Self-Help, Self-Improvement and Personal Development: How To Tell Them Apart


Concepts such as Self-Help, Self-Improvement and Personal Development can get quite confusing and tend to be used interchangeably by some people. While these concepts all deal with an individual’s pursuit for personal advancement, each term can be uniquely defined and can possess a distinct meaning over the others.




Self-help is defined as the process of dealing with problems that we face from time to time in our lives. These can include heartaches, death of a loved one, emotional strains, illness and more. It usually involves sharing a common experience, problem or concern. In other words, self-help can be deemed as participatory in the sense that we aim to belong in self-help groups where we can get emotional support and practical help from other members who we share a common experience with.




Self-improvement revolves around the critical analysis of a person’s internal characteristics that need improvement. These characteristics don’t necessarily have to be negative traits. Instead, these are traits where there is room to grow and improve. Some examples of self-improvement goals include becoming more motivated to work harder, striving to be more productive and pushing yourself to do better.


Personal Development


Personal development is focused more on building new skills and trying out new things. It’s about working on developing your talents and increasing your world knowledge. Its ultimate aim is to become a well rounded educated individual.


How They Differ


Self-help and self-improvement have different connotations. The former is something that you need while the latter is about growth. Self-help is aimed at making things easier while self-improvement comes from an internal desire to advance certain things in your life whether they are easy or not.


If self-improvement involves the internal desire to improve an individual’s traits, personal development is more like an external activity. This is because the traits that it aims to develop can be measured such as skills and abilities. In the case of self-improvement, the traits are not capable of being measured. Some examples of these traits are fears and motivation.


Self-help and personal development see things in a different perspective. While self-help is almost like an obsession to fix some of our innate flaws whether real or imagined, personal development uses the premise that we are fine the way we are, albeit not yet in a perfect sense. We are a work in progress and we continue to expand in various ways such as increasing our knowledge, enhancing our skill and cultivating behaviors that are healthier and more positive.


All in all, knowing the difference between self-help, self-improvement and personal development and how they can also be connected with one another would rely on an individual’s perception and attitude. The actions taken in each area may be the same or identical at some point. However, the results will certainly differ greatly since the intention involved in each is also different.