Against Self-Help

Legal Disclaimer: If there is a business known as Self-Help Industries Inc. I am not referring specifically to that business.

I have an axe to grind with the good people at Self-Help Industries Inc.

I'm sure the people involved in this organization think they are doing a good thing. I bet 99% of them (this is a real percentage supported by science) have received positive emails about their book changing a life for the better. But I'm standing out here as a verified, fully certified hater asking you self-helpers to put down your pens and go for a very long walk. Away from me and from everyone else who has to suffer from your blandness.

I'll admit, I've read my fair share of self-help books. I've even enjoyed reading some of these books. I guarantee I could find a 5 star tome sitting in my Goodreads account and mocking me. But I can also say that if there are a few stars or I enjoyed a book that it was nothing more than that. Just an enjoyable book filled with veiled cliches that made the author too rich and too famous for their own good.

The problem with these books has to do with a problem I'll call The Watering: A fancy way of robbing the reader of their thoughts and putting them inside of a small box unfit for the delicacies of a robust personality. The Watering only gives room for a certain amount of eccentricity. It tells you a better way to shake hands and command attention in a board room. It tells you how long to wait after someone else has spoken and the way to introduce yourself to a client. It tells you how to live in such minute detail that your mind has no room to think for itself and is completely filled up with the ideas and requirements of the rest of the world.

The Watering is evil and even hides in authenticity. While reading this you may be thinking, "Oh come on Funk, don't be unreasonable. I read _________ and it talked all about not caring what anyone thinks and being myself." True. I agree with you. But the best self-help book in the world would read "Be authentic." One page. One line. Two words. The end. Once there are more words than that, I start to question whether a book that purports to help you become authentic has any validity.

One of my favorite and most ridiculous quotes comes from Paula Abdul. You remember her? There was a decent singer on American Idol one night and Paula said, "You are uniquely you." Cheesy? Check. Grammatically incorrect? Check. Better self-help advice than the Power of Now? Check. 

I want to be clear, I am not talking about religion or philosophy. Those are different beasts with a different purpose. I am talking about the books that try and tweak those outer quirks and kinks. The ones that tell you how to be charismatic like George Clooney (or whomever).

I've met a bunch of crazy rad people and a bunch of crazy bland people. The crazy rad people are usually a little monomaniacal, unbalanced, and nontraditional. The bland ones are obsessive about balance and what their boss thinks about them. I'll let you guess who buys more of the self-help books.