progress and self esteem. Your desire for self improvement becomes overshadowed by insecurities about your body and that’s a hard mindset to come out of. 

  1. Information Without Application 
“Education is the passport for the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Malcolm X

We weren’t all told this, but we never stop learning. Whether it’s higher learning institutions, books or life experiences, there is no end to it. I think that’s pretty good. We have so many varied, cool interests and access to learning more about them and enjoying our lives. That’s a beautiful thing. 

A problem we have is the ocean-deep amount of information and knowledge available to us, constantly and without fail. Ads and campaigns that promote whatever someone is selling. This is a big thing, especially in the self-improvement or self-help industry. There are so many books and new ones keep coming out. 

All of these “how to’s” are helpful but this information overload has a downside to it. Instead of implementing what we’ve been taught, we instead just keep it in our minds or let it gather dust on our bookshelves and bedside tables. It’s not a jab at anyone but as powerful as knowledge is, applied knowledge is the best kind. Don’t be afraid to implement what you’ve learned into the world. 

  1.  Visualizations Without Action

Dreaming about what we want to be or have in our lives is something we’ve been doing since we were kids. We saw ourselves as painters and pilots and we drew everyday and we played “airplane” with our friends and we were so happy and excited for our future. 

Visualizations are a great tool for creating the life that you want by putting it out in the universe/God or the nothingness too by seeing it in your mind’s eye in detail and getting hyped about it. It’s a good motivation for when you need to tap into your willpower reserves. Self-improvement gurus tell us to plan the life we want by using visualization in its different forms. 

It becomes an issue when you only “put it out there” and fantasize about it with nothing in between to bridge the gap of it eventually reaching you. You end up lacking in the action of bringing it about. As much as you can dream of the best life you could ever dream of that you deserve, if it lacks the structure and execution in reality, it’s only a mirage. You have to actually do it

Do I think that self improvement is a good thing? Yes, it can be. But some practices of the culture are harmful and need to be addressed and we need to stop treating each other and ourselves as work horses who only have tunnel vision based on working and improving themselves into oblivion. It’s okay to hustle, but please don’t forget to flow


C, W., 2019. 5 ways personal development makes your life worse, not better. Medium. Available at: https://bettermarketing.pub/5-ways-personal-development-makes-your-life-worse-not-better-1ad6dbe75a5c [Accessed September 7, 2021]. 

Fulton, W., 2021. Why you shouldn’t waste your time on self-improvement. Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/elevate-yourself/why-you-shouldnt-waste-your-time-on-self-improvement-6353c2953094 [Accessed September 7, 2021]. 

Lynch, M., 2020. Why constant self-improvement may be bad sometimes. Lifehack. Available at: https://www.lifehack.org/882457/constant-self-improvement [Accessed September 7, 2021]. 

Marino, A., 2021. 6 popular SELF-IMPROVEMENT tips that are a waste of time! I Am Alpha M. Available at: https://alpham.com/6-popular-self-improvement-tips-that-are-a-waste-of-time/ [Accessed September 7, 2021]. 

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