The Problem with the Self-help Industry

                       Self-help books sometimes don't help. 

                      Self-help books sometimes don't help. 

“If you want the habit of gratitude to grace your life, it is essential that you, like Tom Chappell, develop the belief that you are here on earth to fulfill some purpose that only you can offer to the world. You are amazingly rare, totally nonreplicable individual with talents and gifts that the world anxiously needs. The more that you experience the truth of your uniqueness and beauty, the more you will feel gratitude for your particular gifts and the more you will be able to deliver those gifts.”
                             

                                Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life

                                                                                                                  --M.J. Ryan p. 81-82

When I read this I had to pause and think about what it meant and if it was actually true for me.

There is a basic problem with the advice doled out by most authors of self-help books. It's the notion that in order to be happy or to help yourself you have to believe that you are special. Do I really need to be “amazingly rare, totally nonreplicable with talents and gifts the world anxiously needs?” Am I unique? Am I beautiful?

I would like to believe that, but is that really true? Isn't the belief that I'm special or that I need to be special the problem? No one else on the entire planet could possibly do whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing if I weren't so busy reading self-help books? I would feel better if I just cleaned up behind myself rather than nurturing the narcissistic fantasy that I'm special and, as such, someone else will clean up after me.

Will reading a self-help book miraculously transform me into the Golden Child? What happens when one discovers they are not unique? Life has a way of pulling your “Special Card.”

Humpty Dumpty was special. Where did he sit? On a wall above others. What kind of fall did he have? A great fall. He didn't roll off a curb. Who tried to put him back together again? All the of  King's horses and all of the King's men. He had status. What happened? They could not put him together again. What's the moral of this story? Special people can't be put back together.

Improving yourself does not require you to be special. Self-improvement rarely comes down to talent. Many people have talent and never accomplish much. What's most important is that we get started, that we practice, and work hard at the changes we seek. The keys are to remain calmly persistent and actively engaged in the execution of your plan. There are no special skills or unique talents required. Just real commitment.