November 30, 2015

Dangers of the Self Help Industry: How Labelling can Destroy us.

self help book control advice

I am a huge believer in the ability for one to transform oneself, in the ability to heal and become better.

The last few years have had me voraciously reading articles, visiting healers, trying our new therapies, doing all kinds of techniques to shift old patterns of being in an attempt to transform my trauma-ridden past into a brighter new future. I am one of those people who gives every ounce of energy to a project until the project is as close to perfect as it can be.

The project for the last few years has been me.

I thought I was doing great. It had become a habit to flick through my newsfeed, and open up multiple tabs of things to read such as “How Empaths can kick ass” or “Are you an HSP?” or “How to kick your Control Freak Habit” and the list goes on. I have read them all and I have written them too! I have become a veritable expert on alternative healing, and with my astrology background, can unpick a person to a hairbreadth of a degree.

I was convinced that I was going to basically be Buddha, soon. All I had to do was clear my ghosts and get rid of all my flaws and become the conscious creator of my new life.

What tremendous pressure.

As someone with such a low self worth, I was the perfect fodder for those type of articles that only fed the insecurities I was riddled with on a daily basis, with my only comfort being that someday I would change and be perfect. I didn’t want to be me anymore—me was not acceptable.

After two mental breakdowns where I found myself insistently explaining to my partner that should I stop this important work of self improvement, I would surely slip back into the fog that governed my life before and before I knew it, would be making terrible mistakes. I tried to make him see how I needed to read these things, needed to visit healers regularly, or else I’d never change.

The penny finally dropped as his words rang through to me, “The self help industry is a multimillion dollar industry that feeds off people like you.”

I stopped.

In my intense pain of trying to rebirth myself, I had never stopped to think I was being taken advantage of. I felt such great compassion for other people who I knew followed these charlatan healers everywhere, who were so vulnerable, so needy, that they would hear anything, take anything on, that made them feel like a person of worth, someone recognized, special.

I always thought I was not like that, I had discernment, right? Wrong.

I was just as vulnerable and needy as they all were, yet hid it much better. I do, luckily, have a gift of knowing when something is an outright lie, but through the lens of my self hatred, I couldn’t see clearly. All I saw were screaming headlines of “You’re not good enough.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an astrologer. I offer self help. After sitting with this realization for a few days, my biggest question was: Do I carry on? Would I create the same shame ridden, insecure, obsessive person that I had become in my pursuit of perfection?

After some time, I came to see that the self help Industry has a wonderful intention. Yoga, meditation, healing, shifting blocks, past life counselling, tarot, you name it—they all have a place and are sorely needed in our consumer driven society. Articles that pull you out of the dark, that make you feel as if you aren’t alone are gifts, lighthouses in a storm.

However, as with any industry, the bigger it grows, the hungrier it gets, and we are the fodder.

I was guilty of becoming obsessed, of taking it too far and for not applying any kind of discernment as to what I was feeding my mind and soul. I was so focused on the flaws within myself, that I saw flaws everywhere. Everything needed improvement—my relationships, my works, my environment. I became accustomed to finding the flaw, and a way to fix it. This was my personal fault.

However, even if you’re someone not particularly obsessive or extreme like me, it can be oh so easy to fall into a state of either victimhood where we are constantly looking for the reasons why our partners left, why they were bad, why we are always hurt, why we never get anything good or we can become the obsessive perfectionists, constantly looking for the next thing to make ourselves better—more yoga, less gluten, no drinking, be independent, drink nothing but lemon water etc.

I’m not saying self improvement is bad. Not at all. It changed my life, and I truly am a better person for it but I took it too far with the help of the industry that applied clever psychological tricks designed to draw me deeper in and keep searching for perfection.

I will never be perfect. I’ll also never fit into any kind of label. I’m kind of an empath but also very narcissistic, with the strange blend of loving a good time, yet also throwing myself into things like heated yoga, which is probably really un-yogic. I practice astrology, Wicca, tarot but don’t really believe in angels. I’ve tried to define myself countless times, tried to give myself a complete overhaul but there has come a time where I have had to say—enough is enough.

I’m tired of reading articles about how fabulous I could be if I did this and that, and stopped this or that. I just want to be me. The real me. The me that is eternal, free, loved and loving, that is the essence beneath all the “flaws” and the problems that have defined me.

I urge that we all do the same. Apply discernment. Ask ourselves if we really need to read another article on how sensitive we are, or how we need to do certain things to be better.

I’m not saying don’t work on yourself—I always will and it is a lifetime’s work that I will do—but with wisdom, kindness, and awareness toward myself.

We are perfect just as we are. And therein lies the true key to self salvation.



Self-help is bad for you! So buy my book, guaranteed happiness, only $49.99.

There’s a Book for That: Sucked into the Self-Help Spiral.


Author: Margarita Stoffberg

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Roger Braunstein/Flickr

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