Everyone who knows me knows I am a self-pronounced self-help junkie. But I have noticed one major conundrum with the genre of personal development. Self-help junkies obsessively consume self-help material instead of taking action, while the non-believers claim self-help does not help, that it’s unrealistic, and then also don’t take action.
That’s right. I’m calling both of y’all out.
For all self-help junkies
For the self-junkies, faithful and constant consumers of personal development material, you get a rush of dopamine from listening to speaking legends like Les Brown or Mel Robbins charismatically jump up and down and shout at audience members. However, instead of stopping to let that nugget of wisdom settle into your head, tossing it around, feeling the weight of its meaning, you just click to the next video. And the next one. (Oops, guilty as charged.)
The people who scoff at self-help roll their eyes at the thousands of Tony Robbin seminar attendees, saying that most of those people will go back home just to resume their mediocre habits but this time with a couple thousand dollars missing from their bank account. I agree with these Practical Perrys. Most people who blindly follow self-help gurus are doing more fantasizing than they are money-making or business-building. It is easy to feel like you’re doing something if you’re talking about it all the time.
However, I’d bet my rent for the next 3 years that most of these self-help scoffers are also overworked and underpaid at a job that’s definitely not their dream job.
Where’s the action?
It is much easier to fantasize about or scoff at dreams because it takes an egregious amount of energy, time, and, most importantly, belief to actualize them. All our thoughts, beliefs, and values, are accumulated to form our mindset which dictates all of our actions and accomplishments. It is our mindset that not only determines our quality of everyday life but also whether or not we accomplish that dream.
Monks meditate six to eight hours a day to tune their beliefs and understand human nature. Self-made millionaires and even just hundred-thousand-aires report having completely different mindsets compared to when they lived from paycheck to paycheck. Lisa Nichols is one of my favorite examples of someone who has experienced both of those lives. She slowly fostered an indestructible growth mindset to overcome her fears, lack of self-worth, and money problems. Even achieving and maintaining your dream body is almost completely due to your ability to change your mindset about health and maintain that change.
However, whether it is due to egoic parenting, a disadvantaged socioeconomic background, or one’s childhood traumas, the reality is that most people do not believe in themselves. In fact, the inner voices of the majority of people are filled with self-doubt (to many an advertiser’s delight). “I’m not good enough to do what I want.” “I don’t have enough money to live how I want to.” “I’m not that talented or smart. There’s no way I can do that.”
We shut ourselves down before we even try, and, unfortunately, many people never get out of that downward spiral. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Self-help was a natural response to a society becoming less religious but with a people still needing wisdom and direction. Quite a few people turn to self-help and motivational speakers because they are indeed right about how all positive changes in life come from changes in mindset. However, as my fellow self-help junkies understand, if we consume self-help to the point where we numb ourselves from taking action, self-help is just another substitute for alcohol, Netflix, or whining.
I believe self-help was never meant to be a panacea for our problems or our self-doubt. Self-help, rather, works best when it is used to help us build an empowering inner voice we never had before.
If society and the people around you made you believe–or, really, BRAINWASHED you into believing–that you were not good or smart or capable enough, that means you can brainwash yourself into believing YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO.
(This little boy believes in you, too.) (editor’s note: You gotta watch this)
The biggest positive changes in my life happened when I moved out of my parents’ house to Taiwan, away from negative voices and limiting beliefs and toward silence and space. It was only in silence that I could hear the faint whispers of my intuition, a force that moved me toward things that made me genuinely happy and away from things that drained me. Since then, I have been slowly filling my mind with empowering beliefs and discarding the ones that did not bring me closer to happiness.
Developing a positive inner voice does not only help sensitive people and those with mental illnesses function more smoothly. But for you logical folks, it is also the decision with the greater positive Return-On-Investment. When you screw up, instead of beating yourself up for days, the most productive outcome is instead speaking to yourself with compassion and patience as though you were talking to a friend.
The explosion of the self-help trend has turned away a lot of people. It has also created many procrastinators. However, I do not believe that the intrinsic value and wisdom of personal development has ever diminished. Ultimately, it is how people use the material that matters.
Here is one tip that has urged me to take action and utilize the knowledge from the personal development videos. I limited myself to one or two high-quality videos a day. Instead of clicking onto the next video, I would instead close my laptop and wash the dishes (insert task that can be done while pondering) as I juggled the video’s main concept in my head, thinking about how it applied to my life. What was I believing and thus doing that continued to perpetuate this problem? What steps could I take to solve it? I’ve solved other problems before, and I know I can solve this one, too. (Yes, my positive inner voice and confidence have come a long way.)
Now, it’s your turn.
(You may have seen this coming, but I always bring it back around.)
What is your reaction to the genre of self-help and personal development?
Name the one thing you learned from this article and is sticking to your noggin right now?
What action can you take to apply that idea in your life?
About the Author
: Clarisse Lee is an artist and aspiring entrepreneur from Hawaii with a healthy obsession with teaching highly sensitives how to thrive unapologetically both in the world and their inner lives. She is (re)discovering the joys of reading for fun, writing for the soul, and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Connect with her mind on YouTube and her heart on Instagram.