In today’s video, I’ll try to answer the question: when does self-improvement become self-indulgence?

Read or watch below to learn more about the truth about self-help.

Zachary Stockill: If you’re watching this video right now, chances are pretty good that you have at least some interest in personal development. 

But when does self-improvement become self-indulgent

That’s the question I’m going to try to answer in this video.

Today’s video may ruffle a few feathers out there. A lot of people probably won’t like what I’m going to say. But, as always, I feel like I need to tell you what I believe you need to hear, and not necessarily what you want to hear.

I’d also like to mention before I get started, these are my feelings. These are my impressions. This is my perspective. 

I’m not trying to superimpose this on the world. I’m not trying to tell you that you necessarily have to subscribe to my viewpoint whatsoever. 

But it’s funny… for the past three years now, I’ve been living on the island of Bali, Indonesia. And if you don’t know, Bali is a very spiritual place. It draws a lot of spiritual seekers, shall we say. There’s an incredibly rich and complicated and interesting spiritual tradition on the island that is indigenous to Bali. 

But aside from the indigenous Hinduism in Bali, this island is one that draws a lot of spiritual seekers from all over the world. It seems like everyone’s signing up for a yoga class. Or some new guru is always coming to town to host some kind of workshop. 

It’s pretty much never-ending. And I don’t mean to suggest that I’m above all that, because I enjoy going to yoga classes. I’ve met some incredible spiritual teachers. And, I certainly can appreciate that part of living in Bali.

However, I have noticed that some people who become obsessed with personal development, self-health, and self-improvement become kind of insufferable

And at a certain point, for some people, I think “self-improvement” becomes self-indulgent. 

And that’s the idea I want to tease out in today’s video. To look for those warning signs of when maybe our own self-improvement is crossing the line into self-indulgence, and the truth about self-help.

I think the number one sign that self-improvement is turning into self-indulgence is when our self-improvement work is actually increasing our ego insecurity. What do I mean by that? 

In essence, the line between genuine self-improvement and self-indulgence is right around the time when you start feeling like you’re better than other people simply because you have this interest in self-improvement. When you start looking down on other people who aren’t necessarily into self-improvement.

I think the mark of true learning, regardless of whatever you’re trying to learn…

Involves a lessening of ego and involves realizing more and more how much you don’t know. 

… Rather than focusing on how much you’re learning.

There’s a certain type of spiritual person you might say, or someone who is into self-help, who goes around thinking that they’re so much more “conscious” than other people. And there’s a real looking down their nose at other people who aren’t necessarily interested in the same things.

We are so incredibly fortunate to be living in a time, in an age, when we can have the time, we can have the money, to explore things like self-improvement and the truth about self-help. Ggoing on spiritual retreats, or reading books, watch YouTube videos… We’re in a very, very fortunate moment in human history, to have the time, the resources available to be pursuing our spiritual interests.

Because if you look at the majority of human history, up until about two minutes ago, human beings have mostly been fixated on simply surviving rather than thriving. So we’re extremely fortunate. We should acknowledge that and realize that not everyone else has the same privileges.

And number two, we should be damned grateful that we have these privileges. 

the truth about self-help

And with that gratitude comes a certain degree of humility that I don’t see in a lot of people who seem like they’re obsessed with self-improvement.

This may sound ironic coming from me. A guy who’s pretty into self-improvement and posts all this stuff on social media and YouTube and all the rest…

But I am also suspicious of people when it seems like they’re constantly flaunting their spiritual “accomplishments” or their “evolution” as human beings. And they just have to put these massive rants on social media

If someone’s truly getting something out of personal development, and learning things they need to learn, many of those people become quiet. They don’t feel this need to go proclaim to the world how “evolved” they are.

I think the line between self-improvement and self-indulgence is reached when you start thinking you’re better than other people because of your interest in self-improvement. 

There’s a phenomenon I like to call performative spirituality, where it seems like there are a lot of people on social media flaunting how evolved and spiritual they are…

And living in Bali, among other things, has taught me how deeply messed up, sad, and dysfunctional a lot of these people are. There’s the “front” that is present on social media. And then there’s the cold, hard reality of their lives, which often looks very, very different. 

Another way you can know if your self-improvement is turning into self-indulgence… 

When you avoid conflicts, or you even avoid interactions with other people whom you’re convinced aren’t as “evolved” or as “conscious” as you are.

You see this word being thrown around a lot these days: conscious. I want a conscious man, I want a conscious woman

If you start dividing humans or interactions into conscious or unconscious, seems to me that’s kind of nasty, and that can lead to some real spiritual egotism. And it’s kind of a dead-end road to go down. 

Indeed, many of my greatest teachers have been people who had no interest in personal development or self-improvement or anything like that. They were simply normal people trying to get by living their lives, who often had profound wisdom to share. If you check in with yourself, I would imagine you would say the same thing. 

Some people who are really into self-improvement seem to confuse being spiritual, with being rather spaced out or even numb

They think they’re very spiritual. They think they’re very peaceful. But what they are really is very detached. And I would even say numb.

They think, because they are trying so hard not to feel any negative emotion, that somehow makes them “some kind of spiritual teacher that somehow makes them “more spiritual.”

So beware if your spiritual practice leads you to become somewhat numb. I think it’s better to feel something rather than nothing, regardless of what that something is.

And this is a real demarcation, I think, between self-improvement and self-indulgence, and the truth about self-help. 

If you are currently struggling with retroactive jealousy, you can click here to sign up for a free four-part mini-course that will help you get started. Or, if you need more help, then you can consider signing up for one-on-one coaching with me. [Subject to availability]

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.