Why Self Help Books Don’t Work For You (And What to Do About It)

Jason spent the whole year reading a lot of self-help books. It wasn’t something he was always interested in, though. It was a time in his life when he was in a deep mess that he stumbled upon the section of a bookstore that is usually haunted by complete losers or by overachievers (at least, according to him). The books, with their ‘miraculous’ anecdotes and their inspiring success stories, instilled a deep sense of hope in Jason’s heart. There, he discovered that there are people like him, people who have turned their lives around, that too despite going through a lot of hardship. However, after 1 year, which is, 52 books, 12 audiobooks, and 79 YouTube videos later, Jason has realized 3 things:

  1. He is much more miserable now than before.
  2. The lingering sense of hope, dappled with the frivolous anticipation of a complete 180-flip-de-ma-vie was only a self-help induced sugar rush which lasted for a little while.
  3. All self-help books are useless.

This article tries to challenge conclusion #3

The Abundance of Self-Help Materials
Self-help books come in all shapes and sizes. Many of them are written in a certain uplifting tone that makes the reader feel good after finishing the book. Also, some of them empower the reader by breaking limiting beliefs, squashing success barriers, and help further clarify goals. Some others go very deep by even helping readers change their self-image. It’s all good, isn’t it?
But again, despite the “abundance” of self-help material out there, why are people still poor, unhappy, and desperate for the next-big self-help course that will “fix” them for good?

The Self-Development Paradox
Do you ever feel the need to devour a bunch of self-help books in one day? Do you feel the constant “need” to find a self-improvement course that will hopefully “fix” you? Do you feel that despite reading a lot of self-help books, there’s something that needs to be taken care of and that something is still missing?
If that’s the case, you’ve one big issue that you haven’t quite taken care of yet. That issue is of self-acceptance. Many times people are wondering whether to choose the path of self-acceptance or self-improvement. The answer to this question, according to many people, is that you should pursue both paths – self acceptance and self-improvement. That’s exactly the approach you shouldn’t be taking.

Self-Acceptance or Self-Improvement?

There is a fundamental flaw in this approach. The flaw is that it is extremely difficult to improve on something that you totally reject or perceive as incomplete. Difficult in the sense that you’ll always be unhappy no matter whether the books and seminars help you or not. Or, to go all Zen on you, you’ll be too busy staring at the destination to enjoy the whole journey.
No matter how many self-development seminars you attend, if, at the core you’re rejecting yourself, you’ll always be feeling as if something is missing in your life. You’ll be tricked into thinking that you need to learn something more in order to “fix” yourself. This feeling usually manifests in an unusual “need” to improve yourself as opposed to a healthy want for self-mastery. This unhealthy drive makes some people go to seminars for years despite noticing any change.

Are all Self-help books useless?

If you approach a self-help book as some magic pill that will fix you, you’re in for a perpetual cycle of disappointment. And, not to mention the nights you’ll spend wishing that those phony publishers refunded all the money you spent buying every new self-help book. The books are doing their job well. After all, they are meant to “help you” and not “fix you”.

What’s wrong here is your approach. People put too way many expectations on the book, which, in turn, ends up disappointing them. This is usually followed by an intense loathing for the whole self-help industry.

Self-Acceptance Comes Before Self-Improvement
Self-Acceptance is a prerequisite for self-improvement. If you hate or reject yourself and want a book to fix that part of you, you’re doing it wrong. Work first on accepting yourself the way you are and your self-improvement journey will be both faster and enjoyable.

Self-Acceptance is a prerequisite to self-improvement.


A New Approach to Self Help – 5-Step Plan

Step 1: Accept Yourself Completely

This is the first step of creating a big change. Accept yourself completely despite all flaws. If you’re broke, in debt, divorced, or just unhappy with your life, would beating yourself about it change the situation? Nope. Take some time off. Sit down and look at your life the way it is. Don’t let emotions come into play. Just see it the way it is right now, neither better nor worse. Then, affirm to yourself, “I accept myself completely and unconditionally. Every day, I will put all my efforts in becoming a better version of myself.” Keep repeating this affirmation every day until it becomes a part of you.

Step 2. Let go of the “Fix Me” Mentality

Let go of the whole concept of getting “fixed.” It would take years to fix you because you have decades of faulty social conditioning telling you that you’re not “good enough.” So, in order to get rid of those layers upon layers of mess, you’ll have to take a different approach. Don’t consider yourself as a big ball of mess; instead, consider yourself as a big block of stone out of which you’re going to carve out your new self-image. Doesn’t matter what your ideal is, it’s important that you start chipping away those old layers from that stone to create a desired self-image slowly and steadily. So, if you want to be a powerful leader, take some leader you admire and keep him or her as your ideal. Then decide once and for all to start working on breaking those old layers to sculpt a beautiful new you. But wait, for a sculptor, what’s the most important thing besides a stone? Yep, you guessed that right: tools.

Step 3. Gather Your Tools
Gather your tools. They could be self-help books, blogs, seminar recordings, or even mentors. Just make sure you have exactly the kind of tools that will help you create your new image. So, for becoming more empathetic, you might gather books on empathy and add blogs related to that topic in your feed reader.

Step 4. The President’s Way
Imagine you’re the President of your country (or Prime Minister depending on where you come from.) Every President has a group of advisors who present him or her with new ideas, techniques, and methods that will help the country move forward. Some ideas are invaluable while some are downright ridiculous. The President carefully listens to all of his advisors and chooses an idea which he thinks will help him or his country the most. Now think of yourself as the President. Your life and your family are your country and self-help materials as your trusted advisors. Would you, as the President of the country, desperately cling to ideas of your advisors instead of trusting yourself? Think about it.

Step 5. Rely on Progress Not Results.
If you keep chasing results, you won’t be able to enjoy the journey. Start measuring your success by the progress you make and not the results you get. Enjoy and celebrate every little progress you make toward your desired “new you.” Keep a progress journal wherein you note down every progress you make, no matter how small. And please, stop asking the question “Am I there yet?” Instead, ask : “Am I doing all I could to get there?”

You can apply this 5-step approach to any goal you’re working on. If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

(NEW!!) You can now ask questions about your own self-improvement by contacting us or by writing us a mail at: mail [at] failacademy[dot] com. If we get the time, we’ll try our best to answer them in a separate post.

Also, check out our sister site Go Motivate Me! which is full of cool inspirational stuff.

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