when did self-help become a dirty word?

I get it— there’s a lot of really terrible stuff that falls into the self-help category. There’s totally a danger of death by positive thinking. I am 100% with you if you can’t get behind all this manifesting and magnets and laws of attraction. But  getting in the driver’s seat and working to improve your life? Sign me up!

I think the trouble often comes from a tension between what we can change and what we can’t. This isn’t something we can just resolve— it’s been a question in philosophy and religion for millenia. It’s the subject of the serenity prayer used in AA (grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, and the the wisdom to know the diference.)There are some things we clearly cannot change (the weather, other people’s words). There are some things we clearly can change (what we eat for breakfast, what time we go to bed). But for most things, how do we get the wisdom to know the difference? And where the hell are we supposed to get serenity and courage??

That’s where self-help can be a game changer. Let’s get some inspiration, some role models, some strategies, some plans. Let’s go back to a place where it’s OK to care, OK to try, OK to talk about it. I’m not talking about magical thinking here, I’m talking about regular old thinking followed by action. You don’t have to find this on the self-help shelf (or itunes category, let’s be real). You could find it in therapy, or in a biography, or from watching someone you admire. You could learn it from your spouse, or your dog, or your yoga teacher. It doesn’t matter. The point is that there are tools to help you if you want change, but ulltimately, others can’t and won’t manage this for you. It’s on you to self-help.

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