When Self Help Becomes Useless
If I read (or write), one more 10 steps to, 5 signs that, or 3 traits of (fill in the blank) sort of self-help, my patience will pop.
The self-help industry is built upon perceived mass weakness and the illusion that we’re broken pieces of human parts needing to be fixed.
That’s the first lie. None of us are really broken. Life may be messy, but you’re not broken.
According to Forbes Magazine, “Who buys into this stuff? Mainly middle-aged, affluent adults living on either of the two coasts. What are they getting for their money? In a word: hope”.
Now’s the time when you should scoot your chair a little closer because I’ve got a secret to tell you. Hope is a dangerous word.
We mix hope up with trust. Trust is a different species. Trust is staying in the moment and knowing that no matter what you’re going through, the other side is out there behind the fog. Trust believes that we were built for times like this and day-by-day we learn from our lessons. We grow stronger and we mature.
Hope is the other side of the dirty coin passed hand to hand. It’s a finger’s crossed, stomach filled with fear, wishing sort of energy.
Trust is a strong captain at the helm of a ship navigating safety on a stormy sea. Hope is the captain’s trembling assistant curled in a ball inside his cabin, fearful and wishing for safety.
Self-help feeds upon our hope for a better day, a better marriage, and a better life, but no power lives there.
There’s no trust in self-help, instead, there’s hope in a quick fix, a list of 5 things to stop doing or 3 traits of someone better than us, but there’s no trust.
Trust resides deep in the gut, somewhere behind that chicken liver of yours; laying in wait for the day you put down that list of 10 habits of, and stand up.
Hope does what it says, it hopes. It devours classes and courses, manuals and guides. It feeds on the pre-chewed food fed by self-help experts, while constantly hoping for a better tomorrow.
But trust, trust knows the better tomorrow is planted in the today. Trust stands up during the storm and digs deep. It knows that everything it needs is inside. No one outside has your best interest at heart. YOU know what’s best if only you would sit down, shut up, and let yourself be guided by that inner voice.
But none of us want to do that, do we?
We look for the quick fix, hit the PayPal pay now button and wait in anticipation for some guru to deliver the goods and fix us.
Much of the self-help guru’s advice is designed to trigger emotion and play upon neurosis, yet we give them our hope and power, then turn ourselves inside out trying to be something someone other than who we really are.
If I read one more self-proclaimed guru dropping the F-bomb while talking about the power of releasing our inner sparkle unicorn and breaking our wild untamed goddess thug free, someone is going to have to hold my hair back at the porcelain bowl.
But I digress.
You are not broken. You are whole and you’re actually perfect. You’ve just forgotten. You’ve let yourself be fooled since the early days of taking your first Cosmo quiz. You’ve fallen into the comparison trap and forgotten that nothing really interesting ever comes from those who safely run in the pack. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid of wanting to be the best that you can be while forgetting that you’re already a delicious flavor of unique genetic bouillabaisse.
The key to freedom is figuring out why you do the things you do and why you refuse to do those other things you know would be better. That’s why 12 step programs and certain teachings really do work; they lead us down a path of self-discovery.
Real change comes from this path.
The unlocked door swings open when we stop long enough to listen to the quiet voice whispering for us to slow down and reflect, question our motives, take responsibility for our emotions, and embrace who we are in life.
Self-help requires that we take someone else’s advice. We may adopt a few tips here and there like quick fix Band-Aids, but the initial infection is still in there growing.
Self-discovery, on the other hand, requires silence and reflection, honesty and courage. It’s grabbing a bright light and magnifying glass while reaching in and grabbing that infected splinter with tweezers. It hurts, it’s bloody, but it’s permanently effective. No self-help guru can peel back the wrapper of the Band-Aid for you.
This path of trust, this self-discovery, is a solo journey.
It’s not about self help or hope. It’s about self trust.
photo credit: quinn.anya The inevitable next step via photopin (license)