Don’t Leave “Self” Out of Self-Improvement

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, September 23, 2020
By Kristen Overholt, LMHC

When you hear “self-improvement,” what comes to mind?  Self-improvement can mean so many different things for each of us.  One thing all definitions should have in common is “the improvement of the SELF for the SELF.”

Have you ever wanted to improve your self-care, whether it’s being healthier, having better time management, working on your physical fitness, being more self-aware, or being more productive with your daily life, but it just doesn’t stick?  A big question you might want to ask yourself is “why “and “who are you making these changes for.”  In my personal experiences with self-improvement, I’ve noticed when the answer to those questions is not “for me” it’s much more difficult to start and maintain the self-improvement I’m working on.

inner child door knob holder

For seven years I worked as a recovery coach and a therapist with individuals suffering from eating disorders.  My main goal was to help them regain the love for themselves and focus on ways to improve their overall health and happiness within themselves.

Whether you’re a mom, a daughter, a son, a father, or a friend, most of us alter our lives in some way in order to please someone else.  But, sometimes we forget to change for us and our own self-improvement. It makes me laugh – the hardest person to be nice to and to do things for is actually ourselves. Sure, it’s hard to be selfish, but in reality, if you aren’t selfish then how will you be productive in the life you live.

Going back to working in the field of eating disorders; I struggled with my own eating disorder for many years throughout both middle and high school. Whether I was over-exercising to continue being a top athlete, restricting to fit into my prom dress, or the mold I compared my body to, in the end, all my behaviors over the years were for someone else or a reason outside of myself.

When I finally told myself enough was enough, I realized that the only person I was hurting, was me. This is when my journey into self-improvement and self-care really began. I knew I needed to make a change for me and only me.  And this is still the journey I’m on with its ups and downs.

My go-to self-improvement staples are my physical fitness and my self-awareness. In the past 10 years, amongst other things, I have become a wife, a mother, and a licensed mental health therapist. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve lost myself at times throughout the years and didn’t prioritize my own self-improvement.  At times, as a wife, I would do things in order to fit the role of “perfect wife.”  Great, but not realistic, as there is no such thing as “perfect.”

Becoming a licensed therapist was actually a great motivator for me to work on my self-awareness and really learn who I was on a different level. Lastly, becoming a mother probably challenged me the most.  It pushed me to put my self-care on the back burner. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 20-month-old son and honestly, I just now started prioritizing my fitness and my self-awareness again.  This also means that I started to put my own happiness as a priority. My family will always come first, but if I don’t take care of myself then I can’t be the best version of myself for them.

My final advice is 1) Always prioritize your own self-improvement and self-care even when you feel like you don’t have enough time or energy to do it. If you and your overall well-being become a top priority, you can always find the time and space. 2) Always try to improve yourself for you and not for an external factor; it just won’t have the same results or same impact.

Don’t forget to put the SELF in self-improvement.