Why “Self-Help” is Misleading

by Haider on July 7, 2010 · 11 comments

in Coaching, Personal Growth


The principle at the core of all personal growth (a.k.a. “self-help”) literature is:

Your life is your responsibility.

Your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions are under your control.

If you wish to grow as an individual, you must take responsibility for your success, and do what’s in your power to accomplish your goals.

This is a very liberating idea.

Rather than see yourself as the victim of circumstance and other people’s decisions, you can focus on your own abilities and the opportunities open to you to achieve happiness. People and circumstances can’t dictate how you feel. That’s a choice for you to make.

“Self-help” literature is intended to equip you with the beliefs and practices that make your life journey easier and more enjoyable.

However, it can also make things much more difficult for you.

“Self-Help” is Misleading

I’m not talking about the harms of bad advice, dangerous practices, or an unhealthy obsession with self-help books. These, and many more, are potential harms that we need to be aware of.

But what I’m talking about here is our understanding of what self-help means, and how to go about improving our lives.

The reason why self-help is misleading is that it gives the impression that you have to approach personal growth – and your life problems – on your own.

After all, you’re helping yourself out and taking responsibility for your own life, so why rely on others to do that for you?

For many years, this was an impression that was firmly ingrained in my subconscious, even though I would consciously reject it. One of my earliest posts here was about the value of coaching, but I’ve always refused to get a coach because I thought that I can – and have to – do things on my own.

It’s in the name: self-help!

But recently, I discovered what I’ve been missing out on all this time, and how getting a life coach can be a life-changing experience.

Life Coach or Magician?

Blogger and life coach Tim Brownson recently offered free life coaching for the winner of a contest he was running, and ended up picking six winners to try out his coaching at no charge.

I was one of the winners.

So far, I’ve had only 2 sessions with Tim.

They consisted of friendly chats over Skype. About how I was feeling overwhelmed with all the ideas I had for this blog (and other projects), and what I can do about being overwhelmed. Most of what we talked about I already knew, but Tim picked out a few tips for me to try out.

The result?

I hadn’t written a blog post for over 3 weeks before my first session with Tim. During the week after my first session, I wrote 3 posts!

After my second session, I wrote 2 posts and managed to complete a guide that I’ve been struggling with for over 2 months… in a week!

Since the first session, I feel much more relaxed about my work and can focus much more easily.

I still can’t quite put my finger on what Tim did, but it worked!

Interaction with a fellow human being, especially one who can understand what you’re going through and direct your awareness to the solutions you can use, is a powerful approach to self-help.

If you feel like talking to someone or getting a life coach, don’t let the name fool you: Self-help isn’t about doing things on your own.

It’s about figuring out what’s best for you and pursuing the things that can bring your life forward.

Even if it’s to ask others for help.

Have you ever felt the need to do things on your own, and ashamed to ask others for help?

Do you have any life coaching experience you’d like to share?

If so, then please leave a comment below!

Photo credit: caesararum

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Brownson July 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Haider thanks a lot for the kind words. I have no idea what I did either ;-)

I do know though that YOU did stuff and YOU made it happen, so there is that!
Tim Brownson´s last blog ..The Greatest Piece Of Self Development Advice My ComLuv Profile

2 Haider July 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Thanks, Tim.

I went into it knowing that it was up to me to make the most out of what you had to offer, but I didn’t expect to see drastic results and so quickly!

At the end of the day, it’s always up to the client to act on his coach’s advice, but the coach has to sprinkle some magic dust, as well.

I’m gonna look for the “Magic Dust” button on Skype right now. :P

3 Abubakar Jamil July 8, 2010 at 12:22 am


Interesting indeed.

I just wrote about this un-helpfulness of the self-help stuff 6 days ago and here comes your post on the same topic but stressing the importance of getting a life-coach. [ http://www.abubakarjamil.com/change-your-life-today/ ]

You told me about Tim on twitter and I take it that this is the post you said you will be writing soon, so I was waiting for it.

There is no doubt a good life-coach can dramatically produce better results simply because he is not you. :) He acts like a stimulant, a motivator, a guide and a problem solver at the same time and I’m glad to know that Tim did it for you.

So I’m expecting more regular posts from you now otherwise I’m gonna complain to Tim. ;)

4 Haider July 8, 2010 at 12:55 am

Uh oh… I shouldn’t have let my secret out, or disclosed who my life coach is. :P

I definitely agree with you that it helps to have a life coach who isn’t you, or me in this case… It’s sooo easy to get lost in my head when so much is going on there! Someone else can help you escape from that mental prison.

Btw, I sometimes get spooked by the posts I see on your blog, since they address issues that I’ve been thinking about, or have saved in my drafts. Now that I’m gonna be writing more, hopefully you’ll get to read those soon! :D

5 Abubakar Jamil July 8, 2010 at 12:59 am


Likewise, my friend. I get spooked seeing posts on your blog.

But nevermind, lets spook together then. At least it’ll be two of us “spookers” spooking away. :D
Abubakar Jamil´s last blog ..How to Find the Happiness that Lasts Forever My ComLuv Profile

6 Jeffrey July 8, 2010 at 10:06 am

Good insight, on an important self-help strategy, thanks for sharing. Jeffrey
Jeffrey´s last blog ..Know your limits My ComLuv Profile

7 Haider July 8, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Abubakar: I’m not saying spooking is a bad thing, so I’m happy to learn that you get spooked around here… Muahahaha!

Jeffrey: Thanks for stopping by. I had a look at your site, and we seem to share a similar take on personal growth, in that we aim for a holistic approach, rather than fragment the subject and focus on one of the pieces. :)

8 Chris Edgar July 11, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Hi Haider — thanks for this — this post reminds me of what I think is the greatest service a coach or other helping professional can give to a client, which is to be a compassionate and attentive listener. Just having the nonjudgmental attention of another person, in my experience, can have us start to unfold and develop in ways we didn’t think we could.

9 Haider July 12, 2010 at 12:51 am

Hi Chris, I certainly didn’t expect to get the results I got, and especially in such a short period of time!

When we think to ourselves, we’re often being judgmental, and not allowing ourselves the freedom and space to think clearly. Having a coach set an example for a nonjudgmental attitude can allow us to experience that freedom. So I definitely agree with your take on this, and thank you for sharing it. :)

10 Aiping Wang July 20, 2010 at 5:35 am

Women are communal beings. We are at our strongest when we build bonds of friendship between each other, when we see the sacredness of other women, even when they are at their weakest or least empowered.
Aiping Wang´s last blog ..Sarah T My ComLuv Profile

11 Haider July 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Hi Aiping, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I think men are in need of friendships as well, but we might not explore emotional issues as much as women do. I’m not sure that’s a healthy approach for us to be taking, though. ;)

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