Toxic Vs. Healthy Self Development: My Advice

Maddie Johnson , Staff Writer

What is Self Development?
Self development is defined as the process by which a person’s character or abilities are gradually developed. In a more general sense, it can be described as working hard to better ourselves through goal setting and lifestyle changes, both internal and external. I believe that those internal, mindset-based changes are the most important and will cause long-lasting results. You have probably seen trends of self development on social media, and it seems to be a very popular topic right now. The idea of “that girl” is: a girl who works out, eats healthy, lives in an aesthetically pleasing environment, posts lots of flattering pictures of herself, and has good fashion sense, which has taken the internet by storm. The idea of “glowing up” is: drastically changing your appearance through various spa treatments, new clothes, and makeup which has also been a popular trend online. How much of these trends are motivating, and how much do they really promote fixation and comparison? By following the steps to become “that girl” and “glowing up” can you really improve your quality of life, or is something more needed? In general, it is normal to change, especially in high school. It is also common to create new goals at the beginning of a new school year. The important thing is to do these things in a responsible, sustainable way.

What Self Development Should Be
Self love: desiring to be the best version of yourself because you want to be, not because you feel like you have to be. This can be done through remembering your worth as a child of God.
An internal shift: how you feel on the inside in terms of how your life is going, how happy you are, how healthy you feel
A little bit uncomfortable: you will feel a little bit uncomfortable as you work to move from where you were before to where you want to be, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming and tiring.

What Self Development Should NOT Be
Aesthetic: how things look on the outside do not always reflect what is happening on the inside, self development should not be solely an external shift or “glow up.”
Based on what other people are doing: what you see on social media, what other people recommend may be the opposite of what you need to do to feel your best.
Easy: if it is easy, you probably have way more room to grow, and you may not be making lasting changes.
Problem free: get rid of the idea that once you reach a certain point, you will always be happy and you will never have problems. You can’t control the world around you, no matter how much you feel like you are winning at life.

How Self Development Can Become Toxic
When you are changing yourself to meet the standards of other people instead of how you want yourself to be, this will in the end cause you much more stress and pain. We all know the quote “Be who you are and be that well,” from St. Francis de Sales. This can also be applied to self development, because each person’s journey will be unique and each person will be trying to reach a certain goal based on who they are. Copying what other people are doing (habits, goals, lifestyle) even if that isn’t what you want to do or just trying to be like everyone else instead of solely making your life better is self sabotage. When you are working so hard on self-development that it is stealing your joy, it will become toxic. You do not have to be put together or happy all of the time, and you should not force yourself to keep going before trying to address any problems and feel better. Bottling it up will only cause greater difficulties in the future. When we make self development too selfish (it does include the word ‘self’ after all), we will never be able to use our joy and peace that we found to help others. If we are doing all that we are doing only for ourselves, there is truly nothing to be doing it for. How we ate, looked, and felt is important but not long lasting: we will die and those external things will pass away. Our actions in the world and how we affected others will, however, last forever. And finally, when you are solely basing self development on what you see on social media, this is an ineffective form of improvement. Social media is a highly edited highlight reel that does not provide realistic standards for us to live up to, and we need to be careful not to make those standards our reality.

My Advice, Encouragement & Suggested Reading!
You should only start working on self development when you feel ready, not because you feel pressured to. You should do it because you love yourself enough to take your life to another level and take care of yourself more. If you try to start before you are ready, it will be much harder to keep going because you will lack motivation. You will be motivating yourself more when you know why you want to get to a certain goal and how much you truly want it. A really great practice is journaling because it can help you to collect your thoughts and analyze what you might be feeling or why you have certain reactions. Journaling can also help you to determine whether or not you are ready to work on yourself, or if you need to address other issues in your life first. You can write about why you truly want to set goals for yourself to determine the root of what you want. I personally set small goals for myself that relate to a larger goal and change each month. This helps me to have more motivation, because I can start over 12 times a year, and the beginning of a month can remind me to refocus. Additionally, my faith is also a huge part of what I try to develop. Once I decided that I wanted to improve myself, I also noticed that my relationship with Jesus got a lot stronger, and I started to incorporate faith-based goals into each month. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41). Some things that we wish to do we need more help with, we can’t do it on our own. Jesus wants to help us feel happier and better about ourselves, and He is waiting for us to ask for help. If we improve our relationship with God, we will start to see other things fall into place. Doing everything that seems right, like taking care of ourselves and our minds, we will still feel that something is missing: the peace and joy that Jesus wants to bring to our lives.
I love reading, and I have read some really great books this past year that talk about self development that might be interesting/inspiring for you too!
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Jacques Philippe
Some final quotes to leave you with:
“Happiness is not how many things you do, but how well you do them.” -Brianna Wiest
“How many young people, for example, hesitate to give their lives entirely to God because they do not have the confidence that God is capable of making them completely happy. And they seek to assure their own happiness by themselves and they make themselves sad and unhappy in the process.” -Jacques Philippe
“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.” -Charles Duhigg