The Myth of Self Help

Three reasons why pink fluff is tough

I wish I had a penny (or a cent) for how often I've heard people in all walks of life denigrate any or all of the following:

  • The self-help industry
  • Trainers and coaches
  • Talking about feelings
  • Anyone wanting to better themselves
  • Treating others fairly

I can hear the words reverberating round my head, as if it was said yesterday. Phrases like:

  • “I've no time for this pink, fluffy stuff – I've got a job to do”
  • “Get your feelings out of it”
  • “They're just a bunch of do gooders, and they do no good!”
  • “Somebody has to do this crap, don't they”
  • “Life is unfair”

Here are three reasons why pink fluff is tough. In other words, why self help and personal development do matter.

1. Feelings are tough

Giving people difficult messages or talking about feelings is a hard thing to do. Many people shy away in my experience not because it's a load of mush, but because it's hard and they don't know how to handle it. It takes courage to ask difficult questions or to be confronting, of yourself or other people. It's not easy to combine this with sensitivity towards others. Rather than admit they can't do it, or are uncomfortable, it's easier to denigrate the whole shebang as a waste of time.

The trouble is that feelings may be hard to deal with sometimes, but frankly they are the only thing in life that's worthwhile. What else is there? We pursue joy, achievement, happiness, love and friendship. These are all feelings. Better realise this, unless you want to be a Vulcan.

2. Mediocrity is not acceptable

When we don't take those difficult steps, we are in effect accepting mediocrity in our lives. Accepting mediocre performance from others at work. Accepting mediocre relationships in our life. Accepting that we won't push our comfort zone out. We might develop our knowledge in something, but knowledge dates. Developing our potential as human beings moves us from mediocrity towards brilliance, and that's self-help for you.

Life may be fair or unfair. It's self-help that enables you to deal with it, find the good in it for you, move on, and live a better tomorrow. Which leads on nicely to my third point.

3. It kicks complacent short-termism where it hurts

Changing ourselves or confronting others comes at a cost we are all too aware of – it's uncomfortable, and the discomfort is felt now. With this mindset, we put it off, or avoid the situation. Worst of all, we rationalise why now might not be the best time to do something – the situation might resolve itself, after all. Procrastination through rationalisation is what it is. The left side of the brain has a lot to answer for, it produces the propaganda we sell to ourselves so we can justify doing nothing at all.

Trouble is it kills us in the long term. Kills our spirit. Kills our relationships as we live a lie. Kills our energy, as we suppress it to avoid conflict. Kills our self esteem as we don't achieve what we might have. Perhaps it kills us literally.

Self-help is about looking long term, and pricking the complacency bubble. It recognises the truth that most people see at the end of their life – that it isn't what you did in life that you regret, but what you didn't do.

Helping yourself and others around you is not some pink and fluffy rubbish. It is in fact rather blue and prickly. It means some short term discomfort in exchange for a better life in nearly every way. It swaps complacency for vigilance. It swaps the need to avoid hurting others feelings for a genuine concern for their long term happiness. It makes us look at ourselves, deals with the fear that we might not like what we see, and resolves us to see the good in ourselves and work to improve the rest.

It is, in short, the only place to be. I love being here, and I hope you'll want to be here too. It can best be summed up in one word – Living!!

Mark Eyre

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