Why You Relentlessly Read Self-Help

And why it isn’t working

The self-help book industry is booming and has been for a long-time. So many articles online are simply more self-help. If you need help improving or changing anything, you can find advice online.

How to be better at…
How to improve…
How to attract…
How to lose weight…
How to quit…

The list is endless.

As someone who has an entire, large, bookshelf full of self-help books — most which I have read (and yet I still browse for more), I feel I am qualified to hazard a guess why this industry is so successful.

Self-help fills a need. At least temporary. A need to fill a hole of want, of not enough and feeling insecure.

‘Perhaps this new self-help book will help me fix that feeling that just won’t go away.’

And temporarily it does as we read and maybe do the exercises for a week or two. However, soon we are back at our baselines.

Does self-help work?

Sometimes. If you do the work and if the work is sound.

If you just read the book and expect the magical wish fairy to change your life, then you will be disappointed. However, if the principles in the book make sense and you actually follow the suggestions — usually journaling, exercise, changing your diet, some type of mindfulness practice — and make these suggestions things you do for the rest of your life, then yes, they do work.

In my experience, most new self-help books really don’t say anything I don’t already intellectually know.

Reading them is just a reminder of things I should be doing.

So I challenge you this — I am including myself in this challenge — stop simply reading self help books and articles. Find at least one concrete idea that you will apply to your life permanently and then stick to it.

Also — start working on feeling enough. Good enough as you are right now. Embrace you. Your foibles, your challenges, your “faults”, your funny side, your grumpy side, your messed-up side, your imperfect body and mind. Cause no one is like you. This hole and longing for a “fix” is a huge part of what drives the self-help industry.

Many people come to self-help material because they feel like something is wrong with them or the way they are. The problem is that anything that tells you how to improve your life is also implying that there is something inherently wrong with you the way you are. — Mark Manson

Understanding these two ideas — 1. picking a concrete suggestion from a book or article and then applying it and 2. loving and accepting yourself — is what real self help looks like.


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