The Most Important Relationship In Your Life + How To Improve It

Self-development isn’t silly. It’s not self-absorbed. Figuring out who you are, what you want, and how you’re going to get it is just damn sensible. It’s an investment in every other area of your life. >>

Let’s imagine for a moment, dear readers, that I invited you over to my house for a barbecue.

And let’s imagine that when you went into my bedroom to throw your purse on the bed, you took a peek at my bedside reading. You’d see a copy of Spook and my friend Rachel’s new book. You might see some ubiquitous lady magazines and one of those weird round lip balm things. You’d exit my bedroom believing that I was a lover of non-fiction who  happened to have dry lips.

What you wouldn’t see is the pile of books that I hid under the bed:

The Desire Map
How to Win Friends and Influence People
The Happiness Project

My name is Sarah and I love self-development. One of my biggest priorities in my life is, honestly, my own happiness and fulfillment.

Which feels weird and sort of gross to say, doesn’t it?

“I like liking myself.” “I think it’s important to feel confident and brave.” “I want a supportive, healthy, best-friend-caliber relationship with myself.”

Maybe it’s just my stoic, Midwestern sensibilities but it feel embarrassing to admit this and frivolous to pursue it. There are wars and sick children and mass shootings and I’m concerned about maintaining a healthy sense of self? I’m working on “staying true to who I really am” while two blocks away a man is begging for change on the median?

If you, too, struggle with a strange sense of guilt over bettering yourself or devoting time to something as inconsequential as your self-esteem, here’s something that I try to remember:

The common denominator in every aspect of your life – your relationships, your career, your adventures and choices – is you.
How you feel about yourself touches everything else in your life.

When we feel happy, fulfilled, confident – we’re better friends, partners, employees, co-workers, neighbors. We take steps towards our goals. We’re patient and compassionate.

At the risk of stating the obvious, we take ourselves wherever we go. We take our stressed, snippy, self-doubt-riddled selves with us on vacation. We take them to the family reunion. We take them to our friend’s wedding and our niece’s piano recital.
No matter where you go, there you are. You take yourself everywhere, you might as well like her. Share on X

So I guess what I’m saying is: self-development isn’t silly. It’s not self-absorbed. Figuring out who you are, what you want, and how you’re going to get it is just damn sensible. It’s an investment in every other area of your life.

So this is my gentle, loving nudge to both of us. Let’s buy the book that will help us get past That One Issue. Let’s get therapy if we need it, hire a coach if we need it, end that shitty friendship or relationship if we need to. Let’s say “I’d prefer not to” or “I need help.”

Let’s take the self-development books out from beneath the bed and openly admit that we want to be the best possible version of ourselves.

Are you interested in self-development? Do you feel secretive or at all weird about it?

P.S. Working on yourself is a habit, just like taking your vitamins or making your bed. It’s something you can develop! This might help – and it’s free!

photo by katya austin // cc

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  1. ieva

    :)))) Hahhah, I just started reading The Happiness Project yesterday! 🙂
    And I too have “edited” the bookshelves before people come over. I’d love to hear what you thought of “The Happiness Project”.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Right?! Why do we do that? I’m going to make an active effort to leave those books out and on display 😉

  2. Merrie K.

    Ooh…I love Mary Roach…have you read her other books? To me, Spook got a little weird at the end, so I didn’t re-read it, but I’ve read all her other books twice. 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I haven’t finished it or read her other books yet, but I intend to!

  3. Kate

    Aww man, this made me cry! (In a good way!)

    There’s a part in the movie Juno when Juno is telling Paulie that she loves him and she says something about how he’s the coolest person she knows without even trying. And he says, “I try really hard actually.”

    And I love that he says that and that’s how life feels like sometimes. It would be lovely if feeling emotionally healthy and at peace with my body and connected with my loved ones was easy for me but sometimes it isn’t. And I’m finally at the point where I’m okay working hard to achieve those goal… and showing people around me that work, even if the vulnerability scares me.

    Thanks for this. As always, your wisdom is inspiring and perfectly timed!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Kate, I missed that quote from the movie but I LOVE it. Next time someone compliments me on my … internal self? …I’m going to say that!

  4. Sandra, Italy

    Right on the money, Sarah! ?

  5. Stephanie L

    Amen to all of that! I decided my top priority is my health and I joined Weight Watchers earlier this year. Yes, it’s an expense. Yes, many people lose weight without a formal program – but I’m not one of them. I feel really good about my decision and I feel really good that my husband and my doctor are so supportive.

    In fact, I’ve found in my household that one self-improvement often begets another. I’ve noticed my husband watching his portion sizes and he has asked about points values of certain foods. My new “what have you done for me lately?” approach to food is spilling into other areas of my life and positively affecting my spending.

    Watch out, final five pounds – you’re goin’ down, just like the previous 13.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Internet high five!

  6. Kate

    Love this article Sarah. For a LONG time I have felt ashamed for spending time improving my self and only with age and maturity I’ve relaised that it’s ok and will benefit all aspects of my life.

  7. Heidi

    Anyone who knows me will also know that I live with my best friend Patricio. What they don’t know? Patricio is my mentor, similar to the plotlines of “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Miracle Worker”.

    I occasionally get the “So are you dating him?” question from family and friends. I tell them, “Nope, we are just really good friends.” Little do they know that “really good friends” means I pay him to train me at the gym and cook food for me. I’m proud to be friends with him, but also afraid to admit that I pay for life coaching.

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