We’ve all done it. Browsed through a book store or skimmed the pages of Amazon.com to find the magic cure-all book. The latest and greatest concept that will instantly set our lives in order, give us lots of money, make our kids behave like angels, make our spouses into gods of love, and get us to lose that extra forty pounds we’ve been carrying around (all in the next seven days!). Yeah, that book. The one we eagerly purchase and take home to read to start this instant transformation, only for the book to sit on the kitchen counter for the next three weeks laughing at us. Yet another example of why we can’t seem to start or finish anything that is ‘good’ for us. The book that was supposed to be our self-help dream maker has turned quickly into our self-hate nightmare. How exactly is that a good thing?
The tragic flaw of the self-help industry is that is starts with the assumption that something is 'wrong' with you. Something or things need to be fixed about how you live your life, how you think, how you act, how you react, blah, blah, blah… and so most people when trying to 'fix' themselves start with the concept that there is something wrong with them. But they never quite figure out what it is or how to fix it. Instead they end up getting half way thru the latest self-help book, frustrated and mentally kicking the crap out of themselves because they just can’t seem to be ‘good enough’ or ‘fix themselves’. The self-help industry stays afloat by encouraging us to drown ourselves in self-hate. Huh, there’s an ironic statement.
The way that I like to approach self help is by starting from the foundation that there is absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ with any of us. Not a single quality to ‘fix’. We are perfect just the way we are. “Ah”, you say, “but I’m not perfect. I do this wrong and I treat people this way and that’s wrong and well, I need a lot of fixing!!” And yes, we change and evolve as our lives progress. But I say, “Wait, let’s stop a moment and really examine the foundation of your thought. Where are you starting from? What kinds of limiting beliefs are you building upon? What kind of self image are you holding up for your vision?” If you start building on a shaky foundation of self-hate, self-doubt, and negative emotion, surely your house will fall eventually.
Instead of using the phrase self-help, how about using the phrase self-aware? Studying and exploring ways to become more aware of who we truly are. Starting from a foundation that there is nothing to fix, yet there are many things we can become aware of about ourselves and then change if we choose to make a change. When we start from a foundation of being that is positive, empowering and more self-aware, we allow ourselves to accept who we are in this present moment. Then as our awareness grows, we start to see the ways in which we can choose to change ourselves to become who we want to be.
Change starts by letting go. Let go of all the expectations you’ve put upon the cure-all self-help book, the author and yourself. Let go of the guilt you may feel for not being able to stick with the instant life-changing program. Let go of the belief that instant change is easy, much less possible and sustainable. Let go of the slick marketing promises that caused you to spend that $29.99 in the first place. Let go of it all. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What am I really trying to achieve here?” Be honest in your reply. And when you answer from within yourself, you’ll realize that ultimately you are seeking one thing – change.
Change is a wonderful occurrence, although sometimes forced upon us by uncontrollable life events, most of the time when we seek change it brings much goodness into our lives. The type of change that most self-help books sell is quick, instant and unrealistic for sustainable growth. And it just ends up leaving us hating ourselves even more. But Marlena, you may ask, aren’t you a Life Coach? Doesn’t a Life Coach preach change? Why aren’t you praising the self-help industry, you’re a part of it! Ah, yes, I am a Life Coach and yes, Life Coaching has sometimes been categorized as a self-help tool, yet Life Coaching is not about selling quick, instant, unrealistic change. Life Coaching is about fostering the changes that a client desires to see in their life from a supportive, sustainable, effective and emotionally healthy perspective. There are no quick fixes or one-size-fits-all answers in Life Coaching. And as a Life Coach, I’m an advocate of listening to what my individual clients want, what they need, and working with them to take simple steps over time that help to support them in their process of change. I meet people where they are - without expectations, without judgment - and we work together as a team to create the life they want to live. This is the key in establishing long-term, sustainable changes in one’s life.
And doesn’t it just make you happy when you accomplish something you’ve always want to do? YES!! You’re beaming with joy and a great sense of accomplishment! Don’t you want to live each day of your life within this feeling of pure joy? Of course! Here are a few things to consider when seeking a sustainable state of pure joy:
So let’s stop this cycle of self-hate. Start by looking within yourself for all the strengths, unique qualities, and self-supportive ideas that you need. Recognize the powerful gifts you have to give to others. And be absolutely gentle with your inner self, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Treat this life as a playground for learning, be light, carefree and easy with your thoughts. Ask for help when you need it. And yes, some self-help books are good resources with ideas for living a better life yet don’t allow them to define who you are. Let that definition come from within yourself, as this is the only real, healthy and sustainable place that you can find the answers you seek.