I wrote this last week after a really difficult emotional day. I went back and forth on if it was worth publishing but decided what the hell…
If you make a trip into your local chain bookstore as well as most privately owned shops you will find a section dedicated to the idea of “Self Help or Self Improvement”. We all have problems, things we would like to change in our lives, as well as physical, emotional, and personality traits we would like to improve in ourselves, so it is really no wonder that this section exists, is as large as it is, and that those writers make so much money off of the sale of those books and in reality the sale of themselves as having it all figured out. I think in some cases I can be guilty of being on both ends of what I will refer to as the self help industry. I’ve purchased these types of books, gone to seminars, read every inspiring word possible on the internet and tried every trick in the book to find that magic happiness key that we all hope is located in the perfect sentence on some random page. I’ve also blogged about confidence, self worth, being happy and all that goes along with it and have maybe been that self help resource for someone else. While I am glad that maybe someone out there has found some solace in my words at some point in time I have to wonder how many times that solace has fizzled weeks, days or even minutes after taking it in, just like it has for me when I have been on the receiving end of another barade of self improvement mumbo jumbo. And when it has fizzled, we find ourselves over it, and back at the same starting point with $24 less in our pocket… it does become mumbo jumbo, doesn’t it?
I am not perfect. I have problems. I have things that I want to improve about myself and that list is always changing. Yet I find myself on the internet giving advice with the very best of intentions, until that moment when that sneaking reminder of the old sayings “those that can’t do teach” and “do as I say, not as I do” creep back into my conscious leaving me feeling like a fraud, hiding under the blankets, and feeling undeserving of anyone’s ear or vote of confidence. Isn’t that how it probably goes for everyone who gives out advice in order to help others though? Whether it is for professional or financial gain or even just in casual conversation with girlfriends over coffee we are all intentionally or unintentionally providing advice on “self help” to people in our lives, and doing so without having the perfect grasp on our lives ourselves.
I am currently struggling in a few areas of my life. I don’t always share what is going on in my personal life with the internet as much as others but aside from the idea of being a downer, I also would never want to give the notion that I don’t have my life figured out, just like everyone else. Pretty ridiculous isn’t it? Hence this 100% authentic and reflective post. Basically I am currently unemployed the financial aspect of this time in my life is throwing me for a loop to no end. Every time I turn around another money sucking problem is coming out of nowhere from the broken windshield on my car, to my mailbox that was ran over for the millionth time last week and will cost over $100 to fix just so I can receive my mail. Not to mention the stressors that comes along with having 3 teenage boys, a partner with a degenerative disease that flares up every so often, 2 crazy dogs who demand constant attention, my bipolar disorder that seems to be kicking my ass more than usual, and all the other parts that make life not quite the slice of cake we would like it to be. This stress takes its toll on my relationship with Nightrider from time to time, affects my friendships and family relationships, and leaves me feeling like a constant failure at life. I also find myself currently grieving all over again the loss of my golden retriever Lucy from this summer, my father from 10 years ago and most prominently my Aunt Jessie who we lost at age 94 back in 2008 primarily because these were relationships in my life that I always felt I could count on when times were hard. I’m feeling overwhelmed, slightly depressed, inadequate, and like everything in my life is so far out of control and that the only person to blame is myself. Seeing as I feel all of this is my fault I of course hold it all in until I burst into tiny fits of rage projected at those I care about most, uncontrollable tears while sitting on the bathroom floor and the idea today that I should go to Barnes and Noble and look for a “self help” book to get me through these problems. Imagine that.
Is another book titling a promise of happiness, financial security, a rocking body, the ability to influence others or whatever the newest self help craze is what I really need right now? Absolutely not, but this industry has convinced us that there are actually people out there who can help us accomplish these things simply by opening your wallet, reading their content and spewing quotes to anyone who will listen what you have learned which you probably already knew in the first place. This industry has created and cashed in on the idea that anyone can handle any problem themselves all with positive mantras, never end list making, and keys for success all on their own. It is called Self Help right, so why should one need a book written by someone else in order to help themselves?
The answer to the question is they shouldn’t but that’s also because the idea of self help is a ridiculous concept that we all get so caught up in the possibility of that we forget to really think about where this self help comes from. We begin with the idea that we should be able to handle every problem that ever arises in our lives on our own and when we fall short on that idea, which we always will, we then turn to a book in order to obtain help under the guise that we are still just helping ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle isn’t it?
So what do we do to break this cycle? While yes I do believe that research is important and maybe these books, seminars and websites (even mine) do have a place in the world for guidance and thought provoking what we really need to give up on is the idea that we can only count on ourselves and that every problem we have needs to be handled all alone in privacy. The lightbulb clicked for me today that half the problems I am facing right now wouldn’t have been problems if instead of diving into the most recent nonfiction best seller offering a promise of happiness from someone with that perfectly photo shopped white smile in a sharply tailored suite, I had simply allowed myself to share what I was feeling with the people share my life with. If I had asked someone that I love and that someone who loves me for help we could have worked together and found solutions rather than fizzling false promises and another book on the shelf collecting dust.
Why have we let the self help industry let us get so caught up in the idea of self help, that we find ourselves with the inability to ask for help, to open ourselves vulnerable to the people we care about, to show our moments of weakness and even to celebrate our victories. We can grow as a person with the help of real people even just those providing an ear, by loving ourselves enough to allow another person to love even the less the pleasant parts of ourselves. I’m not promising that others will always be able to deliver on the help you need, or that it will solve all your problems it just might be or will at least serve as an outlet or the opportunity to receive another perspective that could change your world.
I’m not saying that self help is horrible, impossible or not an important life experience, but maybe its really all about finding a balance between self help and learning how to ask for help. Now that’s what someone should really write a book about.
What are your thoughts regarding self help, asking for help and how to deal with the highs and lows in life? Please share and lets work on helping eachother!