The Self-Help Trap

I have had an avid interest in the self-help movement since I was a teenager suffering from severe anxiety and depression.

Every book promised to cure what was hurting in a few easy steps. But it was never that easy. So, I would pick up the next book and the next book. Each one that failed to ‘cure’ me sent me deeper into feeling broken.

This went on for years. There were some pieces of useful information. I learned a lot about how the mind works. I just could not apply it to myself. I couldn’t get passed myself and out of my own way to make anything work.

I came to realize that I was so identified as a ‘less than’ person that no amount of information was going to work unless I let go of that.

But the funny thing is, the whole self-help industry needs humans to feel broken so it can promise us this next book or course will help us. If we see ourselves as o.k., we don’t need their books.


I had to change my thinking from fixing to curiosity. Learn for the sake of curiosity and wanting to learn. I had to change my goal.

I had to change from – I want to feel better

To – I want to learn

Here are a few things I learned:

Life is 50% crap. That is just a part of being human. Things happen.  People take my parking spot, the kids get sick, I lose someone I love. Feeling sadness, frustration and anger do not make me broken. I am experiencing a valid human emotion. Seek professional help if necessary.

Negative emotions often come from wanting things to be different than they are. When I can allow myself to experience what is I can breathe. Railing against it or wanting it to be different does not solve anything. It just creates frustration.

Allowing myself to experience the contrast of negative feelings as well as good feelings helps me appreciate both for what they can teach me and bring me.

Instead of focusing on fixing myself I choose instead to have meaningful goals and work at them each day. For example, today I will make better food choices than I did yesterday. I already worked out. I don’t focus on my weight or picking apart how I look, I focus on healthy choices. It’s the best form of self-care.

When I am well nourished, I feel better physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s not about having abs or being a certain size. It’s about choosing my well being over everything.  I’m putting on my oxygen mask first.

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