The three articles I chose when speaking on self-help critiques focus on those who struggle with mental health issues, and how they aren’t truly being helped.
In the first article, “5 Problems with the Self-Help Industry”, Mark Manson does just as you may have thought, he sheds light on the 5 major issues within this multi-billion dollar industry. The 5 problems are as follows:
1.) “Self-help reinforces perceptions of inferiority and shame”. With this first issue, Manson points out the two types of people that are into self-help– those who think they’re flawed and want to improve themselves, and those who see themselves as already good individuals but that can be a little better. Someone who only wants to better themselves a little more will take what is said in these books and try to apply it to their lives. Someone who believes they’re flawed may be harder on themselves and will heavily rely on someone else to tell them what to do. The only way to really benefit is to first “accept yourself as a good person who makes mistakes”.
2.) “Self-help is often yet another form of avoidance”. Manson believes self-help fails to help those with feelings of shame, anxiety/ neuroticism.
3.) “Self-help marketing creates unrealistic expectations”. People are taught to suppress their negative feelings. More use of relaxation techniques create short term feelings of accomplishment/ improvement for individuals.
4.) “Self-help is (usually) not scientifically validated”. This industry is very market-driven not so much peer-reviewed. Here he points out practices that have scientific backings such as “meditation/ mindfulness, keeping a journal, stating what you’re grateful for each day, being charitable and giving to others”.
5.) “Self-help is a contradiction”. Self-help means it must be reached on your own. The main message of this is no one can help you better than yourself– everyone’s lives are different. What may work for one person, may not work for you. You just have to slowly make improvements and not be so hard on yourself.
The second article, “Improving Ourselves to Death”, by Alexandra Shwartz name drops a lot of popular apps and books that are used nowadays. While doing this, Shwartz also points out, “It’s no longer enough to imagine our way to a better state of body or mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts—then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat”. For some people this might prove beneficial, but to most it isn’t. Another problem within the self-help industry is sometimes the expectations are set too high, and there is no need for that.
The last article titled “The Problem With the Self-Help Movement” by Ray Williams speaks about the industry gaining more popularity when individuals are going through distress or turmoil in their lives. Williams speaks on the same problems as Manson and Shwartz, results from many of these self-help books are short-term, making it so that you always come back to these texts or try finding another text that can help you, and majority of the sources aren’t credible.
Manson, Mark. “5 Problems with the Self-Help Industry.” Mark Manson, Mark Manson, 16 Apr. 2021, markmanson.net/self-help.
Schwartz, Alexandra. “Improving Ourselves to Death.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2018, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/improving-ourselves-to-death.
Williams, Ray. “The Problem With the Self-Help Movement.” Medium, Medium, 7 Oct. 2019, raybwilliams.medium.com/the-problem-with-the-self-help-movement-ab972ef58728.