Why self-improvement makes you neurotic

REPRISE-CIRCLE4I’m about to make a major admission of error. I am hereby fessing up to a seriously flawed paradigm that has informed much of my adult life, and, (crap, sorry, apologies in advance) too much of what I’ve espoused.

I’ve come to this revelatory humility through two important practices in my life: 1) getting ready to go on stage 2) yoga.

Like most speakers, I have a pre-presentation ritual. I review my notes, usually just a few points written on a Moleskine page; I speak my best bits out loud (it’s essential to hear your own voice); I do sit ups (helps with core awareness and diaphragm flex); and I do some fire breathing and a few Kundalini yoga/Kung Fu moves. Once I get on my heels, I’m READY.

But here’s what I noticed: a tributary of subtle panic streaming through my preparation. It’s slight, but just a drop of panic can taint pure intentions. It’s as if, in my power breathing and ritual and I’m saying to God, “I just wanna be good enough. Make me worthy. Make me better, better, better!” Oy.

I’ve had it all wrong. All these years…all the prostrations, prayers, mala bead counting, deep breathing, self help literature, workshops, visualizations, affirmations, asanas, training, and goddamn vision boards…Good rituals, not so good motivation. Right motion, wrong intention. And intention is EVERYTHING.

Intention is everything.

This revelation started brewing in a hotel room as I was preparing to give a talk. And it shimmered into liberating clarity on the yoga mat a few days later when I felt, as I often do these days, that transcendent kind of energy that eclipses your fatigue and vanity and has you realize that no matter what — at all times, in fact — the resplendent super juice of life itself is not only accessible, it’s pulsing…in me…in you…in us…for the eternal now.

That leaves very little to fix, and so much to discover.

I can sum up my new approach to progress in one declaration:

“My name is Danielle, and I’m here for my power. Now, please.”


Self improvement infers there’s something wrong with you, so you’re already starting off with a disadvantage.

Of course there’s something to improve — always will be, life is an evolutionary equation. But liberation is about consciously choosing your perspectives, moment to moment. So let’s choose viewpoints that are advantageous and give us warm, fuzzy, encouraging feelings.

You may feel broken, screwed up, neurotic, defective, sub par — take a number. You may be afraid — so very natural. You maybe just be really really excited and you’re labeling it as anxious — easy mistake.

Rather than doing whatever it is that you do to ease, mitigate and transform those states of being as acts of “self improvement” and “getting fixed” or “making better,” what if you approached those rituals and remedies as ways of getting to your power? No fixing and no anxiety, rather, a trip to the Limitless Well of Knowing and Reliable Awareness.

You show up at your therapist’s office to access your power.
You go to church to access your power.
You put on your heels, or your power suit, or your lucky charm to access your power.
You call your friend for advice to access your power.
You pray, dance, let go, breath, unplug, run, bend, drink smoothies, go on retreat, clear the air, ask for help, get enough sleep, get up early, train, set goals, affirm, chant, rock out, climb, hike, sweat to…

…access your power.


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