The Self Development Trap

Person standing on a rock overlooking the ocean thinking about life - The Self Development Trap - ILYNSI Yoga

Self development is a really important part of growth and maturity. It fosters self awareness, humility, and intuition. It is also meant to foster empathy and compassion as we learn to see ourselves in others. I have always been inclined toward self development books and speeches as well as people that I felt were consciously and spiritually evolved. However, I have noticed that as part of the self development evolutionary process, there are many traps that we can unknowingly fall into resulting in damaging behaviors and outcomes.

Self Righteousness  

Many people who embark on a self development journey begin to make changes in their lives with the hopes of shifting toward positive outcomes. However, this can lead to a sense of self righteousness and judgmental attitudes towards others. The misconception is that if we as individuals are able to make changes then anyone can make changes to improve their lives. Those who are unwilling to make changes are weak, unmotivated, and lack ambition. These are very unfair assumptions of others and requires that we reflect on why we might feel this way.

As we continue along the self development path, it is important to practice non-judgement. We live in a very dynamic world and not everyone is in the position to make similar choices as you. What is right for you may not be right for others. Although you might have good intentions in sharing what you have learned with others they might not see it that way. Instead, they may receive your opinions or advice as hurtful or critical which can be damaging to your relationships.  

“No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.” - Victor Frankl 


Many people who embark on a self development journey begin from a place of unfulfillment or lack. There is a constant need to fix a part of us that we perceive to be broken. This can be dangerous because as we continue to learn more about ourselves and develop coping mechanisms we risk projecting our issues onto others. For example, throughout the process you will learn more about the things you do not like about yourself. You may also begin to notice these same qualities in others that may turn you off from them.

Self development teaches us that we are highly fallible creatures and often make mistakes. Unfortunately, we are hurtful, weak, and egotistical toward others especially toward the ones we love most. These are behaviors that come from within and project outward as a defense mechanism. Our minds are wired for survival against our environment and demonstrating vulnerability can be perceived as weak. Therefore, we project our insecurities onto others to make ourselves feel better.

Just because you are on a path toward enlightenment doesn’t mean that someone you perceive to be less emotionally developed than you is beneath you. In fact, you don’t know what might be going on in their hearts. It is all a perception and not a truth. Better to remain humble and compassionate.

“We interpret other people’s behavior according to our own state of mind. We are what we see in others”  - Anonymous


Overwhelming Thoughts and Behaviors

Self development is such a hot topic. There are so many guru’s, coaches, books, speeches, and even global conferences dedicated to this topic. It is also such a personal journey and finding the right resources can be overwhelming. In the beginning, you will try many different things at once such as keeping a journal, reading self help books, finding speeches and interviews by famous life coaches, and meditating to name a few. You may also purchase various self help programs or hire a life coach or therapist to provide additional guidance.

Another thing to be cautious of is how you deal with challenges you have never experienced before. You may immerse yourself in self development techniques for issues you are aware of but when things don’t go as planned you may resort back to old habits. In this case, it is important to find the right system for you. It may take a bit of trial and error. It may be a combination of things that help you develop a new positive routine. Ultimately, it takes time, patience, and compassion with yourself.

“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.” — Bruce Lee


The self development journey can actually be pretty addicting. The beginning of the journey is always the most exciting as you begin to develop this aspirational sense of self and design self improvement goals. In some cases, you begin to notice immediate changes in your mood, routine, and communication style. You also feel more productive as you learn new things as you apply them in your daily routine.

Try not to get carried away with it all. There are a lot of different rabbit holes you can fall into as you enter the realm of self development.  Remember to listen to yourself. If something doesn’t seem right for you or is causing you stress then discontinue it immediately.

“The only journey is the journey within.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

The Lesson

One of the greatest gifts in the self development process is learning more about yourself. Throughout the process, you will learn more about your thought patterns, what creates specific thoughts and emotions, and how to filter your thoughts from your identity.  It is also important to be cognizant of ourselves as we transform our behaviors and actions. Self development is a personal journey that enables us to build a loving and trusting relationship with ourselves. This newfound love is the foundation for self respect, self esteem, and compassion that should be projected outward onto others.

The most important thing to develop throughout this evolution is gratitude. Self development is a process and a habit that is ultimately supposed to create a better version of yourself. Regardless of positive or negative people or experiences in your life, learning to be grateful for it all is what improves your quality of life. It helps to teach you more about yourself including your strengths, weaknesses, and overall needs. It is also meant to guide you in the direction of your truth.


What has been your self development journey? Leave a comment below.

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