We’ve all heard it before from well-meaning people – that focusing on our own self-improvement is an intrinsically selfish act. That it ignores all the people out there less fortunate than ourselves we should be helping. That it is basically an exercise in narcissism.
Let me say it right from the start – there is absolutely not even a grain of truth in this. And here are three very powerful reasons why:
Reason 1: You have to have it in order to give it
If we do not have inner awareness, or reached a state of inner contentment, then the so-called help we offer to the world will be driven by our need for self-approval and self-validation. We become more concerned about gaining approval for what we have done than about the people we are helping. We may have the outer resources necessary to help others, but we do not have the inner resources to do the job wisely, and with the proper amount of concern and detachement.
The journey of self-improvement gives you those inner resources. It brings to the fore new talents and capacities you never knew you had, and these capacities give you a greater sense of self-confidence as you go out into the world.
Reason 2: When you discover yourself, you discover the world
Our mind works by dividing and classifying whatever it looks at. Unfortunately we apply this to our fellow human beings too, creating walls and pushing them away from us so that it is very hard to feel a connection with others outside of a small group of people.
However, in the process of self-improvement, you have experiences which take you beyond the mind and towards the very core of your being. You begin to be aware of something very interesting – the deep and profound connection between you and every one of your fellow human beings. When you are more self-aware, you ‘feel’ the human condition more. You have much greater empathy for the struggles that everyone goes through on this earth.You feel a tremendous sense of goodwill towards even total strangers – the guy walking down the street, the girl at the checkout; all of us are going through life, trying to be happy as best we can. The process of self-discovery puts you more in touch with the world than ever before.
Reason 3: Self discovery gives you your life purpose – and that makes the world a better place
Perhaps the most important point in this whole article is this – our purpose in life always has something to do with making the world a better place. This can manifest itself in an infinite number of ways – creative people help to expand the realm of our possibilities, athletes inspire us all to go one step further through their dedication, whereas some people are at their happiest when giving their time and energy to serving others with out any expectation of something in return.
Each one of us has an absolutely unique purpose – something which they can offer to the world in a way that no-one else can. Some of us are lucky and are practically born knowing what they want to do – the rest of us just have to go deep within and bring that inner purpose to the fore.
The more we are centred and in touch with the core of our being, we can feel an inspiration coming from within which points out the path we should take. We have all had these moments of deep inner feeling that we should do a certain thing before; they carry with them a great sense of certainty and inner happiness which mere mental prevarication cannot provide. Over time we learn to trust this inner intuition more, and listen to it as it guides us along the path of our inner purpose.
So, far from being selfish, the process of self-discovery can reveal how you can best serve the world, and be truly happy at the same time.
Photo: Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery