Tolstoy On Changing Yourself, Not Humanity; August Challenge

I thought that I’d share the lovely Tolstoy quote that was read out this morning on Radio 2:

“In our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” Leo Tolstoy

This makes a lot of sense to me, as a person constantly striving for self-improvement. This quote also links nicely to a challenge that I’ve set myself for this month. It’s based on the August challenge that Angela over at Oh She Glows has set, in which she – and interested readers – must “do one thing a day that scares you”. Here are the relevant links:

Angela’s introduction to the challenge
Angela’s progress log

The “do one thing a day that scares you” mantra was famously spoken by Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman who knew a thing or two. The message of this quote is particularly relevant to those that suffer from anxiety, or are afraid to escape their comfort zone. I’ve written a bit about exposure therapy before, and I see it as extremely beneficial. Yes, it’s scary, but it works.


This challenge isn’t just for general or social anxiety, of course, but for anything that you feel is holding you back. If you try to avoid or postpone something that makes your heart race, it’s clear that you need to act on it. Extreme phobias may require more structured help from a professional, but I’m sure that there are things for everyone to do. Start small, and make your targets achievable. In the long-run, challenging your fears will reap huge benefits.

I’ve thought a little about what scares me most, and I recommend others to do the same. Here is my list:

  • Speaking in front of people, particularly being the centre of attention
  • Asking questions – in shops, about other people, for directions
  • Phone calls
  • Being criticised or judged
  • Being assertive
  • Crowds and busy places
  • Water
  • Horrid animals with horrible tails (I’m not brave enough to say the name!)

Most of these fears bring me immediate stress just thinking about them. However, as Emerson wisely said,

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”

If I can counter these fears, I’ll find university, socialising, and everyday tasks easier. As a result, I’ll be happier, less stressed, have a better social life, and do better in my studies. That’s certainly worth the short-term effort and anxiety. I’ll be posting my progress and achievements on this progress page.


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at

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