Gary Brown: Considering the dangers of self-improvement overload

Gary Brown

Can a man get too good? Can a guy become too intelligent or stylish? Can a fella improve too much? Can I help myself, for example, so much with self-help stuff that my knowledge and capabilities suddenly go way beyond where a guy is naturally supposed to be in this world, which is, more or less, clueless?

Women among us are shaking their heads, laughing without worry, and mumbling, “It’s not happening.”

And this may be true. I’ve been reading computer books and memory-improvement books for years, and I still sometimes have trouble operating a home computer because I can’t recall my password.

Still, there is a danger of a self-improvement overload. The aids to self-improvement are abundant around us. Because of self-improvement books, CDs, TV programs and workshops, there is huge potential for me to regenerate my intellectual ability, improve my personality, increase my sense of style, rebuild my earning power and just generally make myself over into a better person with a heightened feeling of self-worth — the kind of person who probably wouldn’t even associate with the old me.

All giggling aside, it could happen.

What if I got so good that I could become ungracious? Let’s say somebody bought me a book for Christmas about home improvement skills. But, what if, between now and the holiday, I watch a lot of HGTV and read a lot at handyman Web sites. Maybe I buy a series of instructional CDs from an infomercial.

By the time Christmas morning arrives, I’ll know so much that likely I’ll leaf through the book, saying, “Know that. Know that. Also know that. Yep, know that, too. I think I know everything in this book. ... Would you mind returning it and getting me a book about golf? That’s a tough improvement. I still have a ways to go there.”

How insensitive. I’d probably get back a book about “Improving Your Interpersonal Relationships.”

So I’m just not going to improve much. I’d rather not be great. I don’t even want to be really good. The pressure is on you to stay humble when you know too much. I want to know just a little. And I want it to be pretty obvious. Some would say it already is.

In short, I want to stay sort of stupid and unsophisticated. That way nobody can be hurt by any kind of self-improvement that inadvertently could lead to a superior attitude.

I’m just not going to be superior at anything. There will be no attitude.

I feel my life has improved just from deciding to be less improved. Maybe I should write a self-improvement book.

Gary Brown writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at