November 13, 2021

The Dark Side of Self-Help.


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A couple of years ago, I came across a roadblock.

As a self-help junkie, my MO was to fix everything I didn’t like about myself—which, depending on the day, and my mood, could be a lot.

I set high expectations for myself and had zero tolerance for my mistakes. I also hated excuses. I had to do better and be better—no exceptions.

I admit, this was a heavy load to carry, and sometimes I would tip over. Other times, I would fall flat on my face. But either way, I would usually pick myself back up.

Until one day, I didn’t.

As I lay there engulfed in my big, hot, glorious mess, I thought to myself: what if I just lie here? Would it be so bad?

I started to question if every “mistake” I made was even a mistake at all. Maybe I was a perfectionist who couldn’t see the beauty in my “flaws.” I also thought about my excuses. Maybe they were not excuses, either. Maybe a wiser, kinder, gentler part of me was trying to protect me from myself.

Suddenly, my long unexamined thought patterns and beliefs were shattered, followed by a shift in my MO.

It was scary.

I began to wonder if every. single. thing. I didn’t like about myself was even worth improving. That thought alone was terrifying. I had created a sweet life for myself with a tight whip wrapped thrice around my sweaty palms. My harsh inner critic motivated me. I worried whether I would get anything done if I didn’t terrorize myself. Yet, at the same time, I could no longer ignore the soft, gentle whisper coming from within. It was a voice that assured me that everything was okay, and I was fine as I was.

The more I began listening to this voice inside, the more I began to wonder if there were some things about myself that I should just learn to love and accept unconditionally. Like my highly sensitive nature. I am easily aroused by my environment; I need a lot of time for processing. Is it so bad that I need to retreat from people and situations sooner than others? Would it not be wise to accept this part of my nature rather than push myself to participate in one activity after the next and engage with people and situations beyond my comfort level? I didn’t need to continually push myself beyond my boundaries or put on a false sense of bravado to do things that weren’t right for me.

It wasn’t long before I began to wonder if my obsession with self-help was really a mask for self-hatred.

Is this where self-love came in?

Self-love was such a loaded term for me that at first, I could barely utter the words without vomiting in my mouth. The idea of loving myself sounded so oooey gooey, sappy, and sloppy. Truth is, I like being threatened. Or at least I thought I did. Negative self-talk, judgement, and proving my worth to others were my primary motivations in getting things accomplished. Self-love was a radical new concept for me, a brave new territory, a landscape in which I had to tread slowly.

And slowly, I trudged.

As I began to lean into this idea of self-love, like really lean into it, not just ponder it over in my mind but actually feel it in my body, I began to relax. When I began replacing harsh critical words with kind ones, I felt a warm, radiant, and expansive quality arise in my chest. What was that? This was radically different from the undercurrent of negativity that was typically running the show. Rather than being tight and contracted, I was relaxed and expansive and feeling so much better overall.

The entire experience was shocking.

We operate our entire lives one way rarely imaging there might be another, better way of doing things. The more I began to relax and operate from a place of love, the more I began to move through my life with ease.

I realized I didn’t need to be unkind to myself for the sake of carving out a better version me. I realized that self-love was the missing piece to my personal development journey. This didn’t mean I needed to give up improving myself. I could still strive to be better, but I could do so lovingly.

Personal quirks, “flaws,” and “mistakes” are all welcome to stay, be improved upon, or released in a kind and gentle way.


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