“Self-improvement is masturbation”

Vanhomunculus
3 min readApr 19, 2021

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Fight Club has been one of my favorite movies for a very long time, but this quote by Tyler while looking at an advertisement of branded underwear on the local transit bus never really made sense to me. I might have finally understood it today- or probably understood a figment of the entire idea of the quote- all thanks to a podcast between Naval Ravikant and Kapil Gupta.

Self-improvement is generally considered as a good undertaking whoever you may be. But there is a nuance to this too. If you are trying to self-improve to get yourself out of a difficult circumstance for example, there is nothing wrong with it. If you are trying to self-improve purely for the purpose of bettering your self-image, you may need to pause for a moment and check your motivation.

We all have our own self-image, which, in my opinion, are bloated more often than not. I, for example, have this self-image of a cool guy who likes to go along with the flow of life. Whether this is true or not is a totally different (and long) conversation. If I try to take up an undertaking as something that will improve myself as a person but the motivation for the same(whether I’m aware of it or not) is to improve my self-image, then I might get in a loop where I take pleasure in the fact that I have improved my self-image. Now self-image is really our own big ego and feeding it might not be the best thing to do, as far as trying to follow Taoism and such is concerned. Now, if you get in a loop of undertaking self-improvement undertakings to improve your self-image and you get a kick out of it whenever the undertakings are achieved, you get pleasure. Now this pleasure is a great motivator to follow up on additional self-improving goals and before you know if you are stuck in a loop.

The really one aspect one should be careful about it falling in the trap of taking up undertakings and setting new goals just for the pleasure that you get out of it upon successful completion. This loop shares a unfathomable parallel with masturbation(especially cases where you are in the loop of jerking off day in and day out aka addicted to porn). Only Tyler could have noticed these parallels in hindsight. The quote which sounds almost like an extremely ironic and obscure statement suddenly makes immense sense and there’s a feeling that its not untrue either.

The road to understanding how your mind works is long and filled with misdirection. But slowly I feel like I am making progress. In the age of internet, where we can find pleasure to satisfy are desires for almost anything from consuming food to products, content to porn, knowledge to a person’s life history, I need to make it a priority to handle this abundance of sensory pleasure in a way that will not backfire on me. I wish to use this tool of instant knowledge, to learn more about philosophies from wise people in an attempt to get freedom from my own mind.

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