The Self-Help Black Hole: Can You Really Go It Alone?

Life Coach: Do Self Help Books Work?

Living in a world of do-it-yourself healing makes me feel like we have missed the point. What is the self help industry really teaching us?   That we must hide our ills and work to improve ourselves secretly, in the still of the night? I can see how silly we look: Still-life portraits of people constantly "improving" themselves. The gods must be laughing! We think it's a good idea to pick up a book or a method that will set us free, but is it really self help, or self destruction? Along with that, we self diagnose at will, eager for the pain to flee, but somehow the magic pill doesn't work.

Trying to cure what ails us feels more like feeding a monster. As long as we have a book we can buy, we can bury the REAL problem and pretend that we're cheerily working on "self improvement". No one needs to know about our 4AM tears. Our shameful disappointment of self gets tucked away, out of sight. Till we find that solution we can apply in the dark, our "come to Jesus" moment of redemption in a bottle. Only, it feels less like freedom and more like suffering in this game of hidden rules.  The more you help yourself overcome your "broken"  the bigger the hole you somehow dig.     

A perfect hoax: I think the self help industry actually keeps us feeling badly about ourselves. We've become a culture of self-helpers who still can't seem to find their way out of their misery. How many of you have told yourself these lies: "I don't need help; I can do it alone!" "Everything is OK." How many women have told their partners  "Nothing," when asked the question "What's wrong?" I know I'm guilty as charged.

You buy the book, the method, the dream. And you practice, chanting words of positivity. You walk around with a big smile stretched across your face, you are going to do this if it kills you. You tell your family and friends how much progress you're making, but you actually feel like a warrior with a sword. How can you admit you don't know how to deal with all this crap that keeps floating your way, without looking like a loser?  

You channel all your energy toward good thoughts. You do good deeds. You read your self help books. And yet, your mind keeps you trapped in a pattern of self doubt, drowning in self help rhetoric, grasping at the latest touted cure. Misery expands in a room with the drapes drawn as you hide behind the cover of a book that should work. Your world washed clean because all answers are in a book. Don't know how to deal with sleepless nights? Google it. Somewhere, we think, there is a solution to keep all the pain vacuum-packed. Post happy sayings on social media. Declare that you don't want any naysayers on your wall or in your life. Line them all up and hit the delete button. Bang, bang, bang. You wash your hands of it. You are independent and tough; no one needs to know your shame or confusion as  you grieve, trying to make sense out of this hot mess through your self help quest. Society dictates that pretense is king, and wrestling demons is saved for time alone.    

Can you believe we buy into this craziness?

We make no room for fear or failure. What happens when you can't get up? Perhaps you call yourself names or compare yourself to all the "winners" and find yourself lacking? So what is the solution? An overload of self help may seem like the ticket, but it can keep you stuck. When I was lost in despair and denial a couple of years ago, I could not shift the pain or find a solution, no matter how many books I read. I was beyond helping myself. I needed an intervention, and I suffered horribly, while convinced I was being strong. 

Toss out all those self help books unless you found one that truly resonates, or better yet find a mentor who can hold truly help you. Ask questions of yourself and don't stop asking when it gets hard. Escape the Tupperware mind set (Remember, they promise a grip seal). Conditioning sets in early and shaking it up requires doing something different, so be willing to really do some hard work to break your seal of silence. 

Typically, we are conditioned to shut down when things go wrong. We're programmed to keep it all inside. I bet you can cook, clean, organize, and earn while sleepwalking through it all, and self help science makes the problem even worse, because no one needs to know what lurks beneath. To be fair, much of what is in the books and programs has merit. The problem lies in the translation: You talk to girlfriends about it, but not too much because it might disgust them if they knew. So instead you self medicate and think, "If you just get this mantra under control you will have this silly fear whipped and all will be well."

Do you know that fear is greater than knowledge?

And knowledge is useless without wisdom. The ancient Greeks put a lot of trust in their philosophers, for a very good reason. Wisdom needs compassion and indifference. That was the role of the ancient sages: they acted like a self help Google engine. You took your problem to market and the philosopher listened.  He dispensed wisdom based on your story. See, self help books can't accommodate your individual nuances. When you read a self help book what is the typical reaction?

"There must be something wrong with me... and I can do it alone."   

This is not true. No one can do it alone. You got into this mess by taking what other people told you as Gospel. Who will help you untie the knots that you cannot see? If you want to help yourself you have to be willing to surrender everything you know and believe about yourself. Can you do that alone? It seems unwise to me.

Self help is a part-time hobby. To shift into a new belief system is a full-time occupation. Learning to unlearn will upend your guts, raise your hackles and shake up your shackles. Freedom may beckon, but few can answer the call without stumbling over the patterns and programming that hold your cells prisoner. Sometimes the universe shakes us up when we cling too hard. Even then, learning to be "new at you" takes time. Patience is mandatory.

Stop asking yourself "why does this happen to me?" and start seeing the signs of transformation through transition. Welcome the experiences that grow your soul. That is the key ingredient in the self help success story. I leave you with this thought: Pioneers of self growth are willing to give up everything to move out of the Tupperware life. Yes, everything. To master the self help process, you must be willing to surrender all that you place a ransom on, even your most precious possessions. If you love it, let it go. Learning to love you is wicked and wild. The work must come from within once you have found the resources and a means to help yourself. There is no need to go it all alone, be discerning about what works for you and against you.

I guide women to tap into their own wisdom to find the confidence to cut through fog and fear and live with lightness.  Get your copy of my free ebook "How to say no without being pushy or a pushover" on my website  Learning to say no begins your journey to yes for you.

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