May 23, 2012

Self-Help is Bullsh*t. ~ Deborah Williamson

Photo Credit: Amy Wilbanks

Yes, I said it. Bullsh*t.

Why? Self-help perpetuates the “me” complex and pulls us away from how we can really make a difference.

Me, me, me, me, me!

The “me” complex doesn’t really help anyone. If anything, it isolates us from one another and creates more of the inertia that we dread—that sickening sensation of being stuck.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in self-inquiry, observation, reflection and the resulting action, but all this “I have to love myself first” was created to, if we’re being honest, keep us steadily stuck and buying more self-help books.

But we don’t have to be unhappy and stuck. And I’m not attacking self-help as a whole. I own many self-help books, countless numbers of them, in fact. And some of them are damn good.

But I do want to get your attention. Because there’s one self-help concept in particular that transforms self-help into self-stall:

“I have to love myself before I can love or help others.”

Is this really true? Let’s get all scientific for a second and try a controlled experiment.

First, hug yourself. How does that feel? What do you get from this experience?

Now go hug someone else. Better or worse?

I find the difference is drastic. Hugging someone else (read: helping/giving) wins hands down every time. Hugging ourselves (love myself first) doesn’t really have any effect at all.

We just wind up feeling kind of dumb.

And guess what?

The same is true in your life.

The “self-love first” mentality is what cause self-help books to be necessary in the first place. It convinces us that we are not enough, that we are not ok and that until we get our shit together, we should just go hide in a cave.

This self-help also reinforces that we are victims of cruel circumstances beyond our control.

This is the self-help that gets us stuck.

Here’s why:

(1) It shifts responsibility to something or someone other than us, making us victims.

(2) It suggests perfection before connection, making us feel lonely and useless while we wait to achieve that perfection.

(3) It is centered on the past, making us immobile (unable to see the present).

That’s a mouthful for sure, but what do we do about it all? If this self-help has no answers, where do we find them?

We won’t find answers in hours and hours of brutalizing analysis of past decisions.

“If I had only tied my shoelaces tighter in the second grade, then I would not have tripped and decided that I am endlessly stupid and clumsy.”

We won’t find answers in affirmations gleefully hollered into the mirror.

“I attract abundance! I’m hot shit! I’m sexy and I know it!”

And we won’t find them in blaming our parents (or anyone else).

“If my dad had only put me through college, I could have really made something of myself.”

Yes, we all have our baggage, but why dig around in that stuff when you could just leave it on the curb and step forward?

Try these three simple steps and you just might escape the need for self—help entirely.

(1) Reach out.

One of the easiest paths to joy, like that hug you gave someone else, is in finding ways to enrich the lives of others. Science supports this, too. More and more studies highlight the importance of connection in mental and physical health.

Any little touch or thought can make a world of difference—from a phone call to volunteering at a soup kitchen. And when I say it can make a world of difference, I mean it will make a difference for you too, each time you give.

(2) Book “we-time” (instead of me-time)

Yes, take time off to rest and play. But also take time to keep the very connections that keep you socially involved, happy and sure of yourself.

Give yourself the homework of asking a certain number of people out for coffee each week.

Make appointments and keep them, no matter how busy life gets.

(3) Take responsibility.

You have exactly the life you deserve. Bad things will happen to you, or someone else, but you choose what comes next. You are no longer a victim when you make a choice. Enough said.

How many stories have we all heard over the years about inspiring people who started with nothing or triumphed over horrible circumstances?

How many of these people found their success from setting aside appropriate amounts of “me” time?

Often their biggest success and greatest joys came from direct contribution to others and the world (think Oprah).

You can experience the same end in your own life.

Throw your arms wide open every chance you get.

There is nothing to fix or forgive.

If you are really looking to help yourself to happiness and success, “self-love first” isn’t the path.

It’s what blocks the path.

We are healed when we elevate the world together.


As an educator and coach for over 25 years, Deborah (Debbie) Williamson has helped thousands to create the lives and careers of their dreams. Founder of the internationally recognized Yoga Life Coach™ Certification program, co—founder of LIVELOVETEACH, (http://www.liveloveteach.com/) and a well-loved Vinyasa teacher, Debbie splits her time between international travel and running her thriving Wisconsin yoga studio, Midwest Power Yoga, with husband Mark and their two dogs. Her new book, The Yoga Body Cleanse, is due out in 2012. Find Debbie at http://wildabundantlife.com/.


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Editor: Jamie Morgan

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