The Myth of Self-Help


I don’t know about you, but I've read tons of self-help books: everything from mindfulness and meditation to finding your passion and simplifying your life. There was a time when I would just scan that section of the library, looking to see if there was something would "fix" me - or alert me to an area that needed fixing.

Let me tell you, if I’d been able to internalize half of what I’ve read (even if I’d done all the exercises - which, to be honest, sometimes I skimmed with the intention of going back), I’d be a veritable Buddha-meets-Martha-Stewart by now. What, you too?

Sometimes information isn't enough.

I’m taking a business class with Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz this spring, and she said something to the effect of, “I give away all of my content for free. If people didn’t want handholding, accountability, and the ability to ask questions about their specific situations, I’d be broke.”

Here’s the thing: sometimes, we really do need a key piece of knowledge before we can do whatever-it-is. If you want to change your own spark plugs, you look at a manual or watch a YouTube video or take a class. And then you know how to change your spark plugs ever after.

But if you’re trying to do something like figure out what you really want to do with your life, no amount of reading or exercises will keep you from coming up against all the parts of you that are invested in things staying exactly the way they are. You get bogged down in your blind spots and half the time you can’t even see why you got stuck or why things aren’t working.

Asking for help is challenging, I know.

I’ll tell you a secret: I became a coach because I wanted to help people, yes - but I also thought if I went through coach training, I’d become a perfect little self-sustaining ecosystem of self-help. I’d never need coaching, because I could do it for myself!

I thought coaches had the inside scoop on how to work through every challenge with mindfulness, creativity, and self-compassion. That’s true, as far as it goes - I do have more effective ways to approach life’s challenges now, and I can help others do it as well.

But there comes a time when coaching myself only goes so far.

I have had life-changing insights all by myself from time to time, it’s true. But the times I’ve spent with a thoughtful and compassionate witness who can call me on my BS and be there for me when I’m in distress or discomfort - those are the times when I’ve reached whole new levels of self-awareness and been able to make lasting change.

Now I know all too well that when I start going in circles, the fastest way out is to get help. I don’t mean to trust in others’ judgement above my own - but when a someone else can be a mirror for me, it’s easier for me to see where I’m getting tangled up in my own thinking.

From Self-Help to Letting Yourself Be Helped

I don’t read that many self-help books anymore. So much of what they say is familiar to me now, and frankly I don’t have much use for yet another tool or exercise.

I know all this, and yet sometimes I still get bogged down in the mindset that I should be able to pull myself together or make change on my own and I start wondering what’s wrong with me. That's when I know to schedule a chat with one of my wonderful co-coaches to help me see a way through my thorny-seeming challenges.

To sum up: coaches aren’t jealously guarding the secret knowledge that will magically make your life better. (It came as a disappointment to me, too.) But what we can do is make the journey much, much easier (and sometimes even fun!).

This is not a plea for you to hire me as your coach (although if you want to see if we’re a good fit, you can schedule a free consultation here).

It’s meant to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you if you too have been stuck in the Self-Help Swamp and haven’t been able to get your shit together yet or make progress towards your dream all by yourself.

It’s a gentle invitation to see what happens if you start talking someone who can listen to you and encourage you without dropping into advice-giving or caretaker mode.

Those people can be hard to find, because we’re not really taught how to relate to others like that, but they (we) are out there. And we’re really excited to see what you create when you start getting the support you need, because you don’t have to do it all by yourself.

Image credit: P. Abrahamsen

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