An Alternative to Self-Help

Bookstores brim with books on how to better ourselves.

Webinars, seminars, conferences, podcasts tell us how we an improve ourselves, optimize ourselves.

Self-help has grown like ivy across America’s conscience.

I read it. I listen to it. I’ve been elevated by some of it. And still I tussle with the basic premise of it: Our self is somehow defected and needs to be fixed. Easily, self-help can be yet another civil war we wage on ourselves, along with those old inner wars with our body, our doubts, our aspirations.

I appreciate the spirit of self-help - we can change, we can live more meaningfully, contribute more deeply. But what if we shifted the language from self-help to self-accompaniment? So it’s not that we are fighting ourselves to Change, Already!, but we are working alongside ourselves for lasting transformation.

The means impact the ends. We know the experience of forcing a new habit on our recalcitrant selves only to see the habit evaporate like steam off hot coffee. Which isn’t too surprising: animals that are forced into submission don’t become better or stronger. They become fearful and anxious.

But the changes that seem to stick are the ones that are loved into being; animals that are compassionately guided come into their own, and lastingly so.

We can be more patient, less judgmental; show up for our creative work, learn to say no. We can do all that - more, even. Likely, our souls are crying for it. And I have to believe we come into our own not through force and fight, but by working in common cause with ourselves.

The Lightning Notes is funded by kind donors. If something here strikes you, I'd be grateful if you'd consider donating. Click to Donate!