Browsing the Internet using keywords such as self-improvement will lead you to several pages, articles, blogs, and sites that discuss self-help programs, giving tips on how to achieve goals, guidelines to create smooth working relationships, and many others. But what exactly is self-improvement?
Self-improvement is part of a larger system called personal development that involves programs, tools, and methods. Also known as self-help, self-improvement focuses on the level of individual which includes one’s goals, lifestyle, plans, dreams, and quality life to name a few. It is a self-guided improvement and self-help in terms of economic, intellectual and emotional aspects.
It is a continuous endeavor to improve one’s self by analyzing his actions, understanding his past, studying successful people, and taking action each day. Hence, if we say self-improvement, we mean uplifting self-esteem, developing self-awareness, skills and talents, improving self-knowledge, building or repairing identity, realizing goals and aspirations, and enhancing one’s quality of life.
An example of old self-help book is authored by Samuel Smiles in the 19th century. The book is titled “Self-help.” Another author of self-help books is Dale Carnegie who considered by many the pioneer of self-help movement. He wrote the book titled “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in the 20th century. In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote the book “Think and Grow Rich” where he described the use of repeated positives thoughts to draw wealth.
Since then, various self-help books have been published discussing several issues such as women’s rights, marriage and wedding, religion and spirituality, leadership and goal setting, positive attitude, depression, and meditation.
A survey company estimated self-help and self-improvement materials to be worth around nine billion dollars in 2006. Infomercials, holistic institutes, books, personal coaching market, audio cassettes, and stress management programs are examples of the above mentioned materials.
Furthermore, there are different self-help movements that have varying focus, associated beliefs, proponents, leaders, techniques, and models. A common denominator to all is that they use available information from support group of people coming together because of similar experiences and interests.
An example of self-help groups is the ones for mental health such as Emotions Anonymous, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and Recovery International. They are voluntary associations of people who share a common goal of overcoming mental illness or boost level of emotional being.
The self-help claims also received criticisms from scholars. One scholar called a self-help movement as ineffective in achieving its goals in 2005. Stand-up comedian George Carlin said that a person looking for help from somebody does not technically get “self” help. Following such argument, there is no such thing as self help.
The self-help subject also attracted the attention of parody writers making itself the topic of many parodies. An example is the book-length parody of Walker Percy, which included parodies on self-help. In addition, W.R. Morton and Nathanel Whitten authored a book titled “The Superoptimist” and introduced the term “superoptimism.” The term is a “humorous antidote to self-help book category.”
The criticism however led the field to further include the presence of scientific research and well-engineered models. As a result, the newly-established branch of self-improvement focuses analysis, design, and execution of qualitative personal growth. This branch is called personal effectiveness.