Does Self Help = Self Inadequacy ?

I love the idea of self-help and a lot of the ideas the genre as a whole presents. But with that being said, there are many valid critiques of the genre, that even as a self-help lover, I notice and even agree with. It is important to take into consideration critiques no matter how much you love something, and that is what I did researching three articles that discuss critiques of the self-help genre.

First I read Improving Ourselves to Death by Alexandra Schwartz. (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/improving-ourselves-to-death.  

I really enjoyed this article because it had a “real” feeling to it. I feel as though a lot of concepts in the genre of self-help can almost feel “magical” and unobtainable, and this article discusses the same feeling. In the article, Schwartz speaks about how inadequate self-help can make you feel. There are so many ways to “self improve” ourselves, from practices that “help” the inside, to other practices which only fix outer appearances. But inherently seeking help for something, means there is something wrong in the first place. So in pursuit of this “internal happiness” that is promoted through the idea of self-help, it can also do the opposite by convincing you that you are so broken you need to be fixed. A great example she uses within the article is from the book “Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement” by Carl Cederström and André Spicer. In this book, these two professors set out to try a new self-help technique each month and target those areas of themself that “need” help, for one year. In the end, Spicer reveals that “He doesn’t feel like a better version of himself. He doesn’t even feel like himself. He has been like a man possessed.” He says he spent the year doing things so unlike him he has lost touch with himself. And he also says he lost touch with others because he was so focused on himself. The whole article speaks on this concept of perfectionism within the self-help genre and how completely unhealthy and even selfish it can be.

The next article is by an author that is within the genre. Mark Manson creator of ” The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” discusses ‘5 Problems with the Self- Help’. Industry'(https://markmanson.net/self-help). I find this ironic since he is within the industry but also perfect for that very reason. At the beginning of the article, before he even starts the list, he says that self-help is “a market-driven, rather than a peer-reviewed industry.” This shows that the focus is not on making sure the information is the most accurate rather on what is the most sellable. The first and the last reason he discusses is similar to the critique in the previous article. He talks about how someone who is already feeling, feelings of inferiority might look at a self-help book and think “A Bad-to-OK person will read the same book and say, “Wow, look at all of this stuff I’m not doing. I’m an even bigger loser than I initially thought.” He says before learning any self-help lesson you need to have self-acceptance and see yourself as “a good person who makes mistakes”. Manson also discusses that self-help practices can easily become a tool for avoidance. If a person complains about not having a job because they drink too much. And they replace drinking with yoga but still don’t have a job, clearly, there is a bigger issue of laziness going on. Next, he discusses how unrealistic self-help can be. Promoting that through certain practices of self-help such as, suppressing certain feelings, or filling an already anxious person with information on relaxation techniques, only temporarily provides relief. Another problem he speaks on is the lack of medical credibility when it comes to the practices, he says majority of self-help information out there is either a placebo at best or complete bunk at worst.”

The last article I discovered was “Why the Self-Help Movement Keeps Leaving Us Feeling Helpless” by Alexandra Davis (https://verilymag.com/2019/05/why-the-self-help-movement-keeps-leaving-us-feeling-helpless).

This article touches on a few of the different critiques within the self-help genre. First, she discusses how self-help typically lacks the answer to “why”. Yeah, meditating can calm you down but why do you have those feelings of anxiousness in the first place. Davis states “And where does this leave us eager listeners? Drinking all the green smoothies, visualizing all the success, and opening all the retirement accounts, but still left wanting.” Meaning once you adapted all these improvement practices, what’s next once you don’t feel this overwhelming, relieving feeling. She also, like the other two articles, speaks on the feeling of inadequacy. And how in this age of perfectionism and seeking to improve every aspect of yourself is impossible to achieve because as a human you will make mistakes. And lastly, she touches on the subject of how self-help blames the victim. Gurus promote that you are in charge of everything in your life, but that simply is not true, and chronic diseases or loss of a loved one is evidence of that.

Sources:

Schwartz, Alexandra, et al. “Improving Ourselves to Death.” The New Yorker, Jan. 2018, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/improving-ourselves-to-death.

Manson, Mark. “5 Problems with the Self-Help Industry.” Mark Manson, Mark Manson, 16 Apr. 2021, markmanson.net/self-help.

Davis, Alexandra. “Why the Self-Help Movement Keeps Leaving Us Feeling Helpless.” Verily, Verily, 21 May 2019, verilymag.com/2019/05/why-the-self-help-movement-keeps-leaving-us-feeling-helpless.

Presentation:

Self help critiques (Aryanna Smith)

 

People’s Choice #8: Self-Help Critiques

For this week’s People’s Choice, you’ll be reading class blogs on your individual research of Self-Help Critiques and choosing your favorite post.

Comment here to register your vote, & don’t forget to include the name of your classmate, the link to their post, and your rationale for choosing it. Due Thursday, 4/22 by 9am. Happy reading/voting

Self help

First article 

“In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions. The average interruption takes about five minutes, so that is about five hours out of eight”.

This quote shows that us humans don’t concentrate very well because if we get interrupted from an activity it won’t take 1 min to resume because we check what we have to check and then do other things on our smartphones. 

 

Second article 

“With independence comes the fear of rejection and humiliation. Relationships, or lack of them, cause immense stress, not least because these are busy years in terms of shaping identity. Greater fluidity around identity can bring its own challenges”.

I personally agree with this quote because as I was going into my first year high school I feared rejection because I was convinced that people wouldn’t accept me due to my opinions, behaviors or personality. I was afraid of getting humiliated by the way I looked or dressed. 

 

Third article 

“But it’s human nature to linger on those feelings of regret. We tend to look back and think that missed opportunities — real or imagined — could have set us on a different, possibly more rewarding path. Left unchecked, these emotions can become overwhelming sources of stress and anxiety.”

I agree with this quote because I feel if life for me would have turned out differently I would have a better life. I say this because I’ve done things in the past that I wish I never done and I always wished that I can go back in time and change my ways. 

Presentation

Effectiveness of Self-Help/Importance of Self Motivation

To me, self-help is really important because there are things in this world that are much easier to obtain with the help of another person. Things like this make self-help so valuable because being able to get these sorts of things on your own can save a lot of trouble, time and it may be way more convenient. The way most people go about gaining that self-help information they need to become the independent person they wish to become is by looking into self-help books, videos, resources etc. The only issue with this is how effective these self-help tips are.

Srini Pillay MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, discusses his thoughts on self-help and he explains what he believes makes a self-help resource effective opposed to material that would just be wasting your time. His first point is that a good self-help program would have an approach that has a good success rate. There are many self-help methods that have a high rate of success and finding a program that has one probably means it’s a good program. A way to find this is to look for the program to reference people who have used the program and expressed how well it worked. Another way Pillay says is a good way to tell is to check the credentials of the creator of the program. He says this about seeking self-help in serious areas such as depression or anxiety, “But providing such help is a responsibility that is quite complex, and training gives professionals perspectives that untrained people do not have.”

Arlin Cuncic is an author of self-help material herself and she gives her input on what makes self-help most effective. She emphasizes the idea that to make a self-help program work is that it’s mostly on you and how you approach it. One of her first points is gradual pace which means not jumping into a big change and start with things more manageable and then work your way up to bigger ways to change yourself for the better. She also brings up something I agree with alot and that’s to motivate yourself by setting a goal in mind. The word motivate is important because I feel like motivation is insanely important and getting things done require motivation. Another tip she gives that I like alot is to expect obstacles. I just expressed the importance of motivation and when you expect obstacles your motivation doesn’t drop because you expected it. Cunic says “Staying on track requires identifying the obstacles that you are likely to face and having a plan to deal with them”.

Finally, Elle Kaplan, a self made entrepreneur, discusses the self-help area I feel is very important and that is self motivation. In my opinion it is very easy to do a task when someone gives you reason to do it or even just tells you to do it, but to do it unprovoked is something I feel is harder than it seems. One of Kaplan’s main points is to avoid using a goal as motivation which she says is a common mistake. I didn’t understand this at first because I myself feel as though looking at your future goals is a good way to motivate yourself but Kaplan says all this does is give an excuse to burn yourself out. Kaplan says “they blindly tie it to huge goals that are unattainable and use all of their energy to attempt to power through it all and get it done. In reality, a lot of this leads to burnout and waning willpower”. Another tip Kaplan gives for self motivation is to start small with their goals, achievable goals. This way, they can feel the satisfaction of completing their goals much faster opposed to striving for a long term goal.

Self-help

Schizophrenia Lost in a World of Mindfulness

Case study

When it comes to schizophrenia the average person knows little to no knowledge other than the common insult muttered “They’re crazy”. Schizophrenia is a Greek term meaning split mind. I choose to look into three articles that critiqued intergrading meditation with this kind of mental disorder because of the grounds of obtaining such a disorder per say. It chooses you rather than you develop it through experiences like many other mental illnesses. 

My first article I choose was  NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION: By Sarah McLean. Sarah goes on to mention the hype we have heard before, but then highlights something rather interesting that I did not consider before. She states that some instructors aren’t trained to teach or have ever meditated themselves. I find this rather alarming as how will they know the feelings experienced. Even though everyone has a unique experience they should have a base line of knowledge. After going over the uses of meditation such as relaxing, stress , among others she makes a rather intriguing statement. “This is the yoga, the “union” of one’s awareness with all that is.”(McLean) Being the goal of meditation. She goes on in her article to list a variation of negative side affects which I found very transparent of her. The side effects she listed are but not limited to insomnia, mania, hallucinations, depression, and withdrawal from life.  Most of what I just listed are signs or symptoms of schizophrenia. One must think if these symptoms already have the potential to exist then one can only speculate meditation will increase those odds. I do however appreciate how she added tips and a list of questions at the end of her article to keep in mind. 

Negative Side Effects of Meditation & Questions Your Should Ask Your Teacher (mcleanmeditation.com)

My second  article I choose was Warnings about Meditation (Precautions and Negative Side Effects) In Meditation by Chris A. Parker. This author broke down his article by medical and mental side effects one could possible experience due to meditation. Psychosis is one of the many the author listed that can be drawn back to schizophrenic individuals would probably experience the most. Among psychosis he talks about mental atrophy, using meditation as an escape , and hypersensitivity to light and sound. A close friend of mind with schizophrenia would fall in all of those named categories. He carefully explains each issue and the people it may possible target. I found this article to be straight forward and persist at establishing a platform anyone can understand.   

Warnings about Meditation (Precautions and Negative Side Effects) (lightwarriorslegion.com)  

My final article was Mindfulness Meditation for Schizophrenia Disorders by Paul Harrison. This research was conducted in Berlin. During fall 2017 to fall 2018 twenty-seven interviews took place.  He goes on to explain 13% of the psychiatric hospital in Germany is people with schizophrenia and breaks down the symptoms. ”  Schizophrenia is often treated with psychological support, psychopharmacology, and cognitive behavioral therapy exercises. However, due to financial constraints many people are unable to receive these treatments.”(Harrison) Thus explaining why some would turn to mindfulness as a treatment. I enjoyed how he broke down the definition of mindfulness and the history and origin. Although I found the results of the experiment very vague none of them had increased negative side effects that they reported. Some of them admitted to being more self-aware and better understanding. This was too small of a group for it to be indefinite, but I am glad it helped the individuals it did.  

Mindfulness Meditation for Schizophrenia Disorders (thedailymeditation.com)

 

Although I choose two negative and one positive critique I am not totally against trying alternative methods as I mentioned a good friend of mine that happens to be a Harvard University graduate has schizophrenia and I’ve seen first hand how opposing medication can be with trial and error. There may be positive options depending on the case with meditation. I think more trials or selective meditation could be used in another group to show further success.  Marcel Armstrong is the friend I spoke about and writes first hand about his struggle with meditation and schizophrenia in his book   “Living Thoughts: Glimpses into the Altered Reality of Schizophrenia”. He was it available for free in kindle format. Link provided below. 

Amazon.com: Living Thoughts: Glimpses into the Altered Reality of Schizophrenia eBook: Armstrong, Marcel: Kindle Store

 

See the source image

 

 

Improving or Worsening ourselves with Self-Help Merchandise?

self help critique (3 articles) PRESENTATION (this is the power point attachment) 

Can you help yourself?  My personal answer is at the end =)

I have reviewed 3 articles that criticize self-help literature and merchandise.

The first  article from Vox entitled “I was a self-help guru. Here’s why you shouldn’t listen to people like me”  written by Michelle Woodman; https://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/1/23/14238530/self-help-advice-bogus

Woodman wrote:  “I learned the hard way that the people trying to solve your problems often need help the most. And that playing the expert guru is a hypocrite’s game, because practicing what you preach is tough.”

I would personally say, this happens to most or perhaps all of us: “IT IS EASIER TO SPOT THE PROBLEM IN THE OTHERS RATHER THE PROBLEM WITH OURSELVES.”

Well, Woodman went on to mention that she knew dating advice columnists who did not date, career experts who advocated for certain habits that they barely had, and the funniest example was a consultant alleging expertise in freelance income but had privately admitted he had no idea how much he made nor how to handle such money because his wife handled all his income.

The second article from The New Yorker entitled: “helping ourselves to death” written by Alexandra Schawrtz. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/improving-ourselves-to-death.

Schawrtz called The Secret of Rondha Byrne, a testament to the predatory optimism that characterized the years leading up to the financial crisis. “People dreamed big, and, in a day of easy money, found that their dreams could come true. Then the global economy crashed, and we were shaken violently awake.”

Schawrtz quoted Cederström, Spicer, Storrs and Sara Knights in her article.

Cedestron and Spicer  pinpoint that in a consumerist society we think “we must” buy the latest item. This bad mindset includes self-improvement merchandise. Which conveniently generates billions for the self-improvement industry. However, his criticism says that because of the constant new self-help merchandise we are unconsciously pushed to catch up (buy something that we do not even need).

On the other hand, Storr says that: “since it is our environment that is causing us to feel inferior, it is our environment that we must change: “The things we’re doing with our lives, the people we’re sharing it with, the goals we have. We should find projects to pursue which are not only meaningful to us, but over which we have control.” Storr acknowledges that to change every aspect of the world we inhabit is a daunting prospect.  And perhaps this is the reason why people “conform” to only change themselves instead.

Sara Knights calls herself a “bestselling anti-guru” and her favorite motto is “there is nothing wrong with you” She agrees with Storr that what is wrong is society.

The third article entitled “The Problem with Self Help” by Ray Williams. https://raybwilliams.medium.com/the-problem-with-the-self-help-movement-ab972ef58728

William criticizes that the self-help gurus are self-appointed experts. And that there are no guidelines for self help books, not even the American Psychological Association has it. However, the APA has ethical standards that call for published materials to avoid exaggerations, sensationalism, misrepresentations, and superficiality.

 

And in addition, to these 3 articles, I have watched a you tube video from RICH ROLL, a corporate lawyer in California, who nowadays has a podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GrPCKRkBiQ

Roll mentioned that: “the abundance of self-help literature nowadays almost force you get one and by reading it one sometimes gets this false sensation that one has helped himself/herself when in reality, one only read one more book.

And read an extra 4th article from psychology today entitled “ Which is better self-help or therapy”  written by Phillipa Perry. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-stay-sane/201303/which-is-better-self-help-or-therapy

Perry argues in favor of therapy by stating that “A book cannot possibly hear you; it will never be a conversation.” However, she acknowledges that “print has the weight of authority because spoken words can be ephemeral. Perry adds that self-help books are a much cheaper  option and don’t require appointments.” However, she also reminds us the importance of humans relations and therefore the impact of a human (therapist) in helping you unlike a nonliving being as is a book.

So, coming back to the initial question; Can you really help yourself?

There are some situations when one is not even aware that one needs help, therefore one cannot help oneself, BUT there are other situations where yes! One can help oneself =)

 

 

Self-Love

For this blog, we were assigned to do individual research and reading on self-help topics in preparation for our individual research project. The three sources of my own choosing consisted of three articles on the topic, “Self-Love.” The first article is titled, “In self-help, self-love world, what’s real love?” by Daniel Fusco. The second article is titled, “Why self-love is important and how to cultivate it,” by Ana Sandoiu. The third article is titled, “The Art of Self-Love,” by Alexandra Harra. I picked the topic, “Self-Love” because I felt like I could really relate to it and find a good connection from my research and reading. I also think that it would really help me because I have struggled with this on and off throughout most of my life for years.

In the article, “In self-help, self-love world, what’s real love?” by Daniel Fusco, he talked about how real self-love is spiritual. As stated in the article, “Daniel Fusco is the author of Crazy Happy, and lead pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Vancouver, Washington. His messages air weekly on the Hillsong Channel.” “Did you know you can’t love anyone if you don’t love yourself? In the same way, you can’t love anyone if you love yourself most.” (Fusco) This statement is something I have heard numerous times from family and friends, where I question myself on if I really understand and feel that way. “When we forget where we’ve come from, we lose the ability to meet people where they are.” (Fusco) I totally agree with this statement, because if you really do not know yourself, then how can you get to know someone else. This relates to loving yourself first, before you can love someone else.

https://www.christianpost.com/voices/in-self-help-self-love-world-whats-real-love.html

In the article, “Why self-love is important and how to cultivate it,” by Ana Sandoiu, she talks about the importance of self-love and how to really bring it to life. “As many psychology studies attest, self-love and -compassion are key for mental health and well-being, keeping depression and anxiety at bay.” (Sandoiu) I totally agree that self-love is a key part of one’s mental health, along with physical health. “Most of the time, when we’re being too hard on ourselves, we do it because we’re driven by a desire to excel and do everything right, all the time. This entails a lot of self-criticism, and that persecutory inner voice that constantly tells us how we could’ve done things better is a hallmark of perfectionism.” (Sandoiu) I do at times find myself being too hard on myself when it comes to doing school assignments and stressing over the little things in life.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321309

In the article, “The Art of Self-Love,” by Alexandra Harra, she talks about the art of self-love and the things you need to focus on. As stated in the article, “Alexandra Harra is a best-selling author, professional writer, relationship expert, and certified life coach. Her new book, The Karma Queens’ Guide to Relationships, will help you cultivate the relationships you deserve.” “Those who have it in their nature to love without limits ironically impede the pathways of self-love. The more they love another, it seems, the less they are able to love themselves.” (Harra) I totally agree this statement, and it is connected to the first article I read, “In self-help, self-love world, what’s real love?” by Daniel Fusco.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/conscious-relationships_b_4677966

Powerpoint: Self-Love

Self-Help Critiques

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.

Sources:

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. 

Powerpoint:

Self-Help Critiques-2

 

Finding yourself

Finding yourself

Who are you? I feel this question comes up alot when dealing with anything. It can come up when terrible things happen or good things happen. In my personal experience, that question comes up when you are trying to figure out what you are truly destined for. I personally believe before you are born you are destined for something, and throughout your life, you work things out, create new things, even try out new things just to figure out what it is. When I say “things” mean situations, goals to make for yourself to figure out what you like vs don’t. Engage yourself in sports, literature, etc. You could turn out to be a personal athlete. Or an author of many award winning books.

An article about “A guide to finding yourself” by Psyche alive talks about our past and how it has a way of shaping our lives. “Painful early experiences often determine how we define and defend ourselves”. What that exactly means in other words is it would filter out who you are and why you are shaped or colored to one side. “ We could grow up always feeling on the defense or resistant to trying new challenges for fear of being ridiculed”. According to this article, to break this behavior we have to know what’s driving it so we know what that’s the source of our most limiting and or self destructive tendencies.

Another article that called “Finding yourself is harder than you think” by Trevin wax. In this article she talks about discovering yourself is impossible unless you reference other people. I feel like that is very true because it states in the article” when you are most dedicated to standing out and being different from others, you are still defining yourself in response to others”. This is true because anyone can admit that, whenever you are trying to fix yourself, where it’s your personal strengths or even the clothes you put on your body, you will always have In the back of your mind, the simple words” would this look right” meaning what would other people think?

In my third article it talks about “Why finding yourself is important for a fulfilling life” by TBD. They talk about different situations and why it is beneficial to your personal being. Spending time alone, traveling, trying new things and loving who you are.
Loving yourself talks about you are born with the skin that you are in now and that is never going to change. It’s important to learn to love yourself. The media gives you unrealistic goals of how we should look. Trying something new whether its an exercise class or some new food or even simply as new as home decor. It can give a fresh start to your life and can become exciting according to the article. Travel does wonders to open up your mind to experiences new things. Spending time alone is one of the most refreshing and reflecting things to do. It’s just you and your thoughts.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/13u3o3OITRZOQN0MrDColUYtKmWkQo1aJsMurvS2wu5o/edit#slide=id.gd31eadb406_0_10

https://www.psychalive.org/finding-yourself/

‘Finding Yourself’ Is Harder Than You Think

Why Finding Yourself Is Important For Living A Fulfilling Life

People’s Choice #7: Mindfulness and Its Critiques

For this week’s People’s Choice, you’ll be reading class blogs on Mindfulness & Its Critiques and choosing your favorite post.

Comment here to register your vote, & don’t forget to include the name of your classmate, the link to their post, and your rationale for choosing it. Due Thursday, 4/15 by 9am. Happy reading/voting