Dodgy self-help advice is all over the internet, and it could genuinely ruin your life. If you’re not careful, you could end up following advice that encourages you to engage in unhealthy behaviour. Whilst you might start out intending to improve both your short and long term life experiences, you could end up in more of a rut than you were before!
The great news is that you’ve essentially completed the first step: asking for advice. It’s a pretty crucial part of your journey. Being able to put yourself out there, acknowledge that you can do better, and search for help is a great thing. That’s what makes it even worse when someone peddles unhelpful information that might send you back to square one.
Knowing what to look out for, too, is even harder. There are so many advice columns on the internet, how are you supposed to know which ones to trust?
Well, in this article, we’ll highlight some of the things you need to look out for when searching for advice online – that includes advice you should avoid and some things to keep in mind.
Where do you start?
Knowing the right places to look is a big part of the problem. Self-help advice can often be toxic and displace your sense of self. Advice columns often tell you to abandon the most important part of self-help: the self. They’ll try to tell you that you don’t understand how to experience happiness, that you should try to cultivate it and pursue it as much as you can.
Self-help like this is trying to dissuade you from listening to yourself, and listening to them instead. Certain columns, or influencers, rely on your need for their voice. Take many self-help books written by successful businessmen, for example. Many of these businessmen may have truly carved their own path, defeating all the odds to reach the top of the mountain – but it’s pretty likely that their success is also combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time.
Whilst they might have some interesting things to say, the general implication is that, if you follow their advice, you can be rich and happy too! In reality, these people don’t want widespread success, they want to use their platform to feel valued and respected – they want you to listen to them. Not because they have your best interests at heart, but because your engagement is proof of their success!
So, keep in mind that self-help advice from successful celebrities, or so-called self-help gurus, might not be the most helpful.
They’re often trying to convince you that, in order to be successful yourself, you need to be someone else. In reality, you’re probably already pretty successful at a lot of stuff – you just might not notice or value it as much as you should.
Take an inward look at your own life, without comparing it to others, and think about where you want to be. Is your growth dependent on fame and success? Or, do you just want to better yourself? Our best guess is that you want to better yourself. Otherwise, why would you still be reading?!
To do that, you have to consider your internal experiences. It might not be pretty, but if you’re in need of self-help, it’s probably due to some form of dissatisfaction in your life. Instead of trying to find an outside solution, think about why this might be, where this source of dissatisfaction comes from and what you can practically to do help turn it around.
Self-understanding is the key step in this whole process.
Self-Help Advice To Avoid
There’s a whole load of bad advice out there. We’ve put together a list of some of the worst we’ve seen, a few things to keep your eye out for when searching for answers.
Just Stay Strong!
Being told to stay strong isn’t just patronising, it also implies that you’re not allowed to experience emotions. The implication with a statement like this suggests that getting upset, or struggling, is a sign of weakness – that, to power through it, all you have to is pull up your socks and grit your teeth!
In reality, that’s like taking one step forward straight off the edge of a cliff. If you don’t allow yourself to experience difficult emotions, you’ll find it harder to really understand who you are. Crying, or getting upset, can often feel like a purge of these negative thoughts and emotions, rather than allowing them to build up.
Oh, thanks! Why didn’t I think of that already?! Being told to cheer up completely undervalues the root cause of your unhappiness – it essentially tells you to ignore the problem, put on a brave face and move on.
Like the last piece of advice, this gives you no opportunity to purge the negative emotion from your mind. Instead, you push it down, expecting it to never come up again. In reality, by pushing these feelings down, you end up stewing and the problem is much worse than it initially would have been!
Telling someone with a broken leg to just ‘walk it off’ wouldn’t make sense, would it? So, why do we expect the same of someone with an emotional or mental burden?
Think How Much Worse It Could Be
The assumption behind this piece of self-help advice is that you’re ungrateful for the life you have. It imagines that happiness is relative, that comparing yourself to another in a worse situation should make you feel better about where you are now.
This is not a sustainable way to think. You shouldn’t be grateful for hardships just because it could be worse. By thinking this way, you don’t get the opportunity to truly evaluate and process whatever situation you’re in. Instead, you displace it onto another and, once again, lose your chance to purge your emotions. Growth and improvement can only happen when you consistently re-evaluate how you feel.
Remember How Lucky You Are
People’s refusal to allow you to be proud of your achievements is a strange trait. Instead, you should be ‘grateful’ for how ‘lucky’ you are. Whilst some aspects of this are true, regarding acknowledging certain privileges you may have, not giving yourself credit for your own capabilities is just silly.
When you’re told to ‘remember how lucky you are’, you’re essentially being told that your success is completely down to luck. Sure, being in the right place at the right time could have had some impact; but, that doesn’t really mean anything. Your successes are evidence enough of your own capabilities – don’t let somebody belittle your achievements by telling you that you’re lucky.
A Final Word
So much of the self-help advice granted by so-called ‘experts’ focuses on displacing your emotions onto someone, or something, else. Instead of allowing you to purge yourself of the negative emotions and experience a catharsis, they’ll often encourage you to engage in toxic behaviour, purely because it’s easier.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, gaining self-understanding is a vital part of your emotional growth. Knowing what you need to do in order to better yourself starts with one person: yourself. Think about how you react to situations – take time to assess how you got there, what decisions you made and what you could have done differently.
Forcing yourself to just cheer up, or move on, starves you of a great opportunity to better yourself.
If you need help with your self-improvement journey, take a look at the services offered by Ceed – our experts are here to help you take a weight off your shoulders.