Like most things in life, there will be the good and the bad, the bright and dark sides. Personal development is no different. Just like roses that are beautiful with a wonderful fragrance but can have thorns that can pierce your skin, personal development can be the catalyst to bring lasting positive change in your life or can leave you feeling drained, second-guessing every decision and stuck in a loop of perfectionism and comparison.
What is Personal Development?
According to Wikipedia, “personal development consists of activities that develop a person’s capabilities and potential, build human capital, facilitate employability, and enhance the quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations.” Personal development is the bridge that closes the gap between who you are and who you aspire to be. It can strengthen your mind, body, spirit, and bank account. It can take many shapes and forms. However, the centralized message is: You were meant for more, and personal development activities, philosophies, and actions can get you there!
In and of itself, this is not a negative message. After all, if you are reading this, chances are you are a bit of a personal development nerd like me. However, there is a warning that should go along with this message that you should be aware of.
The Dark Side of Personal Development
The dark side of personal development revolves around the notion that you are not enough. You have to start this journey with self-esteem, knowing that deep down inside, you are sufficient. You want to be a bit better. Also, you can choose the areas of life you seek to improve without constantly comparing yourself to others. Now, can you honestly do this? If so, you are a great candidate for personal development.
5 Booby Traps to Avoid on Your Personal Development Journey
- The Magic Pill Trap: We all love a one-size-fits-all magic pill to take our cares away. You know, the magic formula that will make us smarter, prettier, wealthier, healthier, stronger, etc. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist. Personal development is a self-improvement process that takes time, effort, and planning. Some areas improve overnight, and others require more time, action, and consistency. You may experience ups and downs. This is normal, but if you are not mentally prepared, the disappointment of “not smashing that goal in 10 minutes” can take you out. All pain isn’t bad, nor dysfunctional. Growth is usually not painless. As you progress your development plan, expect to fall a bit so that you can get back up stronger.
- The Disappointment Trap: As mentioned above, disappointment is part of the change and growth process. How you deal with disappointment can either make or break you. Like we have a first aid kit for unexpected accidents, creating a disappointment kit can help us recover faster and get on with the process. Make a shortlist of those activities that can bring you back from the depths when needed. This list may include talking with a trusted friend or mentor, journaling, going for a long walk in the woods, taking a hot bath, etc.
- The Perfection Trap: If you have tendencies towards perfectionism, pay attention here. Perfectionism is a trap. However, many perfectionists are drawn to personal development to one day achieve the perfect mindset, body, face, relationship, fortune, etc. Perfectionism is a trap because as soon as you attain the level you so desire, you will reach for the next, never actually finding any contentment. As mentioned above, disappointments are part of the process, but if you seek perfection, those disappointments can become magnified and derail your progress. This thinking can cause you to give up on your aspirations by thinking that you somehow missed the boat and should just stop trying. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is a game, and you must figure out your next move. See perfectionism for what it is, and don’t allow it to cause you to throw in the towel.
- The Cutting All the Toxic People Trap: Toxic people are a dime a dozen. Some may need to be cut out of your life, but maybe not all of them. Better yet, you might need a better definition of “toxic.” Just because someone doesn’t share your opinion on every topic under the sun doesn’t mean they are necessarily toxic. They may just be different. If you surround yourself with yes people, what does that say about your desire to grow? Groupthink is one of the foundations for cult membership. Do yourself a favor as you continue to grow and broaden your horizons. Remember, what you don’t know, you don’t know. Don’t label someone as “toxic” just because they have a mind of your own.”
- The Self Judgement Trap: Remember that you will always be your strongest critic. This doesn’t mean that you should judge yourself harshly. The process of self-improvement requires honest assessment, not self-judgment, and there is a big difference. Honest assessment requires gentleness and humility. On the other hand, self-judgment is harsh and unforgiving. Think about how you talk to yourself about yourself. This exercise will leave clues as to whether you are self-assessing or judging. Judgment is the work of the ego. Self-assessment is the work of grace. Which one do you think is more effective?
These traps of the dark side of personal development are pretty standard. So don’t beat yourself up if you see yourself falling for one or more of these booby traps. We all have at some time or another. The critical thing to remember is that personal development is a process that takes time, effort, and practice. It is intended for your growth, not your downfall.
Personal development can enhance your life in many ways. So don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Stick with it. It will be so worth it in the end.
Be well + prosper,
P. S. If you feel overwhelmed by the world of personal development, let’s see if I can help.