Why self-improvement is painful and what to do about it

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A while back I met an amazing girl that I soon fell in love with. I knew that she liked me back. But while I felt more and more for her over time, she felt less and less.

When someone I speak with for five minutes walks off, I’m unaffected, because I know that they don’t know me.

But being rejected by this girl took a hit at my self-esteem.

I’m privileged to have extremely conscious, smart people around me who could give me input.

I felt like I was back in school – seeking advice instead of being the one giving it out.

It’s funny how we work because I could have had a very rational response to what happened:

“Well approach A didn’t work so let’s do approach B next time”.


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“Well, maybe I just wasn’t her type”.

But instead, I had a wave of feelings washing over me: Feeling bad about myself, feeling that there’s something wrong with me, that I’m unattractive, that I’m inferior to others.

And then, when I knew what I wanted to improve, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to change, that I wouldn’t have what it takes, and so on.

I know that these feelings have nothing to do with reality. I can look at my life journey to see that. But still, they are just as overwhelming.

Even though they are “just” feelings, they are feelings we all have to deal with.

This is why self-improvement, to me, is about being able to deal with emotions

Self-improvement causes us to feel bad about ourselves because it reminds us of our shortcomings. If we can’t deal with those feelings, we can’t improve.

A lot of people try to cheer themselves up, or ignore their feelings, or occupy themselves with something else.

I do the exact opposite.

When I feel bad, I lay down on my bed and pay attention to each and every feeling and thought throughout my body, until I’ve given every sensation my full attention.

I accept my feelings instead of trying to cut them off. Sometimes, I even give them names because I know that I’ll have to live together with them for a while.

This isn’t some method I’ve come up with. It’s part of eastern teachings that have lately been proven in modern science: Accepting our thoughts and feelings gives us power over them.

I’ve learned to observe my feelings just like you observe a child playing. You watch it with curiosity, but you know that you don’t have to obey it.

This is why I’ve been able to improve myself and design my life to be what I envisioned it to be a decade ago, despite struggles. I accept my feelings, and because of that, I don’t need to fear them.

When you read my advice, you probably go through feelings of self-doubt and worry.

But you still keep on reading.

For that, I salute you, because accepting the pain of self-improvement is one of the most valuable things we can do in life.

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (7)

7 thoughts on “Why self-improvement is painful and what to do about it”

  1. As the saying that it is never too late to learn, people are advocated to learn all their lives.
    Today the world is changing fast if we get satisfied and stop to improve ourselves, then we will be kicked out soon, so self-improvement is in need of.
    The learning process is painful but sometimes pain is addictive.

  2. You’re right about negative feelings being overwhelming. My first instinct is to fix it rather than feel it. Your post shows that letting ourselves process our feelings isn’t being passive. It’s much more difficult than I allowed myself to realize.

    Running away is the easy way out. Feeling fear/hurt/sadness is hard at first but it makes them less intimidating, and then you can focus on the core issue. At least that’s what I’m trying to do 🙂

    BTW the girl you mention at the top of the article. Are you sure she liked you less as time went on? Perhaps she wasn’t able to deal with how she felt for you?

  3. This is so true. Not only feelings, but also urges and cravings. Being aware of what is going on in your body and mind gives you the power of overcome feelings that seem out of your control. This is how I overcame social anxiety and binge eating. Works like magic. Great post!

  4. Yes, the pain is less painful when you face it, see it for what it is, accept it, and understand it. I learned this late in life. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to avoid anything potentially painful. But being reminded that self-improvement and pain goes hand in hand and everything’s all right is helpful.


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