3 Ways That Self-Improvement Is BLOCKING Your Growth! With Bryce and Jenny

May 08, 2024

 In this episode of the Advanced Relationship Podcast, Bryce Bauer and Jenny Morrow talk about 3 Ways That Self-Improvement can block your growth and harm you rather than help you!

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Bryce and Jenny here. Today, we're going to be talking about three ways that self-improvement can actually cause harm and not help you.

How did you get involved in personal development?

Well, I'm laughing, because I didn't really choose it as much. So my story goes like this. I really struggled when I was a teenager.

By the time I was a freshman in college, I was in a substance abuse treatment center for drugs and alcohol. And I wouldn't say I really chose to be there. I really struggled through high school.

I was arrested. I was kicked out of school, didn't get good grades, was in a lot of trouble with my parents. We had a really terrible relationship to that time.

So by the time I was a freshman in college, my life was just a mess. And after a bad car accident, my parents set up an intervention with a therapist that I had been meeting with. And off I went to a 60 day wilderness therapy program for young people ages 18 to 25.

Once I got there, I was somewhat engaged. I mean, I really didn't want to be there, but I started to pick up on some things and I realized that I needed to change my life. Probably the biggest aha that came out of that experience was that I realized that I wanted to work in this field.

Like having gone through my own struggles and seeing the people that were there to help me, I wanted to be one of those people I wanted to be on the other side. I would say that was my first introduction to therapy and self-development. It was my own struggles with mental health and drugs and alcohol that motivated me to go on to work for some of these programs.

So when you and I met, Bryce, you had been working with personal development for almost 10 years by that point. When we met, you started to become also interested in relationship development. Talk a little bit about how that happened.

Yeah, so even though I was somewhat getting my shit together as an individual, I was still involved in really toxic, romantic relationships. I had a few through my early 20s that really did not go well. And after my last bad break up, I went traveling, I lived overseas for a while.

And when I met you, I would say you were probably my biggest inspiration to start doing relational work because you were educated on relationships. And we started seeing a counselor together probably six months into our relationship. And that's when I realized that there was this whole area of self-development that I really didn't know much about and really had, I needed to experience a lot of growth in.

So I think being in relationship with you, learning more about it, that shifted my whole career path from helping people get sober to helping people in their relationships.

That's very cool. So how would you describe the difference between individual personal self-development and relationship development?

Well, there's a lot of overlap. I think the main difference is like when I'm in a relationship with someone, and specifically when I'm living with someone, I know that that brings up a lot of stuff that might not come up when I'm just living as an individual. So when we got together, I started realizing there were more triggers that were coming up, more feelings, and we had to communicate through those.

I couldn't just leave and go back to my house because we were together. So I think the difference is that we, there's a lot more that's shared when we're in relationship, and we have to have a lot more conversations because I can't just leave and go do my own thing, which is what I often did as an individual. I was someone to be like, all right, I'm just gonna run away and go into the woods and process this on my own.

So doing it in the presence of you is a different type of art, it's just a much different process. And I can talk a little bit about, I think Jen's having trouble trying to identify how she got into self-improvement, so I can give you my take on it.

Yeah, I was just trying to explain it and I kept stopping. So Bryce is gonna give you his perspective. I'm gonna tell you all whether you're right.

So after Jenny went and got her bachelor's right after high school and she bounced around, I think you had like 20 some different jobs, right? And none of them really felt like a good fit. You didn't stay there for very long.

And then at some point you realized that you wanted to go back to school and do something different. And that's when you went to Utah State and decided to do a therapy program.


And I don't know what went into that decision-making process, but I think Jenny's always been someone who loves relationships and loves learning about how the mind works. And she loves talking about theories. So I think probably some of that fit into what you were interested in.

Yeah, that feels very helpful, actually. And thanks for carrying some of that weight right there and remembering my story. Because to be honest, I actually forgot about that.

Like that didn't even pop up. I had like all those jobs after college. And I was like, none of these feel like the right fit.

And then how I started to get more interested in that personal development path and helping other people as well. So thanks for remembering that. I actually, that was something I hadn't even thought about.

Relationship development for me kind of went right along with that. And that was because I was really more interested in how to create really good connections and deep, authentic, romantic relationships. That was always something I'd been more interested in than probably anything else.

So it was really exciting to know I could actually go study and learn about this through the lens of a science and an art and how to actually create those kinds of experiences.

Well, and I would also add too that you, it seemed like you also struggled in relationships, not really getting the love that you wanted. And you thought that you'd get married at an early age. And by the time you were like 26 and weren't partnered and weren't married, that motivated you to learn more about relationships and go into the marriage and family therapy program.

Is that right?

Oh yeah, definitely. It was after I became a therapist that I went in and had my first therapy and coaching sessions with other people. So it was the first time I ever became a client of like a formal self-improvement paid process where I was paying someone to actually help me.

And that was just a really incredibly moving experience in the sense that I actually felt myself starting to grow and move and evolve. So I actually felt myself step out of some of my own confines and my limitations in my mind, and I started to see things through a different lens. And school started that process, but actually being a client and having someone help me with my personal stuff really started to expand that.

Yeah, that's good.

I mean, sometimes people have a major pain point that brings them into self-development. Sometimes maybe you kind of end up there by accident or you have some interests, but I find that once people find themselves here, they don't wanna stop.

Okay, so we dive into the three ways. Number one way that relationship development, self-improvement can cause harm is that you don't know your self-development limits. So have you ever had an experience, Bryce, of feeling like you didn't know your self-development limits and having it impact you in a negative way?

Well, I think I really get hyper-focused on wanting to fix things, wanting them to feel better. So I'll, I mean, I think sometimes when we get into things, I can sit on the couch and talk for a couple of hours, and sometimes that's not the best move. I need to go decompress, process, take care of myself in some way, or just take a breather so that I can come back and be more resource.

So in that way, I'm thinking about like exercise. It's like exercising for four hours might not be as good as exercising for one hour, because if you're pushing yourself too hard, you might cause some damage to your muscles. You might just be doing too much, and then you can't come back and stay consistent and do it on a daily basis if you're pushing yourself past what your limits are.

I've been a yoga teacher and often, one of the things I have to remind my students is how to assess their edge, because if they're not efforting enough, there won't be much growth or change, but if they're efforting too much, it can cause injury. So there's this line between those two places.

When I was training in mixed martial arts, there were times when I would feel myself have a little bit of an injury, and if I didn't give it time to rest, and I kept going back in the gym over and over, just re-aggravate it, so I think that's a good metaphor.

Yeah, and I like that idea of rest too, because I think that's another area where this applies, is being able to give ourselves time to rest and enjoy the fruits of what we have done. So that we're actually experiencing the joy of the progress along the way, because there really is no end to personal development and relationship development. There's always more evolution that can happen.

So if we aren't able to rest and enjoy the fruits of where we're at, then that can also be a problem.

Yeah, and I'm thinking about how this can look. You really want to feel better. You want to resolve some of these traumatic experiences that you've had, and maybe you're like, well, if I just journal harder, or go to more therapy sessions, or meditate more, or fill out worksheets, maybe this will resolve it quicker.

And that's not always the case. Sometimes it really takes time to process what you're going through so that you can hold whatever's happening. So more is not always better when it comes to self-development.

And I think that there's this trap that people get into where there can always be more that's done, and people can start to judge themselves based on their own progress, right? Like you see this whole world of things that you can attend to, and things maybe need to deal with. And there's just not enough time in the day to be able to deal with all of this.

So when you start to judge yourself, I think that can also cause harm.

Number two, you use self-improvement and relationship improvement to beat yourself up or criticize others. This relates to what you talked about with judgment.

And I felt that myself, where it's like I need to figure out why I get so triggered here, and then I start judging myself about that, and then I feel depressed or I feel frustrated, and then I'm not able to show up very well for my life anyways, because I'm so focused on what I'm not doing right, or where I still have to improve.

This is more likely to happen when you don't understand psychological safety, and that's one area of relationship need that Bryce and I work on a lot with our clients, both our individual clients, and then our couples that we work with. He's talking about how do you show up in a more psychologically safe way in your relationship with yourself and in your relationship with others? What that takes is actually learning about what is emotional neglect and what is emotional abuse.

And there's both more intense layers of that and more subtle layers of that. Then you can start to notice when you're doing it to yourself, when you're doing it to others.

Yeah, and I'm thinking about, we see this a lot with couples when they're first learning the skills. This is a rule that I often bring in is, your partner gets to make mistakes as long as they're trying. Often what'll happen is you'll learn a skill like reflective listening or validation or curiosity, and then you'll blame your partner for not using the skills effectively, and they'll defend themselves, and they'll say, well, you're not using the skills effectively, and then you'll start to argue about how each of you isn't using the skills effectively.

That doesn't help anybody. To create a fruitful learning environment, you need to be able to make mistakes and try the skills out, and being judged by your partner for not doing it right is just another layer of criticism that can erode the emotional safety in the relationship. So it's just something to pay attention to, especially if you're in a relationship, because you're trying to learn this together, and it can be clunky at times.

You can make mistakes or not do it right. If you start blaming your partner for that, they're not gonna feel good. They're not gonna wanna keep trying with you.

You need to be a safe space for your partner to practice these things with you.

I love that, and I'm just having memories of times that even us as relationship professionals, I've struggled with that. I think we've struggled with it together at times. A little bit more, I think before we learned as much about the psychological safety piece, I think that really helped us.

Right, I think that's part of the process, and people will often ask, because we're both coaches, they're like, do you guys coach each other? I'm like, at times we can, right? It's really nice to be able to turn to Jen and be like, hey, will you help me out with this thing or vice versa?

And we can do that if we're feeling safe with each other, but there are really subtle ways that you can weaponize the tools and blame your partner for not doing it right, and that can create a whole nother layer of circular arguments that don't feel good. So yeah, we've been there, it doesn't really happen anymore. I think we're really on to ourselves here.

If I'm telling you you're not doing it right, or you're telling me, we know that that really doesn't work, and we need to go to the core of the issue, which is there's something here that needs to be understood, and maybe using the tools isn't always the best way to get to that. Sometimes there's something, like if I'm wanting Jenny to understand me on something, and I want her to use the tools to do that, but I don't really fully understand myself and what I'm going through, or I'm just in a bad mood, let's say, there's no amount of tools that Jenny can use that are going to help me. And I have to be able to recognize that within myself.

So there's definitely a layer of differentiation that we need to acknowledge, that like I'm responsible for my experience. Yes, Jenny can help me feel more safe, but me, Bryce, as an individual, I'm responsible for that, and then I can ask for what I need. And Jenny may or may not be able to give it to me at any given moment, and we can do this dance, but I'm the one that's responsible.

And it's so helpful to hear you talk about it because I have had moments where I felt almost trapped, like I'm supposed to be able to help him here. If I could just validate right, if I could just this or that, and I'm like, I'm doing all the tools and checking if it's working.

Jenny's a helper, right? So that's, yeah, that is probably part of our pattern is Jenny might want to try to help or fawn, and if I'm in a weird mood or not understanding myself, she'll be leaned in trying to help, and then I'll start feeling like, what are you trying to do? I gave her this metaphor once that it feels like you're trying to push me up a ladder, and I'm not ready to go up or something, and I think that made a lot of sense.

So sometimes it does take Jenny kind of backing off and giving me some space so that I can figure out what's going on with me, and it's also my responsibility to come to her and let her know what's happening, because that will calm her nervous system, and it's also helpful for me to verbalize it, right, and really face it head on and not ignore it.

Okay, number three, you hold on to the belief that self-improvement or relationship improvement will quote save you, that somehow it's going to make you more worthy fundamentally of being alive, having love, having power in the world. The way that I describe it here is while self-improvement and relationship improvement can help you experience the truth, including experiencing your core worthiness, it doesn't change effect or give you that worthiness. So having worked in a helping profession specifically, this is one thing I've had to really watch, is that I don't believe that me helping is somehow makes me more worthy.

I don't believe that my own self-improvement makes me more worthy, and I don't believe that me helping others improve makes me more worthy. There's something called compassion fatigue, and this is something that a lot of people in helping professions experience.

Or maybe in parenting too.

Yeah, parenting is a big place.

Probably a lot of compassion fatigue in parenting, especially with little ones.


And I'm thinking about this idea that sometimes people that are into self-improvement will prop themselves up and kind of posture and say like, I'm doing it right, and that can have other people feeling like they're inferior or they're not doing it right. So it's just a choice. If you wanna do self-development work, it's a choice, it's a path.

And it's okay if you don't wanna go on that journey, if you wanna take breaks. I have lots of people in my life that aren't into the same things that I'm into, don't really wanna have super deep conversations, and that's okay. I can choose to relate to them however I want to, and I can still be close to them and be friends with them and still find value in those relationships.

And I don't think that they're any less worthy as people just because they're not interested in learning about this stuff. I think we need to be mindful as people that are interested in self-development that we're not better than anyone else. This is just one path that we're choosing.

I mean, I think it's a very important path, and I think it will help the world, but we can't get people to see things the way that we see them. And that's part of, I think, becoming a fully embodied, integrated, whole individual is realizing that the world is okay as it is, people are okay as they are, everyone has worth no matter where they're at in their journey, just to trust in that.

And it doesn't mean that we can't hold our desires firmly. It doesn't mean we can't ask for what we need, but it does mean that we respect everyone no matter where they are and no matter what their desires are in terms of the self-improvement journey.

I like that, Jen.

If you are interested in individual coaching, couple coaching, or our group membership where we have courses and we do a couple group coaching calls each month, then go to the website listed in the description. All right, thanks everyone.

See you next time. Bye-bye.

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