Since I was about seven years old, my mother has been a life coach. For the uninitiated, a life coach is sort of like a traditional therapist, except for one very crucial difference. In the words of my mom, “It is not about what is wrong, it is about what is right.” There is less, “How does that make you feel,” and more, “You are an amazing, powerful person who is in charge of your own destiny.” This is the sort of teaching that’s at the core of the self-help industry. That’s a pretty great message to spread, right? I understand this. I support the main lesson discovery, encouragement, and celebration of self-worth. I get it.
You see, my issue isn’t so much over the core of the message as it is over the fact that the self-help industry exists in the first place. More specifically, the fact that it needs to exist; the undeniable need of our society for consistent outward approval. I know that the self-help industry, and life coaches, and authors of self-help books are, on the whole, great people; I promise, I love my mother very much. A very small portion of these people are in it for the money, although it can be a very lucrative business. I am all for the type of wonderful self-empowerment that the industry offers; I have heard and seen first hand many of the success stories. I know that for some people, coaching or seminars or books offer the breakthrough that they so badly need. I just hate that it has to exist at all.
Who decided that we, as the human race, couldn’t see our true potential unless we paid someone, or went to a seminar, or read a book about it? Where did that unhealthy mentality come from? Is it not enough to see that we are special, to know we are special, that we are capable of beautiful things? To realize that we hold the power to create life, make the world a better place for future generations, save lives and cure disease, be amazing wives and mothers and citizens of the world? Someone, please, explain to me where along the way we lost ourselves.
It’s time to create an environment in which this kind of stuff is obvious. Where you don’t have to be told that no matter your background, the mistakes you’ve made or the hard times you may have fallen upon, there is hope. That you can be something. This sense of self-worth needs to start at home, not in the new age section of your local bookstore, or the lecture hall of a community center. We need to start teaching this to our children. This will not change unless we start from the ground up. For some people, this sense of worth manifests as God’s plan; for others, finding a place in the universe; for still others, the meaning of life. Whatever you call it, whatever doctrine you choose to believe? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know that you are worthy.
I know that I sound like somewhat of a hypocrite, that I just espoused sentiments which are not all that different from the very core of the self-help industry. In fact, it’s sort of becoming a trend; my last article was kind of a billboard for self-worth. Like I said, it’s not the industry that I dislike, it is the reason for its existence in the first place.
It also bears mentioning that what I’m talking about is not patting someone on the head, telling them that they are special, and moving on down the line. Constructive criticism is helpful. It is necessary. I will be the first person to tell you that “try, try again” does not work if you are pursuing something that is not in your nature. However, there is a fundamental difference between shielding a person from any type of negativity, and instilling in them an inherent sense of self-worth.
What do you think? Do I sound like a complete and utter hypocrite? Is this a larger need based on human nature? Or do you think, as I do, that the self-help industry is a small-scale solution to a societal problem; one that must be addressed at home, from a young age. Please, let me know what you think.
Fallon lives in Western WI geographically, but her heart will always be in the suburbs of Chicago, where she was born and partially raised. She’s 18 years-old with a high school degree and a year off to focus on sleep, work, and various other shenanigans. She’ll being going to college in the fall for a double major in Broad Field Social Studies and Secondary Education with a minor in Japanese. You can read more from Fallon on her blog, Childlike Abandon.