When Self Help Goes Wrong…

I can’t really pin point exactly when it began for me, but sometime in the past couple years I started consuming more ‘self help’ media – books, podcasts, documentaries, and social media accounts.

For years I have been screen shotting motivational quotes on Pinterest to help get my butt in gear to lose weight, get organized, love myself, and live a great life. Which hey, none of those are bad goals.

I thinkĀ You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero might be the first ‘self help’ type book that I read. From there, it escalated.

I started listening to podcasts about improving yourself, finding your passion, being successful, losing weight, making money, loving yourself, and being an awesome person. The School of Greatness was the main one. I also listened to the Rise podcast from Rachel Hollis.

Then, I readĀ Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I LOVED it. I laughed, I cried, I felt an insane motivation boost.

I followed people on Instagram that were focused on these same topics. Rachel Hollis, Lewis Howes, various fitness people who were always posting inspirational captions. People who looked like they had every single bit of their shit together and were bright and shiny and motivated every single day.

I got to a point where I was listening to podcasts all day at work about how to be more intentional and how to be successful and how to make an impact and how to be productive and how to be the best version of yourself.

I got to a point where my whole feed seemed to be full of people who woke up at 4 am and worked out every single day and read books and meditated and worked all day and posted perfectly posed pictures and stories all day long.

After a while, I realized it was making me feel like shit.

It was actually affecting my mental health, to the point where in the back of my head I was constantly worrying about what I could do to be more like these people.

Oh sure, while listening to the podcasts I was motivated to write and read and workout. But I was also listening to them at work, when I couldn’t actually do any of those things. By the time I got home to do them, I was tired or I’d lost the motivation or I had other stuff to do. So I didn’t do the things and then I was frustrated with myself.

I started to notice that my writing was just regurgitating the same stuff that I was hearing and reading and seeing in my feed.

I started feeling like nothing I ever did was good enough, like all of the self help content I was consuming was just pushing me into a constant cycle of self-improvement where I never felt satisfied with who I actually was.

I was burnt the hell out on my constant diet of self help bullshit.

Slowly, I started unfollowing certain accounts. I started cleaning up my timeline and only following people who didn’t make me feel like a piece of shit because I slept in until 8 and took an off day from the gym.

I stopped forcing myself to wake up at 5 am every day (which I was doing even when it meant I only got 4-5 hours of sleep).

I started reading more fiction that I enjoyed mixed in with some non-fiction that I felt was useful in helping me grow as a person.

I started listening to more funny podcasts and true crime podcasts and podcasts about topics I wanted to learn about rather than all podcasts about people doing awesome things.

For a while, I almost completely cut out all of the self help stuff. I was just so burnt out.

Some of the people I was listening to and following actually admit that they feel like they’re never satisfied, because they always know they can be better.

While that’s true of all human beings, we can all be better in certain aspects of our lives, I also don’t feel like constantly pushing yourself to improve is healthy.

It starts to make you feel like you’re never going to be good enough.

Does it really make me a bad person because sometimes I would rather binge watch How I Met Your Mother than read a dry book about creating good habits? Should it make me love myself less because I don’t have huge dreams of owning my own business or becoming famous or creating an instagram following or (insert other lofty but awesome goal here)?

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with any of those things. I know a lot of awesome people who are kicking ass and following their dreams and are going to leave their mark on the world doing just those things. I just also think that you can leave your mark on the world by being a good person, living a happy life, and being content.

I’m not saying that I never want to grow and change, and I do have goals and areas I want to improve. I just know that I’m doing pretty awesome exactly where I’m at right now, and the constant influx of ‘be better be better be better’ was not helping me get where I needed to go.

I also understand that part of the reason I got burnt out is because I was letting it affect me too much. If I was more secure about how I’m doing, where I’m at in life, and the progress I’m making towards my goals, it probably wouldn’t feel so shitty. That’s a personal issue I am working on, but it’s helpful to not be getting those constant reminders from the content I consume.

I still listen to some podcasts with self help themes. I still read some of those books. I still consume some of the content. But I also celebrate small victories. I remind myself of how far I’ve come. I give myself grace. I give myself time off. I know I need to improve in some areas. But I’m trying to love myself – the past me, the present me, and the future me. And ending the constant stream of self help content has actually helped me love myself more.

Some people say that they never want to be content, because that’s when you stop growing. For me, I want to be content and happy with where I’m at, with clear goals and a plan to be a better me in the future.



Photography by Three Little Birds Photography

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