Confession: I am a recovering self-help book addict. I own enough self-help books to fill a bookshelf, or two. My borrowing history from the library is the embarrassingly the same. I love learning and I love self-improvement. So what better way to enjoy two of my favorite things, right? Wrong! Turns out, looking outside of myself for answers left me more lost and confused. I was stuck on the self-help book hamster wheel for years. I’m still a little dizzy from it and trying to find my footing, but I think I learned a few things from it all. Not from the books, but from the not learning from the books. If that makes any sense. I’ll try to explain it a little better.
I have a second confession. Not a single thing I read in any of those self-help books changed my life. In fact, I think they actually distracted me from making changes and wasted my time. Maybe it was all a part of the process. Honestly, I probably wasn’t ready for real change yet. In that sense, reading about it maybe got me primed. The biggest thing I learned here, though, was that reading about changing and actually making different choices are two totally different things. The difference between knowing better and doing better haunted me for years.
There used to be many nights that I would either stay up late looking for answers to my issues in my self-help books, or I would fall asleep completely exhausted from another day that tossed me around like a rag doll. I was either getting beat down by life or constantly looking for answers from the “experts”. I had a lot of knowledge about things, but putting it into practice never worked for me.
The problem with experts is they weren’t me. They didn’t have my upbringing. They didn’t have my personality or life experiences. Often, they didn’t even have the same beliefs and values as me. And while they did have some interesting things to say, reading words didn’t translate into anything for me.
The truth is, my life only started to change when I felt safe, loved, and ready to live differently than ever before. I tried everything I read in those damn books. God, did I try. I tried so fricken hard that I thought I must be broken if I couldn’t figure it out. If I couldn’t do what the experts were trying to teach me, then that meant something was definitely wrong….with me. I went down that road more times than I can count. I would not recommend it. Not great for your self-confidence or mental health.
I don’t really know when I stopped being stuck on self-help books. At some point, I stopped looking to all the experts. I still like to learn and will pick one up from time to time. The difference now is that I have this internal compass that I filter everything through.
I call this internal, guiding compass intuition. It guides me to make choices based on my values. Why is intuition important? It helps me use discernment with books and information I read. To tell if things are applicable to me and my life before I waste my time and energy on it. It’s like the quality control of my life. I run everything by and through it.
Instead of being stuck on self-help books, can you imagine having a fountain of wisdom and guidance available to you? Intuition comes along when you are safe, loved (mostly by yourself), and ready to listen.
Are you safe? Do you feel loved? Are you ready? If not, which one could use more attention from you this week?