Navigating the Self-Help Maze: How It Derailed My Mental Health Journey

This might be an unpopular opinion, but it’s one I stand by and defend fiercely. Don’t get me wrong; I believe there’s a place for self-help tools in our lives. We can all grow and strive to better ourselves. However, for anxious perfectionists like me, there’s a dangerous pitfall in this pursuit for self-improvement.

Being wired to believe that everything must be done to the best of my capability plus 1000%, I dove headfirst into the world of self-help, thinking I could “ace” the anxiety recovery test if I just worked hard enough. Little did I know, this mindset was a perfect setup for chaos.

It took me a while to break free from the shackles of the self-help obsession and to recognize that healing isn’t about achieving a flawless, anxiety-free existence. It’s about understanding, accepting, and navigating life with our unique wiring.

Here are the pitfalls I encountered:

1. Overwhelming Advice

The self-help landscape is vast and overwhelming, filled with an abundance of advice from coaches, spiritual warriors, and leading psychologists. This avalanche of guidance, often contradictory, led me down a labyrinth of confusion. Each self-proclaimed guru promised the golden ticket to liberation, and with unwavering vigour, I embraced their teachings. However, this enthusiasm frequently ended in relapses, igniting a relentless cycle of self-blame.

2. The Miraculous Cure

The breaking point for me was realizing that every “guru” shared a struggle story that concluded with a magical event—a cure, a light at the end of the tunnel. They claimed they never experienced anxiety again. This sent me spiralling downward, struggling to accept that my journey might not have a neat, miraculous conclusion. I needed to acknowledge that my wiring meant relapses and triggers would occur, but that didn’t equate to failure or an inability to heal.

This was much easier said than done and it took me a long time to make this connection. Although I am grateful for the plethora of tools, I was able to add to my toolkit, the “how” and the “why” of adding these tools is what broke me. We all want to be healed of something, many of us strive to be “normal” and we all have a definition of what that means and looks like. The question I realized I needed to ask myself is: Do I really need healing and if I do, what does that look like?

I’ve learnt that anxiety and being overly sensitive is part of my nature and therefore ingrained into my blueprint. Changing this blueprint to fit into the world of the perpetually happy, easily successful, and blissfully at peace generation touted in many of these self-help tools, was counter-intuitive to my healing journey.

3. The Blame Is on YOU

The most damaging aspect of the self-help narrative was the implicit blame placed on the individual. If the tools didn’t work, it was somehow my fault. I didn’t “do the work”, “walk the talk,” implement the tools, completed the mediations, immediately changed a thought pattern – the list goes on. This toxic cycle of self-blame only added to the weight of anxiety, making it harder to accept that mental health is a nuanced journey with no one-size-fits-all solution.

To me, if the tools didn’t work, I equated it to – “I don’t work.” Each time I tried harder and each time I failed the “tool kit” it became a personal failing.

Takeaway: Embracing Imperfection and Breaking Free

Breaking free from the shackles of self-help obsession was a transformative journey. Recognizing that healing isn’t about achieving a flawless, anxiety-free existence, but about understanding, accepting, and navigating life with our unique wiring, was liberating. This candid exploration untangles the myths of self-help and champions the beauty of imperfection. Sometimes, the path to healing is not a straight line, and that’s perfectly okay.

Instead of cutting out and removing this problematic part of me, I started to focus on embracing it. I set a daily intention of making peace with, welcoming this part of me to the table and giving it a seat at the table. I do this because, in the end, it is a part of me that needs recognition. Recognizing it, getting comfortable with, sharing space with it has empowered me to better understand it. By understanding it I am not only better able to manage it, but I am also more enlightened to seeing the positive it can bring, and that gifts that can grow from it.

This is not a cure. This is not the destination. It most certainly is not a happy ending. It’s a daily commitment with stumbling blocks, hard times, doubts, and tears. However, its also filled with beauty, new lessons, and most importantly, acceptance of my journey.

Love and Light

Jeanne 

My FIGGI Life Podcast with Jeanne available on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts

 

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