Working on yourself — examining what you do, why you do it, and how you could do better — is a thankless job.
It isn’t just the difficulty of the work, although that can be brutal. Painful. Humiliating. Exhausting.
No, it’s the fact that working on yourself has a way of inevitably changing your perspective. And even if you adopt an improved, healthy perspective, there are tons of unpleasant side effects. For starters, you’ll find that you relate differently to nearly everyone in your life. Some of these relationships will be bolstered, stronger, and much improved as a result of your work on yourself.
But other preexisting relationships (whether friendly, familial, romantic, or otherwise) will suffer terribly from the changes in you. Even if you were repairing dysfunction, you may very well find that those interpersonal relationships were dependent on that dysfunction. Some people need you sick to find you useful and want you around.
It’s an unsettling thought, but it’s reality. And before I went through it myself, I couldn’t have guessed which of my interpersonal relationships would thrive with the self-work and which ones would totally explode.
That said, it was a mercy, learning the difference between people who genuinely cared about me and those who were in it primarily for themselves. It was valuable information, and I’m glad I know.
But learning was so painful.
And that wasn’t the only difficult side effect. I also found that the more I worked on myself, the more aware I was of other things I needed to work on. Self-improvement isn’t a one-and-done proposition. Instead, it’s been a complicated journey — and I mean it. Not “journey” is an earth mother, woo-woo, pseudo-mystical sense… but a long harrowing trip through the wilderness.
At times, I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to return from it in one piece.
So I get it. I get why it’s difficult for people to examine themselves and attempt to improve. It’s worlds easier to find justifications for what you do, to stay within your comfort zone, and to not do painful (though transformational) work.
Working on yourself is a thankless job. And as you do that work, you may very well find yourself questioning whether you should be doing it at all.
So I’m here to tell you what I wished I could have told my past self, what I needed so desperately to hear: Yes. Don’t give up. It’s worth it.