The Uncomfortable Lesson You Need To Learn About Self-improvement

The Potemkin village concept may be ruining your life.

Photo by Charles C. Collingwood on Unsplash

We must stop considering states of mind as ends in themselves. — Cesare Pavese.

Happiness is a state of mind, not a life objective. In western society, we have lost sight of the north, obsessed with pursuing the wrong goal. And it makes no sense.

Happiness has the same function as pain: to warn you of something.

Pain warns you that something is wrong, and happiness alerts you that you are on the right track.

So it is the result of doing things right.

The problem is when we use Self-improvement to skip steps and go straight to the by-product of achieving our goals: happiness.

The palliative society

The philosopher Byung-Chul Han calls this performance society in which we live immersed 24/7 a palliative society.

A society that does not want negativity, victimhood, and much less pain. And the moment it appears, it must be hidden until it can be eliminated.

We are capable beings, and the incapacity that generates anguish has no place in our world. Therefore pain is covered up, and when this happens, it does not fulfill its function: it does not warn us that something is wrong.

The Like era

Everything is evaluated with stars or likes.

  • You are a good worker = 5 stars.
  • You are a bad delivery man = 1 star.
  • You look good in the photo = Like
  • YouTube video is not good = Dislike

We are victims of continuous feedback from a bunch of strangers. And that makes us addicted.

We demand our dose of attention from the anonymous mass. And if we get enough likes, our mood improves: we are happy.

As Byung-Chul Han says, “Nothing should hurt. Not only art, but life itself, has to be able to be uploaded to Instagram.”

We live lying about our life, showing our best face, hiding our pain, and it suffocates us.

Potemkin village concept

The term comes from the time of the Russian Empress Catherine II and derives from the name of her lover “Grigori Potemkin.”

Grigori was Catherine’s minister and lover. And I guess that love and work should not mix 🙂

Short story: the Empress traveled to the Crimea, managed by Grigori. Grigori’s duties were to pacify and rebuild the area with Russian settlers. But the place was a mess, so Grigori built portable villages on the banks of the Dnieper River so that when the Empress passed by, she would think she was doing her job well.

Legend has it that the villages would be built, the Empress would see them, and then they would dismantle them at night and make them again downstream to keep pretending that the whole area was rebuilt.

That’s what we do. We have become Grigori Potemkin. We build fake villages in the form of Instagram profiles so that when our acquaintances look, they think everything is fine.

We’ve normalized uploading pictures of smiles to networks when burning with pain, stress, and anguish inside. And that’s not okay.

The uncomfortable Lesson

To use self-improvement to your advantage, you must stop chasing happiness like a horse chasing a sugar cube.

You can’t skip steps. Happiness is a by-product of doing well, so you must do your homework first.

If you fill your social networks with smiling pictures, no one will help you because people don’t know you are bad. And you will lose many opportunities.

It is much better to be sincere and honest (also in your profiles and social networks) because you will find that helping hand you need so much.

You have to talk, not hide behind a smiling selfie.

A virtual hug


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