Take on the weight loss challenge of 20 pounds, and work towards a better, fitter you!

Want to better yourself? Clearer skin and shinier hair is the first step.

If you eat these certain foods and avoid those ones, then you'll improve your body in a matter of weeks!

Self-improvement. It's a term that's constantly surrounding us, we read of friends posting on social media about how they're "working to better" themselves. We hear of advertisers claiming that their products focus on "improvement" for you. Wherever and whoever you are, they're everywhere. However, how long until the concept of bettering yourself turns into a seemingly eternal journey of worsening yourself? How long until the desire for clearer skin, longer hair, and thinner legs leads to a never-ending road of insecurity and uncertainty? How long until this consuming idea of self-improvement transforms itself into a twisting, torturing idea of self-impoverishment instead?

In all honesty, I must confess that from the age of 14 to 18, I was an avid supporter of self-improvement. I was fascinated by self-help books, encouraged my friends to focus on themselves and how they can be their "best self", and even invested hundreds of dollars into detoxes, cleanses, and whatever else I had convinced myself would ultimately make me a new, novel person. However, come senior year of high school, my definition of "improvement" had drastically changed. Rather than focus on how I can become a kinder and harder-working person, I had begun to focus on how I can become a thinner, more conventionally "pretty" person. I had improved myself into impoverishment; my body and mind were drained, starving, and empty. I couldn't help but wonder to myself where I went wrong: I had read the books, motivated my friends, and bought the products. What was I missing?

What I had been missing was an accurate sense of self. I had approached the massive, heterogeneous idea of my own "self" without having any freaking clue what it even was! Rather, I had dove head-first into the pool of improvement with a senseless idea of what my "self" could be. I had surrounded my thoughts with imaginations of the achievements I could make and the external milestones I could mark; If I work out hard enough, I will go down a jean size and feel confident. If I whiten my teeth long enough, my smile will look pretty. If I take enough supplements, my diet will automatically improve. For so long, I was micro-focusing my thoughts on the dream of myself, rather than the reality of myself.

By no means am I criticizing those who genuinely strive towards change or evolution. I am simply arguing that the idea of self-improvement is approaching transformation with the wrong equation. "Fake Self" + "Hard Work" does NOT equal "Better True Self". In other words, in order to know how to better ourselves, we must know truly know ourselves first. We can't spend our time chasing after an authentic life by trying to improve a mere illusion. However, what we CAN spend our time chasing after is a thorough understanding of our most genuine self. We CAN focus on our personal internal capabilities. We CAN make goals toward grasping our full, emotional selves. We CAN look at the attributes and qualities that we already have to offer, and see how those can be improved, emphasized, and utilized in a positive and impactful manner.

Although this may seem impossible, it's not. Challenging? Yes. Tiring? 100%. Yet, the encouraging thing to remember is that we have all the tools already. All that is left is the incentive to begin searching for the reality and open our eyes and ears to what is out there for us. I have a secret for you: there is no end-goal. As mind-boggling and possibly surprising as that may be, the truth is that the journey itself is the goal. In the uplifting words of Lao Tzu, "be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you".

Put down that self-improvement book. Cancel the order for those supposedly life-changing supplements and vitamins. Eat that warm and gooey brownie that you've been restricting yourself from. Give yourself the freedom and opportunity to really experience your truest self, because I promise you: that is the only self-improvement you really need.