Self-Improvement or Self-Realization – How About Both?

February 6, 2018
Carey Cloyd

Self-improvement is a popular topic with whole sections of literature being categorized in this area. How often do we slow down and ask ourselves, “What self is improving?” Many forms of psychotherapy focus on the development of a healthy sense of self, and this has its place in terms of developing aspects of one’s life and experience.

However, it can become an endless task in which there may be a feeling that one has never arrived. Or rather that, as soon as one has arrived, one then sets one’s sights on the next goals and objectives to be obtained, the next milestones to be achieved.

This experience may have its place in a functional sense, yet we can sometimes get so caught up in doing and achieving that we forget to rest, listen and relax – to be open to whatever may be arising in the moment, unbound by conceptual frameworks or presuppositions.

Self-realization is of keen interest to some spiritual seekers who endeavor to realize the Self which may be forgotten or ignored through an absorption with thought and body identification. With the deconstruction that typically occurs in this process, there may be a devaluing of the relative human experience in time and space.

It is possible to value both Self-realization and Self-improvement. Self-improvement can shift once the Self is being realized moment to moment. Rather than a deficient sense of being someone who needs to change in certain ways to become good enough, there can be a sense of wholeness and perfection which lovingly includes the imperfections and messiness of our relative human lives. This allows for a natural improvement and growth that emerges from and within it, in the same way that a lotus flowers emerges from the mud.

Carey Cloyd, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and Marin. She has been co-coordinator for the Nondual Wisdom & Psychology Conference at CIIS since 2009. The theme of this year’s conference is “The Transformative Power of Relationship” focusing specifically on the relationship between therapist-client and teacher-student. For more information on the outstanding lineup of guest speakers at the conference, click here.


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