The Authentic Eclectic

What if the Goal of Life Isn’t “Self-Improvement?”

Perpetual personal growth is a life-sucking trap

Keri Mangis
8 min readMay 29, 2022
venus fly trap
Photo by Carla Quario on Unsplash

The origins of never-ending self-improvement

Try to trace back to the first time you were conditioned into the collective belief that the goal of life—whether from a standpoint of our professional, relational, or spiritual identity—is constant, steady, upward self-improvement.

You probably can’t find it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t taught to you, though. And it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t at least a brief span of time in your life that you went without it. There was a period of time in your life before the world got its grubby paws on you and stopped letting you just be. You might be able to remember that feeling of freedom from expectation. That sense of just being.

It never takes long before we all see a picture of someone standing at the top of a hill as the primary metaphor for the goal of life.

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Achievement. Triumph. Winning. These are the things we use to keep the score.

Our belief in constant uphill movement is natural and interwoven that you’ve likely never questioned it. Self-improvement by any other name—personal growth, personal development, spiritual growth—is inextricably and masterfully intertwined with baby well-check doctor appointments, graded report cards in school, and the well-meaning steps and guidelines on how to get a better job with higher pay to afford a nicer house in a safer place with better neighbors who are also on the improvement merry-go-round so that everyone can keep finding the dopamine hits and upgrade to stainless-steel self-confidence and granite self-esteem.

Self-improvement is an industry with no end, even while it teaches a myth of “arrival”, some imaginary time in your life where everything will click into place, where confusion and disarray will no longer disturb your pristine existence, where you can become “That Girl,” but at any age or gender.



Keri Mangis

Keri Mangis is an award-winning author, teacher, and speaker.