Self-help Books Are Bad forYou

I'm seeing these articles do for you what self-help books used to do for me, and I'm sorry for that. Self-help doesn't work like I thought it did. I read a Brené Brown book 3 years ago. I read the same Brené Brown book 4 months ago and felt like I was reading it for the first time. That's because the first time around I wasn't ready for the insights and didn't know how to understand them. This is the pitfall of self-help: we don't know what we don't know. I didn't realize I didn't really get words like "forgiveness" and "wholehearted." I just assumed as a native English speaker I was getting the full picture. This happens all the time in the self-help world. Consider the word "peace." Maybe you think of hippies or a wall decoration found at Target or some abstract ideal.

Now think of what it is like when you have actually felt peaceful, maybe waking up from a nap or sitting in a Jacuzzi after skiing. Think of what your face looks like when it is peaceful, how your interactions are with people you love. I used to think the word "peace" was boring. There's nothing boring about being blissed out in a Jacuzzi when your muscles are tired. I didn't realize that's what peace is. Brené Brown couldn't help me because she couldn't get through to me.

I needed a coach to help me understand what peace means to me personally – how I know I'm feeling it in my body, what my life is like without it, my personal definition of this word. I needed someone to help me commit to bringing peace into my life. It isn't enough to appreciate the value of peace, I had to change my life a bit to make room for it. This is true with everything.

Doing yoga in my house is totally different from going to a yoga studio, where a instructor creates a sacred space, gives me new ideas, and makes adjustments that I wouldn't have noticed alone. Going on a run with a running partner pushes me to run faster and farther.

I have a mastermind with two friends. One is a musician, the other is a screenplay writer. The three of us talk once a week about our creative process, goals, and wins. Our work happens in separate fields, but we are all feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable in solidarity. Without a therapist, I would not have identified my distorted thinking in college or realized my struggle with co-dependence in a relationship.

Self-help books, travel, and music have awakened me to pain and longing I wanted to ignore, but they haven't helped me move past these issues.

They cannot take me farther than I am capable of going alone. I need to ask for help.

If you ...

  • read a ton of self-help books but just feel burnt out

  • tried different guided meditations but none of them seem to stick

  • started doing your yoga practice at home and eventually just stopped doing yoga

  • stopped seeing a therapist because you kept going over the same patterns of behavior without progress

  • feel worn-out or uninspired

  • feel like you are never doing enough

  • look around and think "this would be a good photo for Instagram" instead of "what a beautiful day"

It's time to ask for help.

Self-help is the right place to start. But it's just a start. I could not do all the deep work, and sometimes tedious and boring work, alone. I had to actually go to a professional. I started with guided meditations I found online, but eventually I had to go to a Zen center.

I made the leap to leave New York and travel alone, but I had to hire a coach to actually be honest with myself about my dreams and get uncomfortable enough to go after them.

I read astrological information and enneagram explanations of my relationship with my ex, but I had to get a therapist to understand what was going on and how to get out of it. Even your plants don't grow alone! They need you to water them. Would you rather do peyote solo or with a shaman? Would you rather sit in a massage chair or go to a spa? Would you rather watch instructional YouTube videos or go to a workshop? Would you rather read a book on side projects or start an accountability group with friends?

I shouldn’t actually be saying "would you rather." That should say, "which would be more impactful?"

  • Want to go on faster runs? Stop downloading interval training podcasts — join a running group.

  • Want to understand your relationship with your parents? stop checking out books at the library— get a therapist.

  • Want more professional photos for your side hustle? Stop spending your energy trying to get the right photo and hire a professional.

  • Want to spend more time creating? Stop using all your energy on administrative tasks and get a virtual assistant.

  • Want to enjoy your body more? Stop liking body positive Instagram photos — get a monthly massage.

  • Want to publish your writing? Stop reading Stephen King’s On Writing — get a coach.

Here is where you can use self help: help yourself give permission. Give yourself permission to spend money, carve out time, get your hopes up, risk rejection.

I am emphatic about this because I see so many people trying to "heal" and "grow" through reading Instagram captions and listening to podcasts. And from reading my newsletter. These resources are meant to awaken your awareness about what you need. They aren't going to cure you. If all you do is consume resources, you're going to get burnt out and bitter.

When I ask people how they got into yoga, they mention a studio or instructor who changed the game for them. Marathoners swear by their running partner. My hands would be little stumps without my bodyworker. My voice would be thrashed without my voice coach. My business wouldn't exist without the coaches I have had, the mastermind I made with my friends, and the experts who have given me advice.

This week, don't write anything down or consider any questions. Don't sit and simmer. Ask for help.

And if you don't know who you want to ask for help, start with me. I offer free coaching consultations. (best of both worlds! Asking for help but not spending money.)

There is a reason you opened this blog. Practice asking for help. We can make the conversation specifically about the areas of your life  where you need help and what kind of expert would be good for that thing.

If your first thought is, "I can't afford help,” we can explore that assumption in the call. There are plenty of ways to get free help, but there are also plenty of resources when we are ready to invest.

Challenge yourself to leave your brain and your books and say out loud to someone else exactly what you are struggling with. We are social creatures. It is supposed to take a village. These posts are the first step, not the only one. And if you want a tiny next step, comment below how you’re doing and I'll help you clarify your next steps.

Peace to you all (the real kind. If this sounds abstract to you, it’s time to ask for help)




Johannah Bogart