#WorkOnYourself: How self-improvement has become a toxic trend on TikTok
Self Improvement

#WorkOnYourself: How self-improvement has become a toxic trend on TikTok

TikTok is full of tips for self-improvement, helping us find new ways to be more productive, peaceful, efficient, self-compassionate and well-rounded every time we switch on the app.

Self-help hashtags are growing in popularity – #WorkOnYourself has 119.5 million views, #GetYourLifeTogether has over 40 million and #SelfLoveLifestyle has nearly three million. It seems like everyone is scrolling for self-improvement, and it’s made so much easier with seemingly countless videos at your fingertips – but the pressure to be better all the time can get overwhelming.

Surely we can’t all be bettering ourselves all the time? And at what point does our desire to be better actually become a burden?

Social media can make us feel inferior

When it comes to self-help, “Most of us want a quick fix – somebody to tell us what to do and make things better”, suggests Gillian McMichael, author and founder of Full Circle Global (fullcircleglobal.com) .

“We are in an age of social media overload – we compare and contrast ourselves to others and we want what they have. Never has there been a time like now, where keeping up with the Joneses has a whole new meaning. Social media platforms showcase how we can get our goals, change our lives and better ourselves. But because it is in a short 30-second clip, we don’t know how to apply this to our own lives.”

And this constant bombardment of self-improvement content can become exhausting.

“With social feed overload, it is difficult to decide what top tips or ideas we should take on and do something with, as the next day there will be thousands more reels telling us to do something different – it’s confusing and unsustainable,” says McMichael. “Quick fixes never work in any aspect of your life, especially your wellbeing – I think this approach adds pressure and can give false expectations.”

We only see the best bits

Max Hovey is an influencer who focuses on empowering the LGBTQ+ community and promoting body positivity and self-compassion.

“The idea of being your perfect self has always been a pressure from social media,” he says, adding that our obsession with self-improvement is the “natural evolution” of this.

“Everyone has their own struggle, and the pressure constantly to be ‘getting your life together’ is incredibly toxic,” he suggests. “The idea of ‘having it together’ doesn’t exist. I find it unlikely that the people creating this content have it together and don’t have other stuff going on in the background.

“We are showing all the great things in life and not showing anything else that is going on, making other people feel bad about themselves.”

The business of being perfect

Not all self-help on social media is toxic, with McMichael saying: “I think there are a handful of skilled professionals sharing their tips and techniques with a wider audience. But there are a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon because wellness, self-improvement and transforming your life is in vogue now more than ever.”

In recent years, “The awareness of mental health has significantly grown and everyone wants to better themselves,” McMichael says. “Hence, we are more informed, meaning these topics are now more relatable.”

However, McMichael recommends bettering yourself for the right reasons – and in a sustainable way. “The reality is simple, you’d be much happier if you invested in self-improvement and self-care because you wanted to find balance rather than the perfection that is presented. If you are looking to change your life, then find a qualified coach to support you – rather than somebody on TikTok who is not qualified or experienced enough to give you advice on what you should do.”