Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Self Help Gurus Get It Wrong

Self Help is a bit of a misnomer. You would think that if you read a self help book or went to a self help seminar that you would be getting valuable information to, I don't know, help yourself. I've found that this is rarely the case in the self help industry.

For a woman to actually help herself she would need to (I'm sure you know the pattern by now) learn something new. This new something can be a skill, knowledge, practical facts or more information, a new concept or tool she can put in practice or insights about herself that can help get her to where she wants to be. No matter what it is it must be something she can use in her own life.

Self Help rarely ever teaches new skills and mostly hands out new concepts and facts that don't really help. The facts may give us more information about a topic which is a bit helpful but it never really goes farther than being a nice anecdote or informational tidbit. The Self Help industry continues to fall short of ever really, truly helping people yet women continue to give billions of dollars to make themselves feel better. wrote an article back in 2009 about the Self Help industry from the standpoint of what people continue to pay for even during an economic downturn. Forbes quoted Brian Tracy, "People keep buying because they like to feel like they're improving themselves." Brian is a head of a self help book and seminar business. Notice how he says "because they like to feel" and not "because they are". This is just one article on one website but I think it pretty much summarizes why and how the self help industry gets so much money. You can read the entire article here.

Now, I am not advocating making the self help industry illegal. They are not forcing people to give them money. And for the most part they aren't really even lying or committing fraud. I believe in a free market and if people continue to give money to a non-fraudulent business that's their issue. I just hope that my blog encourages women to stop giving their hard earned money to programs they really don't need.

It's Just Problem Solving, People!

The self help industry's lack of teaching practical skills is just one thing they get wrong. They also assume that what worked for them will work for everyone else. Self Help gurus are extremely good at telling you the problems they had, the struggles they went through and then, that simple epiphany, where everything made sense to them and they were able to turn their life around. What they are really describing is problem solving. Plain and simple.

Every woman has the innate ability to problem solve. You might be out of practice but you have all the resources you need... namely... your brain. You have the same ability to look at your life and figure out what you want to improve and then figure out what you need to do in order to improve it. When the gurus tell you about their epiphanies and stories of success it all sounds magical and mysterious. But it's really nothing more than the classic Brain vs. Problem.

You Aren't Broken, You're Just Human

The self help industry's biggest mistake is making millions, perhaps billions, of people feel like there's something wrong with them. Most women want to improve themselves. Who wouldn't? It's human nature to strive for more. It's also human nature to not be perfect.

You are not broken because you can't meditate or don't know how to "think positively to achieve your goals". First of all, while meditation can be a stress reliever, it's not the only stress relieving tool available to you. And secondly even if you could meditate or "think positively" you are still going to have to do a lot more to make whatever improvement you want to make. The self help industry shows you things that most humans don't know how to do in the first place and then scolds you for not knowing how to do it yourself.

If you want to learn how to meditate or think positively because you believe that it's a tool that can help you to your goals, that's fine. Just don't spend time and money on these things just because some self help guru told you to.

I wish the self help industry would understand that there's no magic pill for life. Humans don't fall neatly into a one-size-fits-all box. And we aren't broken, damn it!

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