Life isn’t easy. There, I said it.
We’re all sick of dealing with failure, fatigued by the cumbersome pursuit of chasing our dreams, battling the tension amidst the wide expanse of the ‘have and have-not’. While things work out for some of us, there’s also the other bunch that doesn’t hit jackpot at the second dime into the slot machine, maybe not even by the twentieth time.
Desperation can trigger a lot of actions, as we begin trading most things for the sake of convenience, failure can compel us to resort to every means possible to get help us get ourselves together.
We begin ‘searching for short-cuts’, miracles that would magically amend our lives for the better. As we begin looking for inspiration on every nook and corner of the street; we inevitably stumble upon self-help books.
The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. It fills bookstores and conference rooms. It’s made media celebrities out of people and capitalized wildly off the growing self-consciousness of recent generations. And although it’s changed the lives of millions of people — mostly for the better, I assume — it still lacks certain credibility with most.
While some believe it’s their magic pill others regard it as simple snake oil, often laughing at the hoax it pledges. Everyone has their own set of personal struggles whether you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, body issues, personal issues or other challenges.
It’s quite natural to feel further torn apart when you come across quick fixes that just don’t seem to work for you. Before you draw yourself to the question ‘Why me?’ Let’s try to figure out what self-help books really do and reasons why they don’t seem to help;
1. By being the ‘fake friend’:
Self-Help books teach you to lie to yourself.
Most self-help books introduce the concept of life transformation by reminding you of how ‘incredible’ or perhaps ‘beautiful’ life is. For someone as pragmatic as myself, this concept proves to be as real as the existence of Santa-Claus. Positivity is all well and good, but for things to change, we need to begin from a realistic ground.
Most of us are often tagged as ‘drama queens’ or people who tend to dwell on our own problems, but here’s the catch the reason it’s called a problem is because – it is one. It may be a certain person or a situation that’s causing a hindrance in my life but, lying about it and reassuring myself that life is absolutely wonderful is going to put me in the same situation as when I tried to lay-off my assignments to the absolute last moment, and we all know how that story ends.
The strategic pitch is to replace one neuroticism with another, slightly healthier neuroticism — think someone who goes from being an alcoholic and unable to hold a job, to meditating and doing yoga five hours a day and still unable to hold a job.
With the profit motive, the incentive is not on creating real change but creating the perception of real change. You’re simply tricked into believing that your life has shifted to another horizon as to embrace its magnificence (by conveniently lying to yourself). If you’re reading a self-help book or seeing a therapist, both situations begin with the premise of CHANGE. If there is no change on your part, there will be no change with your problem.
Change begins simply with acceptance of who you are right now and a book probably cannot provide the support or environment needed to accept yourself as who you are.
2. By bringing back the feels of your favorite T.V show:
Setting unrealistic expectations.
We have all been through that heart-breaking or frustrating moment of watching the last episode of that show you’ve binge-watched, the hurricane of emotions that come along with every passing scene.
From dealing with the overwhelming currents of joy to the frustration of not discovering what you expected, self-help books tend to stimulate a similar effect in the minds of the readers. By promising astounding situations in common lives – an insecure teen that miraculously drops weight, an estranged couple that finally gets their ‘happily ever after’ or a terminally ill patient that finds their life meaning, all these scenarios prove to be as heroically inspiring as the fables we’ve read as children. Not only do these sometimes come across as deceptive but also provide us with the false-hope that the challenges that we’re facing are perhaps just a quick fix.
An incredibly important virtue that self-help books don’t preach enough is patience. In all honesty, the problem you’re in might take a second, or a day but it could also take a year to resolve, perhaps even longer – which is exactly what self-help books fail to communicate.
It is obvious that patience and frustration don’t co-exist together, possibly that’s exactly where you need to receive and acquire help.
3. By offering real help:
in the area of procrastination.
Self-help matter is also regarded as a form of avoidance. Dating advice is a classic example here — I don’t know how to ask out the person I like on a date, so I’ll read four books about it and feel like I did something.
Suddenly reading the books feels far more important than actually asking the person out. In the simplest way possible, there are people out there who are hustling every second to overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals, while you’re sitting here with a book.
Perchance the book may even provide you with the inspiration or vibe that you require, but if reading that book is all you have done to address your problems, then you seriously need to re-consider the chances of actually resolving your issues. A lot of people resort to reading self-help books to maintain the quotient of positivity in their lives, which is perfectly alright but if you’re reading that book in hopes of becoming the next Bill Gates, I’d suggest the only action you need to take is to get up and get to work.
4. By acting as the most pointless argument you’ll ever have:
Addressing all questions, providing solutions to none.
The most common problem that most countries face in terms of governance is bridging the gap between decision and execution. Self-help books may have forgotten to construct a similar bridge while delivering assistance to its readers.
Multiple authors have delivered theories and dialogue on what could be the actual problems that readers are dealing with, they have even come up with creative ways to understand how to get around these problems, the most common techniques might be asking yourself a set of supposedly introspective questions, doing a certain set of positivity re-enforcement exercises, eliminating a certain set of unhealthy practices, the above said techniques might bring us closer to the solution, but they still aren’t the solution.
If you’re a gambling addict or a teen who’s been victimized and bullied – a single action isn’t going to bring all the rainbows into your life at an instant. ‘3 easy steps’ may not necessarily bring that what you desire.
Reading such theories would then prove to be as helpful as watching the past-midnight television adverts that try to persuade viewers to purchase their products whilst simultaneously failing at it.
Self-help books bring up a lot of questions but don’t seem to provide answers to any of them. Clarity here is key, even if you do understand what’s wrong, figuring out what to do next can be as frightful as your first swimming class.
Self-help is not about going through a series of tasks that need to be carried out, it’s a decision you make to reform your current situation, on your own.
5. By becoming your least favorite subject:
Preaching techniques that may not be easy to adapt in reality.
Most of us have a clear set of likes and dislikes – do you ever wonder why you’ve hated math all your life? Or why you’ve always dreaded a history assignment? It’s because you’re either compelled to do things that you don’t fancy or things that you just aren’t capable of performing. A lot of times self-help books advocate practices or techniques that aren’t the easy to carry out in reality or just don’t make sense.
For instance, a certain self-help book advocated buying yourself clothes a smaller size and ‘believing’ that you’ll fit into those clothes will actually help to lose weight. This is not only impractical but also adversarial – as for someone who’s struggling with obesity, attempting to fit into smaller clothes is not only an obvious struggle but a major assault on their self-image and confidence.
Self-improvement is quite literal in its meaning — it’s used to enhance oneself, not to replace it. If you’re looking to replace who you are with something else, then you will never succeed, and you’re more likely to get sucked up into the nonsense and pseudo-science and suppress your feelings of inadequacy rather than deal with them head-on.
Self-Help books might prove to be a decent starter as to how you could bring about changes in your life, but they certainly should not be the only source of help that you’re using. Regardless of what kind of a problem you’re facing, there is always more than one way you can get through it.
In the most common sense of the word, self-help means helping yourself- which is exactly what you need to do. This is the time you pull out your triumph card, in fact pull out all your cards onto the deck, play your strengths and weaknesses to your advantage, you might as well set your own example opposed to read ones that you don’t simply seem to follow.