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Tinctures, tarot card readings, acupuncture, coffee colonics, Reiki, dance yoga, therapy, celery juicing, sweat lodges…I could go on and on.
Many of us have done it all.
When we’ve done a lot of personal development without much to show for it, feelings of frustration, shame, or even resentment can surface. I’ve been there, too. I’ve experienced everything:
Omg! This book is life-changing, or There must be something seriously wrong with me, and even the irritation and confusion of, She wants me to do what to cleanse my chakras?!
All of these things have their place in the world of healing and holistic marvels, because each person interacts with different methods of healing unique to their own makeup.
But what about when self-help doesn’t work?
Here’s where things go a bit off the rails, and how we can get back on track:
1. Expecting success or long-term changes from simply reading books and attending workshops.
There are so many amazing and perspective-altering books out there, and I thank the stars every day that people have written them.
But if self-help books were a type of drug, I’d gobble those pills like candy or crush them up in the dank hallway bathroom of a Bikram yoga studio, and snort the knowledge. I’m hard-core.
Books are great at expanding our minds, and inspiring us to tackle life with a new perspective. But then, what is it that happens? Yeah, that little thing called life.
It can be so easy to read a book and not make any lasting changes. In order for our lives to get better, the words must leave the page. We must turn that knowledge into action and create a habit, or break the pattern to make a new way of life. That is how we change.
Books are an easily accessible, easily digestible media to soak up while commuting or while waiting for our next thing, but we don’t become our next thing unless we deep dive and do the work.
Until we do, self-help books become these addictive, transcendental Twinkies—empty calories just adding to our ever-growing saddlebags of spiritual knowledge.
2. Forgetting that we are on a journey.
The person who said, “Enjoy the journey,” probably didn’t have very far to go. It can be easy to forget that life is an ever-unfolding process of growth and discovery, and that we will never understand it all.
We can become so fixated with being on track or in the top percentile of high-achieving achievers that we can easily forget who we are, and our purpose—which may in fact be to have a ridiculous amount of fun.
The compare-and-despair model—when we contrast ourselves against others and cry about our inadequacies—is a weird kind of self-abuse.
The pressure we place on ourselves to be enlightened and to self-actualize in the spiritual community can be a major distraction from our growth process.
The journey might actually be enjoyable if our self-esteem wasn’t riding under the pressure of crossing some kind of invisible, self-imposed finish line.
3. Not realizing that we can’t see our own blind spots.
It’s frustrating not being able to escape our own perspective while searching for the hidden forces that are running our lives into the ground.
Each of us operates in life perceiving everything as filtered through our experiences: traumas, heartbreaks, gifts, and challenges. These filters act like fun house mirrors.
I can cry about how I have the hips of a 40-year-old soccer dad who only eats corn dogs, or I can examine not only what I’m looking at, but the way I’m looking at it.
If I don’t realize that I’m lost in this insane house of mirrors, I can’t choose to walk away from the looking glass that makes me want to drown myself in the comfort of a nacho cheese fountain.
Worse, we often seek others with similar experiences to validate our position.
We can be standing together in front of the saddlebag mirror and validate each other: yes, those saddlebags are real, and yes, they are huge. But are we actually correct? No.
So, how do we know where we stand, or where we need to grow?
First we must realize that we have perspectives that are colored by our mood, circumstances, and our past.
With that knowledge, we can grow aware of our thoughts and beliefs. Our awareness can then inform us whether we are operating from our own limited realities (usually, these feel really comfortable), or out of universal truths.
If we can tune into our innate sense of self, our higher guidance, or consciousness—if we are willing to be open to learning in a state of surrender—we can ask what the truth is and get answers.
But all of this can be tricky and uncomfortable. When dealing with truth and perspective, our unconscious tries to hide supposedly painful truths from us in an attempt to protect us from the unknown.
So, lastly, it can be helpful to have someone in our corner—like a good therapist, or life coach.
When we seek perspectives of those who are experts in the deception of metaphorical fun house mirrors, and from those who are living the kind of life we’d love to live, we uncover our patterns and limiting beliefs so that we can level-up.
4. Confusing motivation with inspiration and disowning accountability.
Motivation is “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Inspiration, on the other hand, is “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural.” (Thanks, Merriam-Webster)
We can easily overthink the validity and illogical nature of inspiration. Where the eff does inspiration even come from? What do we do with it?
Inspiration comes from within us—a spark, an idea, a yearning to do something. Our dream is fueling our desire. An idea must leave the brain; that idea must move the body into action, or the idea remains just a pregnant thought.
When we rely on motivation (being pulled or pushed from the outside by a hidden motive) as opposed to relying on inspiration (which comes from within us) we can forget one of the most important tools we have in our spiritual arsenal—personal accountability.
Let me put it this way, I can motivate myself to lose weight by using a cattle prod to administer electric shocks to my own tender haunches—that would certainly keep me from touching those Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.
But, the inspiration—my vision of myself executing a perfect corkscrew dive into a serene lake, wearing a red Baywatch one-piece—is infused with excitement and enthusiasm.
Which would be more effective in developing personal accountability, and a sustainable plan of action?
5. Putting undue pressure and stress on ourselves because we believe that shame works.
Shame is the old school way of motivation.
>> Shame on you!
>> What are you, lazy?
>> You’re never going to succeed if you keep this up!
Most of us have these common phrases lodged in our psyche thanks to an over-concerned caregiver who thought that an extra dose of shame might give us a boost to finally take some action.
Only, shame works the opposite way.
Shame is considered to be one of the lowest vibrational emotional energies, and it’s in full opposition to creative energies like inspiration and possibility.
When we hear these messages as children, we internalize them, then once we’re on our own, we unknowingly carry the torch. Shame brings up feelings of hopelessness, apathy, and inadequacy. It’s only natural to want to hide our faces in a tub of Butter Pecan Häagen-Dazs.
Do yourself a favor and replace the shame mantras with curiosity and compassion.
If you’re one of the many who has tried self-help routine after self-help routine with little to no success, cut yourself some slack.
You just may have hit your upper limit on your favorite method of self-expansion. And that’s good news!
Simply knowing this is the beginning of new successes.