I am going to hit the next person who gives one of the following ideas as personal development advice (this is bad, considering I’m an otherwise peaceful person):
- Just be more confident;
- Just be yourself;
- Just be more positive;
- Just be calmer.
Just, just, just. It just doesn’t work that way! There is a tone of self-improvement advice out there starting with the word “just” and then suggesting some pretty dramatic personal change, as if it’s simple as going to the supermarket.
With most of these ideas, we are addressing something which is more than just a behavior. We are addressing an attitude. Being confident is not just a way you act, talk and look. It’s a habitual way of thinking and reacting emotionally to various life situations, which is ingrained in your personality. To use some big and resonating words, it’s a complex psychological structure.
What does it take to change such psychological structures? Over time, I came to believe there is no magic pill. What works is consciously, gradually and systemically replacing old thinking patterns with new thinking patterns, old associations with new associations and thus, old emotions with new emotions. Plus, using the right tools and methods to do it. Then, you can act confident cause you can are confident.
The fact these personal development ideas do not work isn’t half as bad as the treatment some of the people who talk about them will give you. I’m starting to call them personal development assholes. They have at least one of two traits:
- They naturally have these ways of being they give advice on. So for them, “just be confident” seems like solid advice. Because already having the right internal setup, they can do it just like that.
- They have a superficial understanding of how human learning happens and the qualities self-improvement ideas require to be applied effectively.
When you try to put their advice into practice but you don’t seem to be able and you don’t get results, they just start accusing you using advanced personal development jargon: of not wanting it bad enough, of having secondary gains or of lacking willpower. So now, you don’t improve and you also feel guilty about it.
Trust me: when for example, every time you go to a party you feel miserable because you’re too shy to talk to anyone and have some fun, you want nothing more on the planet than to “just be more confident”. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. I’m sure a lot of the people giving this advice mean well, but they often do more harm than good.
The answer is not out there. It’s within. Personal development ideas that work take into account not just the external, but also the internal, to create deep and lasting self growth.