For my adult life, I have always been a bit of a self-help junkie. It started in college with M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. From there my self-help spanned widely to nutrition books by Andrew Weil, to Fit For Life, to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. (I am now SO EFFECTIVE. But you've probably already noticed that about me.)
As I’ve grown older, I’m still drawn to this idea that I can be me, only better! Living up to my potential, kinder and gentler, and quite possibly better looking (via helpful reminders to drink more water and wear sunscreen even while driving). Yet I tend to hide these books from others. I’m not sure why I feel embarrassed about them, except that perhaps I’m afraid of what it says about me: After all these years, I’m still striving to become something just beyond my reach – I might be just a paragraph or two away from finally motivating myself to sit down and write a book, breaking down communication barriers with teenage boys, or learning how to be happier with less.
The Internet I’m sorry to say, has only made this frenzied approach to betterment worse. I can listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday or self-help audio recordings while making breakfast for the boys and be all new before 8 a.m.! I subscribe to blogs like Positively Positive, Kris Carr, and even eNews from the pastor who married Shawn and me, only to see them pile up in my inbox; little stressful reminders that I am behind on my improving.
Then I read about cortisol, how stress is accelerating aging and killing us all, which wigs me out. So I learn some helpful breathing exercises on a 4-minute YouTube video which I now occasionally do when I notice my heart racing. I remind myself that I can just delete all of those emails, I can unsubscribe and lounge on the couch and eat chocolate without guilt if I choose to. (Yeah, right.)
So I start skimming my self-help emails, and save the ones that resonate so that I can go back and read them when I have time. When will I have time? I never have time – surely there’s a book or audio recording out there that can help me become more organized, efficient and spacious with my sense of time.
I somehow now know more Life Coaches than ever before, and I am ashamed to admit that I’ve done a Strengths Finder test in the past six months, but can’t for the life of me remember what my strengths are or how the website advised me to begin capitalizing on them.
Lately I’ve been trying to focus on one little self-help nugget at a time, as becoming a better person is on the verge of overwhelming me. Even with this pared-down approach, I found myself frustrated by my forgetfulness the other day: was I supposed to be working on not judging others, or trying not to gossip? Or were both of those the week before? Then I remembered an ad for luminosity.com that is supposed to help people improve their mental acuity. I could always go there and do some brain-strengthening puzzles or something. (Assuming I actually remember to visit the site.) That same day Shawn commented that I hadn’t used our juicer in weeks (Zip it!), and I keep forgetting to fill out my gratitude journal.
At what point does one become the producer of all of this wisdom, rather than the consumer? And yet what would all these experts do without willing lumps of clay like me waiting for their next message?
I am happy to oblige, but I wonder, is this co-dependency? (If so, thank goodness I have a book in a storage box somewhere on that.)