The Paradox of Personal Development

The personal development movement is red hot right now.

There are endless books, blog posts, and Instagram memes telling you all the things you need to do to better yourself.

  • How to manage your time and work less.
  • How to be more productive.
  • How to manifest financial abundance.
  • How to be more mindful.

And a better communicator. How to build wealth. Attract success. How to have satisfying relationships. And be spiritual. And always happy. There are hundreds of books teaching us how to be happy. As if it isn’t ever okay to be sad or upset.

What if we had all these answers already? What if we knew we were enough just as we are? What if it’s less about becoming and more about revealing who we are?

The dark side to personal development is that it’s all based on the premise that we don’t already have all we need. That what we have, and what we are doing with our lives is never good enough. That we don’t already intuitively know the best track for ourselves, and must seek outside for all the answers. That we don’t already possess the tools to be successful, and to have ‘happy’ relationships. That we need to take the advice of someone else, a ‘guru’. What we feel intuitively becomes blocked by all the noise. We begin to believe that we need to be more, and do more.

How about we take a step back and begin to listen to our inner voice. No books. No guru’s. No Instagram memes, trying to teach us what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

The paradox of personal development is that we are believing that we aren’t enough just as we are. That there is someone other than you who knows you better than you know yourself. The other paradox is that the focus is always on ‘I’ and ‘me’ and not on bettering society as a whole, and coming together to help people. To truly make a difference. There is a lot of ego in what is being shared out there. There is a lot of believe that one person’s personal journey, is how everyone should do it.

Here is the truth: We all possess all the tools we need to be our own version of successful, to hold healthy relationships, to feel joy. These are things we are capable of figuring out about ourselves, without being torn in so many different directions. What ends up happening is that we start to believe we are incapable, and that there is someone out there who is already doing all the things better. We start to believe the things we want to do are too out of reach, or too many steps. Or we find there is just too much information and it’s too complicated, so we step away or give up. The personal development movement is teaching us that we aren’t capable of developing ourselves. That someone else holds all your answers.

The idea that we need to continuously develop ourselves leads us to believe that we are inadequate as we are, and require more. That we require doing more and being more than we already are. That you need to seek outside help, in order to be the ‘best version of yourself’. However, you hold all the tools to make the best decisions for yourself. You already are all you need to be, right here, right now. There is nothing you need to prove to yourself, or to anyone else. We are all right where we need to be in our development. We learn through making our own mistakes, and taking our own chances. We learn through having trust in ourselves, and committing to the people and things that matter most to us.

We all have a personal navigator within in. An inner wisdom, a voice that knows what we need. We all know ourselves better than anyone else. There is not a single person that can tell you better what choices to make, what paths to take, what communication method works best for you. All you have to do is silence all the noise. The noise just leads us down paths that might not make the most sense for us, and ultimately may distract us from focusing on what we are truly drawn too.

Personal development can be a good thing. It can help spark creativity, and give us ideas and useful tools. However, we need to take it with much less weight, and begin to look inward for more of our answers. We live in an age where there is a lot of noise. Distractions are everywhere. Advice is everywhere. Personal development is the newest, biggest thing, and I believe it is undermining our ability to be our own navigator, and make the best choices for ourselves.

Kathryn Kos is a mama of two boys, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), and a freelance writer/editor. She has written for Paleo Magazine, Mark’s Daily Apple, and Elephant Journal. She has a passion for the paleo lifestyle (not just nutrition, but also sleep, sunlight, play, movement, and grounding), as well as infant and child nutrition. Kathryn loves packing Steve’s Paleo snacks in her kiddos school lunches! You can read more of her work at Primal Bliss Nutrition



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