The obvious issue with self-help is this: its ultimate goal is to reach a point where you no longer need it.
Think about it: The whole goal of personal growth is to build yourself to be the person you’ve always wanted. The whole point of pursuing happiness is to reach a point where happiness no longer has to be pursued.
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You work on improving your charisma, your relationships, your mental fortitude so that you can enjoy life without the heartbreaks and the drama of having to deal with other people’s drama.
Self-help is therefore in a weird way, trying to teach us how to not need it.
The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become self-actualized, is to stop trying to be all of those things and just be them.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the self-help industry plays an important role in shaping one’s mindset. But you’ve got to do it.
Don’t Get Addicted to Self-Help
The self-help addicts feel like they need to enroll in every new course, read all the books, listen to all the podcasts, hire all the life coaches, and help others self-help themselves into becoming their most brilliant selves.
For the self-help addict, the end goal is not to improve, but rather to figure out a way to establish a human self without all the drama and pain associated with having to develop yourself.
Their identity is “a self-help addict,” even though they’d never admit it.
The truth is, life as a human being is quite painful. You can’t become a real human being without going through at least a few painful steps, and no amount of self-help can make it any less painful.
My Own Experience With Self-Help
Back in my early 20s, when I was what I would characterize as a self-help addict, I’d spend most of my time reading articles, trying all sorts of weird stuff, from binaural beats to self-hypnosis, positive affirmations, and telling myself, over and over again, how much I loved myself in front of a mirror.
I’d visualize my goals, I’d do all the exercises, write down the five-year plan, and try a bit of ASMR to soothe the nerves.
I tried it all, but at the end of the day, when it was time to fall asleep, I felt the sort of anxiety that often made me cry.
I eventually realized that the funny thing about self-help is that it doesn’t work unless you want it to be something to keep you busy, like sitting in a rocking chair, or for it to be another five minute topic whenever you meet others who share this passion of yours.
It took me most of my twenties to realize that the problem was not the system, the courses, or the books. The problem was not the how of self-help, but rather the why.
And ironically, this made my life much worse. All the books I’d read, all the exercises I’d do, they were all acting as a spotlight on my own inadequacies and failures, on my own inability to hold the world upon my shoulders.
You’ve Got to Help Yourself
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”Sam Levenson
Self-help is called that because you’ve got to live the advice that you consume. Nothing works unless you do.
All you’re doing if you don’t try to help yourself is repeating all the reasons why you’re not worthy of success, or love, or friendship.
The same way as watching YouTube videos of bodybuilders won’t help you build any muscle, you’ve got to do the work that is required in order to truly help yourself.
Self-Help Is About Helping Others Too
I believe this is the secret reason self-help is so popular. You can only go so far by reading the advice and applying it.
The same way a lot of popular bloggers decide to share blogging tips and strategies, you get a stronger sense of what needs to be done if you are sharing the self-help advice that helped you the most.
You fall in love with the process, you realize the importance of having to do the work of building a self that you’re proud of.
After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t self-help others into becoming their best selves if you can’t even help yourself.
Self-Help Doesn’t Work Unless You Are Willing to Help Yourself
There is no such thing as an elevator to being your perfect self. You’ve got to take the stairs.
Sure, there are some habits and actions that are more helpful than others, but nothing works unless you are willing to let go of your desire to be held by the hand and directed towards becoming your best self and assume responsibility for who you want to be.
Self-help is just that… a framework that allows you to help yourself in ways that you probably never thought before, because, let’s face it, one of the most paradoxical truths of life is that you don’t know what you don’t know.
Becoming aware of strategies that might help you succeed in life is important, but becoming addicted to consuming them on a daily basis, while you cry yourself to sleep at night, is not what the law of attraction is all about.
Chanting “there are no weeds” is not going to magically make all the weeds in your garden disappear. You’ve got to do the work, pull the weeds out, and take care of your garden.
If you do not do the work of helping yourself, if you do not help others, you might just be using self-help as a clever way to run away from who you are.
The self-help addict may get to experience the feeling of growth over and over again, but the goal is not to feel it or to write about it, or talk about it with your friends. The goal is to embody it.
You’re not who you say you’ll become, you’re what you do. Today. And tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow.