Rohan Swamy looks at whether the idea of self-improvement comes with an inherent collateral cost.
‘Self-Improvement is born out of inherent depression.’ This was life advice given to me by a homeless man during one of my long sojourns along the Grand Canal. While I cannot stress enough on the irony of a homeless man giving me advice on self-improvement, there was a lot of truth in what he said.
To understand the complexities associated with self-improvement in the modern times, one needs to understand the knee-jerk reaction that leads to it. An interesting point to that opinion is this quote from Batman Begins: ‘People need dramatic examples to shake them out of their apathy.’ Self-improvement in the modern times is born out of this dramatic example that people are given – either collectively or individually. It forces them to alter their ways of living and upgrade to a better version of the self.
But does this form of dramatic, example induced, self-improvement actually help people to come out of their individual ruts cleanly? Or is it a quick fix? We cannot deny the fact that the new world is inhibited by an instant gratification generation. And self-improvement, which is a long, arduous journey that a person must undertake, to the depths of the self requires booster shots of gratification by those around in order to reach there. That is why if the agenda is weight loss, then gym-selfies become a norm. If the agenda is to understand melancholy (as an emotion), then an image of a solitary path, with an equally solitary quote is the norm. There are different versions to this form of self-improvement, and each one brings along with it its own booster pack.
Is this damaging or derogatory to the idea of self-improvement itself? It depends on the perspective really. If gym-selfies and likes on Instagram are helping you reach the fabulous
body which you have always dreamed of, then what is the harm in it? If posting melancholic pictures or quotes helps you achieve a goal, then by all means. History has been witness to the fact that reaching the end-station is important and not the road taken to reach it. The only problem that does arise is when you start abusing a particular booster pack for quicker self-improvement. The idea of reaching a goal using booster packs for motivation is also anarchic because I am yet to validate its effects for the long term.
Self-improvement largely now has changed from being a journey to being a goal. And the problem with goals is that they are accomplished and cease to exist, unlike journeys, which keep showing you new facets to your own self. As mentioned earlier, the idea of self-improvement itself depends on how you see it and how it is born. If it is born out of a dramatic example, then booster pack-laden goals are the way to go forward improving the self. The long term effects of those will be measured as and when they come along. Perhaps there will be a new booster pack available then, to give a new high, to provide a new level of the self-improvement goal.
For those who consider themselves sentinels in a world of millennials, the idea of walking the long road out of perdition to the depths of the self to understand it, is a more organic form of self-improvement. While I do not wish to debate the pros and cons anymore for either of the two methods, a long walk to freedom does sound pleasing to my old soul.