The self-help world is full of terrible, dumb advice.
“Anything the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!”
“If I can do it, you can do it!”
A lot of self-help slogans are designed to make you feel better…but aren’t actually based on anything substantive, like science or clinical experience.
It is NOT the case that you can “do anything.”
It is NOT the case that whatever someone else can do, you can do also.
That’s not because you’re somehow broken or unusually limited; it’s because you just can’t make blanket statements like this about human nature.
I can do things you can’t do.
You can do things that I can’t do.
And we can ALL imagine things that NONE of us can do.
For example: I can IMAGINE a world in which we all just feel awesome, all of the time— without having to learn and practice coping skills and emotional management tools.
Will that ever be the reality? No. No it will not.
In order to feel good or feel better, we need to develop skills and acquire tools.
Most of the time it’s not particularly easy to develop skills and acquire tools.
Much of the time it’s a slow, frustrating, trial-and-error process— which we often have to undertake while STILL experiencing symptoms.
Our minds can “conceive” of LOTS of things that don’t actually work in the real world— whether or not we work ourselves into “believing” it.
Why is it reasonable to assume that we can do “anything” someone else can do?
Other people have different genetic advantages and vulnerabilities than we do.
Other people have had different developmental experiences.
I may be able to do a lot— but I’ll never run a marathon at the same pace as an Olympic champion.
And still: self-help INSISTS on cramming such “can do” nonsense down our throats at every opportunity.
Because it sells.
People WANT to believe that they are actually “limitless” beings.
People WANT to believe that, through a mysterious Law of Attraction, they can carve the life they want literally out of thin air.
I’m actually a big fan of positive thinking generally. I do think— and the science supports— that there IS a relationship between optimism and results.
I DO think that what we visualize and what we believe can have a PROFOUND impact on our results.
But that DOESN’T mean we should buy into a world where “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”
No. “Anything” is not possible.
And that’s okay.
We don’t need to live in that world where we can “do, have, or be ANYTHING” in order to create a life of meaning and satisfaction.
We don’t need to delude ourselves with simplistic self-help pseudoscience in order to take advantage of what we really DO know about making our lives better and achieving our goals.
When you’re looking into self-help resources, please: be aware of and realistic about the outsized promises self-help teachers sometimes make in order to sell their products and services.
I strongly believe in a world where people CAN help and improve themselves through books and seminars and courses and the mentorship of teachers, guides, and even gurus.
But I also strongly believe self-help can do better.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter and never miss a blog or social media post!