What Self Help Books Aren't Telling You

I read a lot of self help books. 

I know there are a lot of people out there who are embarrassed about reading self help books, but I'm not. You shouldn't be either. 

Self help doesn't have to be some sort of hokey vocation. Rather, self help is a noble pursuit. It's the pursuit of betterment, self improvement & personal growth. I couldn't image a more worthwhile undertaking. 

Still, despite being a worthwhile pursuit, there is danger hidden in the pages of some self help books. Most notably, there is some really bad advice floating around out there.

The Danger of Bad Advice Hidden in Self Help Books

You Can't Manifest Anything

I recently endured a book titled You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness & Start Living an Awesome LifeI had really high hopes for this book. The title suggests that it's going to be something young & fresh. I was hoping it would inspire me & offer me a new angle on success, but it definitely did not do that. 

Instead, this book actively infuriated me - & not in a good way, where it challenged my worldview, or forced me out of my comfort zone. Instead, the author, Jen Sincero, presented me with the same old tired idea that we manifest our best lives & that what we put out into the universe comes back to us.

Humans don't manifest things. We don't vibrate at frequencies that attract the right kind of people & the things that we want. If I was capable of manifesting things, I'd have so many horses right now!

Instead, we work for what we want. If you want something, work for it! If you need to create a vision board to remind yourself of what you want & why you're busting your hump working for it, go ahead & create that vision board. If you think that creating a vision board is going to give "The Universe" a signal that you're ready to receive wealth & immeasurable success...I'm sorry, but you're in for a bit of disappointment.

The Universe Doesn't Care About You

There are so many reasons that I find the idea of "putting things out into The Universe" to be infuriating. To avoid allowing this post to trail off into a frustration-fueled rant, I'm going to bullet point these reasons for you:

  1. If The Universe provides, why does it need a signal from you? Surely, in its infinite wisdom, The Universe already has a plan for you & it isn't sitting around like Deep Throat waiting for Mulder to tape a giant 'X' to the window as a sign that you're ready to receive information & success.
  2. The Universe, as a fatalistic concept, is massive. It has billions of people to concern itself with. What makes you so special that it's going to provide you with the money you need to pay your rent because you blew your income on buying an Audi?
  3. If The Universe provides for anyone who asks hard enough & vibrates in just the right way, it negates the importance of hard work. If all I need to do to be successful is vibrate, what am I working 17-hour days for? 
  4. If The Universe provides for anyone who asks properly, then all non-successful people just aren't sending the right signals out into The Universe. Homeless people, abused wives...they haven't used their powers of manifestation appropriately & they've vibrated at the wrong frequency which has attracted the wrong people to them. This idea mitigates the importance of compassion & social assistance while propagating the idea that it's their fault.

The Universe isn't going to give you anything. The Universe doesn't care about you. It's busy infinitely expanding. It doesn't have time to worry about how much money you make, what kind of car your drive or how much your clients are willing to pay you for your services.

The Universe is to self help "gurus" what God is to the Roman Catholic Church circa. The Dark Ages. It's a concept which is often invoked to get you to give up your hard earned cash. You read the self help book, you manifest & vibrate as hard as you can, but you're still not swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. Obviously, you need to go out & buy another self help book to learn more about manifestation & to get help focusing your energy.

No! Stop it. Put the books down. What you need to do is keep working hard. Read books about your chosen field. Study up on others who have found success in your line of work. Be inspired by the success of those around you.

In Sincero's book, she says it herself, successful people tell you they worked for what they have. Bill Gates built Microsoft from the ground up. He worked bloody hard to do it. He didn't wait for The Universe to send him success. Stephen King became a successful author after working at his craft for most of his life. What he didn't do was put out signals to The Universe that he wanted to write books. Steph Curry practiced basketball & dedicated himself to perfecting the game. He didn't rely on "source energy" to make him a great basketball player. To suggest otherwise is insulting to the hard work & talent that go into creating success.

We Spend Too Much Time Loving Ourselves

One of the things that drove me nuts about Sincero's book is that she ended every single chapter with a call to love yourself. Aside from the redundancy of this call-to-action, it's also bad advice.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't love yourself, or that you should hate yourself - if you think those are your only two options, you need to read my blog that's all about the fact that there is always an option C - even if we have to create that option for ourselves (by working for it, not by manifesting or vibrating).

We have been mislead to believe that low self esteem & self loathing is what makes people do bad things, behave egotistically & lash out at others. There is mounting evidence, however, that the opposite is true. There is significant danger in high self esteem & an abundance of self love. In fact, high self esteem & a great deal of self love is closely associated with deviance, corruption, abuse & criminality

Still, we encourage our children & our friends to love themselves & see their inherent greatness & value.

Instead of focusing your love on yourself, & instead of believing you're freaking great. Focus your love on your work & realise your inherent oneness with humanity. Oneness isn't a self help thing, it's just a way to be a better person. You are in fact a special snowflake, but EVERYONE is a special snowflake. There is no scarcity of specialness. We all have specialness within us & we're all great.

Risks Aren't Always Worth It

In Sincero's book she talks about money - a lot. In one chapter, she goes on about the importance of your relationship with money & suggests that if you want money, you need to manifest it. Yup. She says that. 

She goes on to say that The Universe always has a way of providing you with the money that you need. As examples, Sincero says that, if your rent is due in a week & you're not sure where you're going to get the money from, The Universe provides. She suggests that if you've got a throbbing toothache, you'll magically find the money to visit the dentist. The reason she bring these points up is that she suggests a certain amount of recklessness when it comes to finances. Of course, she doesn't frame her points as reckless or as risk-taking. 

Unless you're a privileged person, someone with wealthy parents or fortunate enough to have extremely generous friends, if you don't have rent money a week before rent is due, you're either hooped, or you need to hustle your ass off to make rent. You probably also can't magically acquire enough money to get your tooth taken care of.

This idea is both reckless & completely lacking in compassion. 

You know how you can ensure that you'll have enough money to make rent? WORK! Budget your finances accordingly, so that you'll always have enough money in your bank account to pay your rent. 

If you can't afford to get your tooth tended to by a dentist, it's not because you haven't vibrated correctly, it's because going to the dentist is expensive! Hopefully you'll be fortunate enough to find a dentist who will take you on as a pro bono patient. 

The Self Help You Really Need

The things that self help books aren't telling us is that there is no surefire way to guarantee success & that we'll end up with all of things that we want to have. 

Suggesting that you vibrate & manifest your best life, however, is a detrimental teaching that leaves you reliant on self help books for further instructions. It's also a morally bankrupt concept in a lot of ways, most notably in the underlying suggestion that unappealing circumstances are the fault of the person living within those circumstances, or are because The Universe has inflicted those circumstance upon the sufferer for a reason.

In addition, suggesting risk-taking behaviour with regard to finances is sheer negligence. More than that, in Sincero's book, she suggests that depression is a coping mechanism that people employ as a means of excusing laziness & to get attention. Not only is this an idea that is completely devoid of empathy & compassion, it flies in the face of everything that psychology & medicine tell us regarding depression.

All of that being said, I suppose what I am getting at here is: work hard, keep trying, embrace your oneness with humanity, & don't read You Are a Badass. If you're looking for sage advice & pertinent information, I suggest Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck

For more reading recommendations, follow me on GoodReads, I'd LOVE to connect with you & to see what books you're reading as well. You can also subscribe to The Essential Life's newsletter to receive monthly reading recommendations delivered right to your inbox.

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Who is Britten? She's a reticent little beast born in the wilds of Northern Alberta to a foul-mouthed, French-Canadian father & an angry, stiff-upper-lipped mother. Britten is, almost always, wild-haired & poorly dressed. She recently left the beautiful & untamed chill of Canada for the blistering & somewhat oppressive heat of Australia. Her list of pastimes is short & includes reading, writing, petting cats, overeating & alphabetizing things. She's a fan of Windex on Facebook because who doesn't want a streak free shine? She dreams of one day writing a super-awesome novel that affords her & her partner a comfortable lifestyle, a large property, a few horses & the means with which to foster children in need...or just becoming a red panda.

When Britten isn't writing, reading, or organizing things in her home, she can be found cuddling with her boyfriend, arguing about why Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the history of ever, browsing Gumtree for a future cat or kitten, or contemplating days gone by, the passage of time & how ridiculous it is that humans have yet to evolve enough to grow a third set of teeth.