Self-improvement is masturbation

August 13, 2018

Self-improvement is masturbation.

I think this line, spoken by Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club, is one of the most significant lines in the movie. It’s bizarre on the face of it; who can argue against self-improvement?  Self-improvement, by definition, is improving oneself.

But is that really so?

We should really examine how it is we’re trying to improve. Too often, people undertake so-called ‘self-improvement’ in a ‘safe’ way. They go to the gym. They recite affirmations. They meditate or start a new diet.

They might read productivity books like Getting Things Done.  But whatever they do, their self-improvement is bounded by a comfort zone from which they will not stray. Safe self-improvement is not transformative. It does not challenge a person’s identity or help them see things as they truly are.


Self-destruction is truly transformative. Self-destruction challenges one’s own identity, unmasks latent anxieties and smashes preconceptions about what one thinks is possible. Doing something uncomfortable, scary, or risky is self-destruction. The more you do it, the more of your old self begins to die away, and a new self begins taking hold. Self-destruction is metamorphosis.

Most people cannot achieve self-destruction. They will walk to the precipice, look down, and turn away. There is no going up, over or around, there is only going through. That means finding what scares you, what gets your heart racing, and doing it. And not just doing it once – that’s masturbation.

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