Danielle LaPorte spent many years striving to improve herself, striving to grow spiritually. She’d seen a life coach, a creativity coach, a speaking coach and a business coach. She’d had astrology readings and tried hypnotherapy. She’d attended wellness workshops, subsisted on juice cleanses, taken various yoga classes, had support sessions with a shaman—and worked with other practitioners and spiritual teachers in her pursuit.

One day, she stopped the doing, the striving, the pushing and pulling, and wondered, why? 

“I got out of the bath, the steam rising off my skin, I recounted all that I’d done that day, that week—hell, all that I’d been doing for two decades to keep my Soul in shape,” writes LaPorte in her beautiful and brilliant book White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path—from One Seeker to Another.

“I thought about what was written in my day planner: Pick up protein powder. Book cabin for writing retreat. There was more energy work appointments and yoga classes scheduled in. (I wrote smiley faces next to the days where I actually made it to yoga class.)”

What have you tried in order to improve yourself, to be better, to be your “best self,” to be the “new you”? What have you tried in order to grow, to evolve? What are you currently doing?

Maybe you’ve put yourself on cleanses and started taking early morning hot yoga classes. Maybe you’ve started working with a fitness trainer or some other kind of coach. Maybe you’ve started an online course—or five—and attended too many tele-summits on different topics, which all have the same theme: self-improvement. Maybe you’ve purchased a stack of books—and this time you’re going to “get” mindfulness and actually stick to your intentions.

“And then I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror,” LaPorte writes. “Naked, still, and silent. I leaned forward and my eyes asked: ‘But do you feel free?’”

While you’re meditating, cleansing, taking certain classes, working with certain practitioners and professionals, do you feel free? Do you feel nourished? Do you feel fulfilled? Or do your “self-care,” “soul-care,” “mental health,” “wellness” activities feel like another task on your ever-growing to-do list?

According to LaPorte, “Is everything you’re doing to be well and liberated really helping you to be well and liberated? Because if liberation is a chore, then you aren’t really free, are you?”

In other words, we might practice supposedly nourishing, healthy activities, and feel anything but nourished. Rather, in reality, deep down, we might be starving for self-acceptance. We might be starving for self-compassion, for self-love. We might be starving to stop. To stop all the doing, striving, pushing and pulling.

In other words, has your quest for self-improvement become self-destructive? Are you trying to whip yourself into shape because, deep down, you think you desperately need it?

“Our fulfillment stems from our motives,” writes LaPorte. “It’s not how we seek spiritual growth, it’s why we seek it.”

Why are you seeking what you’re seeking?

P.S., Stay tuned this Friday for my interview with Danielle LaPorte, where she shares insights on everything from why we seek self-improvement to how we start loving ourselves (even if it’s the last thing we think we can do). 

Photo by Julia Caesar.