Is self-improvement selfish?
Happy March! March sure sounds warmer than February. We’ll get there…
What I’ve been thinking about this week was prompted by a podcast I listened to: “Is self-improvement too selfish?” It resonated with me because a lot of what I’m involved in is in helping people to improve in areas they’ve chosen. Not to mention the time and energy I put towards my own personal goals! We are drawn towards these endeavours because they make us feel good. About ourselves mostly. So, is there any greater value to all of the time and energy we put towards ourselves?
After mulling it over, I think the main answer is Yes. But with an asterisk. There is the overused analogy of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others. I think that holds true with things like “self-improvement”. It is hard to reach out to others and care about our communities and put real emotional effort and energy into changing injustices we see in the world if we are ourselves unstable and hanging from a cliff. For many of us, the energy we put into running (and swimming, and cycling, and other…) helps us to feel righted and grounded and able to be our best selves so that we can turn our “self-improvement” into “helping others”. Whether that means giving us confidence so we can show up at work with more to contribute, giving us emotional breathing space so we can come back and have more to give to our emotionally needy loved ones (anyone else here dealing with teens??), or just making us feel happy and optimistic – which is the best precursor for getting off your butt and trying to tackle any seemingly insurmountable crisis.
I think the big key here is to continually zoom out and keep your goals and your processes in check. We can start along a path that has all the best purposes and ideals, and at some point we can lose sight of the fact that the end goal isn’t for us to achieve personal glory and be put on a pedestal. It is for us to show up better for those around us. And if your training starts holding you back from that or taking away from how you show up for your community and loved ones, you may want to take a little step back and re-evaluate your goals and processes. It doesn’t mean you’re “failing” in achieving your athletic goals. It means you’re “succeeding” in life.
So, is self-improvement too selfish? It can be we if let it be. But I do think that if you invest in yourself you have more to invest in others. There is a wisdom of self-knowledge and kindness of spirit I seem to recognize often in runners and endurance athletes. And I do think the world would be a better place if there were more runners. So I like to think I’m trying to make the world a better place – one runner at a time.
On to tomorrow’s workout!
Pottery Road baby! Here’s the drill:
- 6-9 of them. First three easy up, fast down. Then switch to hard up, easy down. (Boston ppl this is a great one for you)
- People racing this spring: take 3-4 mins at the top, then finish with 8 min tempo (can be on your way home if that works).
I will aim to be there around 6:05-ish. Just start when you get there and we’ll see you on the hill!
Thanks for this thoughtful post Seanna! It really resonated with me.
I learned a quote from a podcast today – the first two lines made me think of your post:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
-Hillel the Elder
My takeaway: We have to look after ourselves – our needs and wants and interests – but not to the exclusion of everyone else.
Love that quote! Thanks for sharing 🙂