There is a lot of science-backed evidence to what I will say and more is emerging all the time. But I will keep this post links-free to make it easier to absorb and easier to comment on. Working on ourselves is something that's increasingly emerging as a trend. It is the backbone of intentional self-care, where we try to make sure we remain mentally balanced, cognitively sharp and physically healthy. Attributes such as "strength", "fitness" and "intelligence" are always contextual and emerge as a result of fundamental physical and mental processes.
If we consider the fact that we come in this world with virtually infinite potential and are helped or hindered by the genetic lottery we inherited, we understand that if we stand absolutely still, we will be exposed to the demands and expectations of our surrounding environment. We become "good husbands/wives/daughters/sons/students/workers" etc because these are the things that we either sense are expected of us or are explicitly told are expected of us. We then act, behave and think in ways that our not our own but we think they are because "everyone else" also seems to act, think and behave along similar lines. Or at least that's the impression we have.
Working on our self is about understanding our own agency. The fact that our feelings matter and that we have worth beyond the point where we are expected to conform or have to do something for someone. This work, as you probably guess, is mostly internal. It needs us to answer simple questions for our self such as: who takes care of us? Who is there for us? Where do we want our life to be five years from now?
These are sweeping questions that open up our horizon and ask us to perform the difficult part of introspective thinking. They are a process. Science shows that we are at our our most dishonest, defensive and deflective when we are alone with our thoughts. So these questions have to be presented by us, to us, with kindness, compassion and understanding. They're not a tool to make us feel guilty and worthless.
The mind, of course, cannot exist without the body. Neuroscience shows that even our cognitive processing is not localized in our brain. We think with our heart and our gut as much as we do with our head. We feel with our entire body. Emotions that lead to thoughts start out as sensations that are created from the sensory input of the environment around us (and I use the term environment broadly here to include family and friends, work and culture).
If we're not working on our self, everyone else and everything else is working on us. We're not in control. The control we crave however always starts out small: by learning to move our body with our will and control it better we also develop the neural connections that lead to greater cognitive and emotional control. Better cognitive and emotional control leads to a better sense of who we are and a deeper sense of agency.
Everything starts with movement and starts small. It ends up with thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams and a direction in life. Every workout we do is part of this work on our self we need to do. And we're never done.
You probably have many questions so please feel free to ask or express your own opinion or provide your own examples.