The toxic side of self improvement in media


Graphic by Maryam Girowall

New Year’s resolutions. Five a.m. morning routines. Glow-ups. While in theory these are positive things — trying to improve oneself and always aiming to be better — this is not always the case. Growing and becoming a more productive person are, on the surface, reasonable things to strive for. However, despite what one may think, this mindset could actually do more harm than good. In this day and age, youth are plagued with insecurities. This demanding culture to always be bettering oneself often present in today’s media is a great burden not only on today’s youth but all media users alike. 

This is not to say that all self-improvement is negative. Some people avoid the toxic culture surrounding self-improvement and make real, positive changes to their lifestyle that result in a happier, healthier life. The real issues emerge when self-improvement becomes an obsession. 

When searching words along the lines of self-improvement and  productivity on Youtube, the majority of the videos that come up are titled “How to Level-Up Your Life,” “How I Glowed-Up,’’ “These 10 Habits Will Change Your Life” and “6 a.m. Productive Day in My Life.” Anyone who has followed these videos and attempted a productive morning routine will know that an entire life cannot be altered simply by making small changes. Despite these changes being healthy habits, they are not the solutions to the insecurity and dissatisfaction that the people that cling to these videos feel.

Living in a technological age makes it easy to crave the lives of those seen online. When only being shown the most perfect parts of a person’s life, differentiating real lifestyles from staged ones becomes difficult. This makes it easy to fall down the rabbit hole of self-improvement. 

In her video “you are not a self improvement project,” Youtuber Lynette Adkins explains that we should not be constantly trying to improve ourselves to feel worthy, but rather that we should be content and proud of who we are in the moment. This is something that, understandably so, the youth of today tend to forget. When being promised that the perfect life seen on social media is attainable for them, it becomes easy to obsess over trying to acquire these carefully selected fragments of life. People set these unrealistic and unreasonable standards for themselves, call them self improvement and end up more dissatisfied with their lives than before. Most people will not get the same results guaranteed to them by the people in these videos who, most likely, already had idealistic lives to begin with; going to the gym or waking up early will not have much influence on this. This unrealistic standard of life portrayed in the media is an immense problem in today’s world, which is dominated by technology. It is especially fatal with new trends and videos being published every day about glowing up, becoming “that girl,” hustle culture and overall unattainable lifestyles for most people.

It is vital for each and every person to realize that what is shown on social media is almost never authentic. People have to deal with conflict and struggle with strenuous issues even after having a glow-up or making a productive study vlog. Life is not what we see through the screen, and adopting the new popular lifestyle will not solve all your problems. Though I am sure everyone is guilty of wishing they had a life other than theirs, all we can do is take what we have been given. As life changes, so do we, and sometimes we all would benefit from taking a step back and reflecting. All we can do at this point in time is live our lives content with the life we have been given; appreciate the people and things that we love in our life and accept the ones we do not.