Why Do We Resist Self-Help?

resistance to self help
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If you read yesterday’s post about cultivating a daily gratitude practice, you’ll know that I face a lot of resistance around the concept of “self-help.”

To me, self-help often feels cheesy, I don’t usually believe in what the “expert” is saying, and, to be frank, there’s a lot of scenarios where I think people use the category of “self-help” to further their own careers without really understanding what they’re talking about.

Yeah, I know that’s super negative, and it might not be the case for a lot of these so-called “experts”, but regardless, that’s the truth that has me eye-rolling every time someone comes onto Instagram stories to talk about mindset, manifesting, vision, gratitude, or [insert trendy buzz word here].

Don’t get me wrong. I see value in a lot of these concepts, and I’ve written about some of them myself, but for whatever reason, I have a hard time taking these concepts seriously from the majority of people, and I’ve got a feeling I’m not alone in this.

And so, because this is a topic I might be getting more familiar with in 2020 (more on this soon!), I wanted to explore deeper into why I have such negative preconceived notions around the ideas of self-help. Hopefully this might help you also uncover why you’re resisting self-help.

So first, let me define what self-help means in my world.

Self-help (to me) is a set of guidelines that are outlined by an “expert” to help others progress in some specific area of his/her life, whether it be general life satisfaction, relationships, work, productivity, etc.

And honestly, when you put it like that, self-help seems like a pretty worthy cause. I mean, why would anyone be negative towards something that can help people improve their lives?

Good question.

Let’s explore.

I’ve thought a lot about this, and the main reasons for why I think people resist self-help are as follows:

1) We resist things that feel like they follow a script

Let me be clear, I’m not one hundred percent resistant to self help. There are a couple people out there who are able to communicate their ideas about self-help in a way that feels fresh, real, and most importantly… well, helpful.

I think what I resist more than self-help is self-help that seems to follow a generic script. 

You know what I mean, the stuff that feels like the same narrative that everyone uses over and over again.

I also talked about this concept in my post about my feelings towards women in business, but doesn’t it sometimes feel like everyone is just saying the same things over and over again with just a slight twist?

I mean, sure, these things that people are talking about might be helpful in principle, but there’s got to be a way to share them that doesn’t feel so generic. Or, even better, what if people could start sharing original ideas that felt less like a script?

Personally, I am much more receptive to self-help that feels raw, real, and genuinely authentic to that person (And yes, I know the word authentic has become very buzz-worthy in recent years, but it’s the only word that worked to describe my point. Forgive me).

This leads me to my next reason for why I think I’m so resistant to self-help.

2) We resist self-help that feels too “cuddly”

This isn’t going to be true for everyone, but for me, I know it definitely is.

If I read anything that is too overly positive, I find it annoying.

I know how that sounds, but in a world that I personally think is getting way too sensitive, I much prefer someone who takes a tough approach to their self-help, rather than someone who tells me I’m awesome all the time ( p.s. nobody is awesome all the time).

In particular, one author who I think does a really good job with this is Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (highly recommend giving this a read if you haven’t). That’s one self-help book that I’ve read multiple times, and it never rubs me the wrong way. It’s not all positive, it doesn’t cuddle me, and it tells the truth without being generic or obnoxious.

(Just be aware that the above link is an affiliate link, meaning I make a small commission if you choose to purchase the book through that link)

Bottom line: Some people might like obnoxiously positive self-help, and some people don’t. I fit into that second category, and if you’re someone who also tends to get annoyed by anything that feels overly positive, you might fit into this category as well.

3) Some of us don’t want to believe in magic (let me explain)

I grew up believing in fairies. I was convinced that my Hogwarts letter would arrive on my tenth birthday. And, oh no, I definitely never had any problem convincing myself that ghosts were real.

For the most part, though, I outgrew a lot of these ideas (mind you, I’m still not convinced ghosts aren’t real and I wouldn’t mind if my Hogwarts letter still came in the mail…).

All of this to say, when someone talks about something like manifesting, for example, I automatically have a sense of resistance, because it feels like childhood magic, or an idea that I should have outgrown.

For me, if something doesn’t feel rooted in logic, I feel like I’m being fooled or taken advantage of.

And, to be honest, I still feel like this, and a lot of the more spiritual self-help books out there don’t feel like they’re necessarily for me.

Having said that, as someone who grew up in believing in magic and who is very imaginative, I think these more spiritual self-help ideas could find their way into my world, but so far nobody has really been able to translate those messages to me in a way that feels believable (this might be another hint about my big project for 2020).


And so, with all of this in mind, there are probably a lot of different reasons for why I’m so resistant to self-help, but I’m also aware that there are probably a lot of helpful messages out there from people who genuinely are experts in their fields.

If only there was someone who could help me find those messages…

(again, another hint…)

Anyway, I’m going to leave you with those thoughts.

Like I said, I’m not totally resistant to self-help, but it’s interesting to understand some of the reasons for why I might have such a negative reaction towards it in certain circumstances.

Tell me: Are you resistant to self-help? What are some of your favorite self-help books that have had an impact on your life? I would love to know!

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