• Romy St. Hilaire

Toxic Self Improvement

During quarantine in a time of isolation and introspection, I was finding myself being hypercritical and conscious of the things I wanted to improve about myself. Lots of social media posts, news articles, and messaging during the early days of quarantine were encouraging people to take deep dives within and to tidy their mental/emotional clutter. All with the best intentions and for many it was one of the few moments in their adult life’s that they took the time to try to clean their internal laundry.

I’ve always been a person that was introspective, I kept journals since a young age, I’m an artist and used my creativity for self-reflection and expression and I regularly have heart to hearts with friends and family. During the pandemic, I was finding myself being super conscious of my lacks, shortcomings or things I wanted to improve in ways that were not healthy. I would look at myself and project all of the goals and dreams that I was not currently fulfilling. I started to go down a dark hole of self-criticism and feeling like I just wasn’t measuring up. I am a pretty positive person and try to be upbeat most of the time but early in quarantine, I was not allowing myself to feel all of the negative emotions flowing through me. I broke down a few weeks in and just could not stop crying one day. I don’t like to feel negative emotions (ie vulnerability issues) but that day I fully allowed myself to sulk and to be sad. I’ve been allowing myself to feel all my feels as they happen and letting them pass and move forward. It’s been very healing changing my mindset in this way.

I found myself gravitating towards self-improvement a lot in the past year. It felt like I was losing important momentum in my life and my potential. I didn’t want to waste my energy being stagnant so I tried to pour into self-improvement but I’ve started to realize that too is toxic. I’m trying to find more balance in acknowledging my accomplishments and strengths while still striving for growth. I’ve been moderately reading books, listening to podcasts and videos on cultivating certain growths in my life. It’s been a full year of working on me and I’m not where I want to be but I’ve been better about being present on the journey and not focusing on the final destination.

One of the books that I’ve been reading and has been a very popular read during quarantine is Atomic Habits by James Clear. I’m still reading it but so far I’ve had a lot of wonderful revelations about how I can practically create the reality I want to live. One of the key concepts that have stuck with me is focusing on identity shifts rather than habit shifts. For example one of my goals for years has been managing my weight and having a healthy lifestyle. I’ve always focused on either the habits (

working out regularly, taking the stairs ect) that I need to change to achieve. With identity shift, I am encouraged to change how I see myself related to those habits. So instead of telling myself, I need to go to the gym every day, I shift my mindset to seeing myself as an athlete. To be an athlete I need to regularly excise and live a healthy lifestyle. I need to incorporate the habits of an athlete and embrace that identity. Instead of just aimlessly going to the gym x times a week hoping to see a change with this method I know that as an athlete I want to go to the gym to train and improve my skills. This moves my goals away from achieving one-off habits but rather to sustain an identity of who I want to be. This can be applied to anything. So lately I’ve been leaning into my identity as an artist. As such, I need to practice my creativity and create pieces of work that affirm that practice. So less goal-oriented and more process-oriented.

I am practicing who I want to be. Y’all I’m still early in this journey and I am still learning so much but it's been rewarding to not beat myself up and to nurture my potential with grace. This is a journey of conscious transformation and I’m excited to have this space to document and hold myself accountable to my many identities and filling my cup.


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