Hello everybody, welcome to episode 34 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and boy, oh boy am I ready to go on a rant today on self-help myths vs. facts.
I’m not trying to get you excited about my complaining, I’m just being factual. I’m normally regarded as a positive person, but does today’s question ever give me a playpen for all the things I like to complain about. Tasteful complaint of course; complaint geared towards your benefit. Let’s check out today’s question…
QUESTION: “I’m an avid listener of the podcast and your website, and it is my opinion that you approach a lot of self-help topics differently than some of the bigger names. I like this, because as a viewer, I always hear the same ideas repeated. Could you give us your opinion on some of the biggest self-help myths in circulation?”
Ok. Nice, unique question. Good one to have here on the show. Also good to be in the presence of a like-minded individual who enjoys questioning everything. Hopefully you deal with the ensuing neuroticism a little bit better than I do.
The Self-Help Industry
To me, there are so many myths in self-help that I’d need a whole new show to cover them all. You guys have to understand that although some of the material is very useful, there are so many schemers in the self-help industry — people that have gotten good at toying with people’s vulnerability, playing into what people want to hear, offering false sense’s of hope, etc.
You really need to be careful with the content you ingest because even the best stuff out there can only set you in the right direction — ultimately any changes you make to your life have to be made by you.
With that in mind, let me dive into what I think are some of the stupidest lies out there right now, in no particular order.
Myth #1: Focus on Self vs. Community
Number 1 is would be this ongoing nonsense about like focusing on yourself, put your head down and do your work, don’t spend time worrying about other people … malarky. This lone ranger stuff is put out there with the intent of getting people to focus on their own goals and not get bogged down by naysayers.
Yes, there’s some value in that, but when it’s taken to the extremes and pushed as much as it is, what I see happening is that it’s reinforcing a detachment from community; and community is all we have and all we’ll ever have.
It’s really important to remember our natural roles as contributors to others, and when people get so hyped up on only doing things that benefit them and their own needs while at the same time having less and less patience for others that they feel derail them from that mission, you get a lack of trust; you get more narcissism. Just think about narcissism on social media and how it correlates to less camaraderie and more self-promotional activity.
So I suppose the antithesis would be to not necessarily abandon your own goals and desires, but to stay very aware of how you can contribute to and collaborate with others and the value that comes with that.
Myth #2: Removing Toxic People
Number 2 I’d say is the whole “remove toxic people” scheme that’s ultra fashionable these days. So the intent is to not keep people in your life that don’t support you or make you feel bad or whatever. Fine.
But again, the levels it’s reaching makes the whole thing seem overly aggressive to me, and I think what’s happening is that a lot of people who buy into this too much are highly at risk of not seeking to understand these other people — thus assuming that they themselves should never have to change.
For example, a teenager who loves this “remove toxic people” philosophy will probably not be receptive to discipline issued by parents or teachers. They’ll remove anyone who disagrees with them or threatens their current state of mind because that state of mind isn’t being supported. So the teenager endlessly assumes they’re in the right, and never sees challenging people as people that can help them — let alone people that might need help themselves.
Big surprise, a lot of adults act like these teenagers forever and ever.
Don’t do that. Be careful about who you choose to remove from your life and put a lot of thought into the role you play or don’t play with that person first.
Myth #3: Always Project Confidence
Number 3, the third of these self-help myths is, ya know, “always project confidence.”
What complete nonsense. All this does is cater to the wants of the people you’re projecting to, thereby completely disempowering you and your vulnerability should you have any.
This is how people develop false confidence.
Is it beneficial if you’re trying to get something from someone? Sure it can be. But does it only teach us to feel more and more at odds with the parts of us that we’re not confident in? Sure does, and that’s a big problem. Confidence isn’t conditional. Truly confident people are comfortable with their strengths and weaknesses, and feel free to express both without shame. Forcing ourselves to project or feel anything other than a contrived confidence is only damaging. Period.
Myth #4: Be Your Own Boss
Number 4. I’m a little on the fence about this one but because it’s just at every corner these days, something needs to be said, and it’s this whole “be your own boss” trend.
Of course, this is mostly applicable for people interested in the business end of self-help which is quite a number of people, but it’s being forced onto everyone and the problem is that not everyone should or can be their own boss.
Being one’s own boss is great for some and terrible for others. But the thought right now that’s being pushed is that it’s the only way to live your life, the only way to feel free. That’s not correct at all, but it’s being pushed because money and freedom are sensitive topics for people, so people are reactive to it and these airport Hilton speakers hosting “10x your income” seminars or whatever can easily get their pockets lined.
Entrepreneurship has A LOT of struggle that isn’t advertised, like burnout and its associated negative consequences. Though it can be a good thing, it’s worth your time to do A LOT of research before considering such a path.
So, there are more myths, but again, there’s only so much time. What I want to end with instead is one of the self-help cornerstones that is NOT a myth. And just like the myths, there are plenty of popular lessons in self-help that are legit, too.
The biggie that is NOT a myth, to me, is the practice of gratitude. Regular practice of gratitude, whatever that ls to you, is of huge importance. You might’ve heard me say that what you put into your mind is often what you’ll get out of it.
When you actively try to be grateful for things, your brain DOES rewire itself to the best of it’s ability, to find elements to be grateful for in ALL things. Over time, you start to see that the waiter is bringing you a meal, not that he took 20 minutes to come to the table and he spilled your appletini on the way. You start to see that you have a car to drive, not that you’ve been stuck in traffic for an hour listening to subpar podcasts on repeat — God help you.
You see what I mean? You tailor yourself to recognize how everything is working to your advantage, and that’s a recipe for huge, healthy life changes. Less entitlement, less dissatisfaction, less feeling offended, less resentment etc. All very important things that can be acquired by a very simple and healthy practice that is not full of lies. Practicing gratitude does not mean you can’t see how good and bad coexist though.
You can still cut things out of your life and be practical, of course. But those decisions are going to be made with a lot more precision and less aggression.
Had a lot of fun with this one needless to say. Honestly, the more I went on there the more hugely important I felt this question was, so thank you again to he who sent it in and for those of you who listened. Of course, these are just my opinions, mind you.
But in an industry that sort of lives and dies by how well it capitalizes on people’s feelings, it’s important for those interested in it to stay educated, do research and formulate solid opinions rather than just go with whatever is thrown in one’s direction. So I encourage you all to do that.
I also encourage anyone who has questions of their own that they’re struggling with – questions they’d like our help with to email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Don’t be shy, folks. That’ll do it for this one, though. Sure hope you enjoyed and sure hope you’ll stop in next time. Until then, my friends.