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Why Self-Help Shouldn’t Be About Trying to “Fix” Yourself

Man with conceptual spiritual body art

“Stop trying to ‘fix’ yourself; you’re not broken! You are perfectly imperfect and powerful beyond measure.” ~Steve Maraboli

The other day I had some time to kill before a meeting, so I decided to go to one of my favorite places, Chapters Bookstore. When I walked in, I immediately headed toward the self-help section to pick up Brene Brown’s Rising Strong (great read, by the way).

As I was searching for her book, I noticed an unusual number of people browsing the same shelves, searching for their self-help book of choice.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. The desire to learn, grow, and be the best version of yourself is something that takes commitment, which I applaud.

But, there was a time when going to the self-help section of the bookstore was done discreetly, not wanting others to think you needed that kind of help.

There was this silent insinuation that something was wrong with you; you needed to be fixed because you were “working on yourself.”

Now, with the personal growth movement in full effect, it’s widely accepted, with sales in self-help books soaring! Yet that silent insinuation has not quite fully left.

Some who seek help increasing their confidence or decreasing self-doubt, or doing anything else for their own personal growth, believe that:

  • “I need fixing,”
  • “There really is something wrong with me,” or
  • “If I loved myself enough I would/would not (fill in the blank).”

If you connect with what I’m saying, then I’m here to tell you that none of that is true! How do I know? I used to carry those same beliefs.

So I ask you, why do you seek personal growth? Your answer will determine your outcome.

I believe there are two motivators as to why people seek personal growth: love and fear.

When you seek personal growth from a place of love, your relationship with yourself changes. No matter how many mistakes or wrong turns you feel you have made, you are willing to use those as learning opportunities, not as a reason to judge, criticize, or blame yourself.

You acknowledge that you are doing the best you can with whatever life throws at you. You are there for yourself with acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness. As a result, true growth happens.

When you approach self-help from a place of fear, you believe that you or your life is lacking in some way. You hang on to the hope that if you just get the right self-help book, or sign up for that life-changing workshop, retreat, or program, that uncomfortable feeling will go away and all will be well again.

If you hang on to this belief, that is not personal growth.

This is looking outside of yourself for happiness, self-acceptance, or inner peace, or to bring security, guarantees, or the love you desire.

It’s a temporary fix. It will continually leave you feeling unfilled and in a cycle of looking for the next best thing to fill you up, creating more fear within you because you are not getting the long-lasting results you want.

I was in that cycle about six years ago. The end of a promising relationship left me heartbroken.

I was about to turn forty, I wasn’t happy with where I was in my career, and I was struggling financially. Although grateful for my supportive family and friends, I knew it was all on me to do things differently. But I was feeling lost, empty inside, and unsure of myself, and I had no idea of my next steps.

What I had envisioned for my life up until that point was definitely not where I had landed. This scared me. I felt alone most of the time. I felt like everything was falling down around me, and it jolted me to my core.

It opened up insecurities I was unknowingly carrying, or thought I had resolved. My self-doubt was high, and I constantly second-guessed myself. But you would have never known it, because I was very good at putting on a mask to get through the day.

I shed many tears. I prayed for help. I blamed. I was angry. I felt cheated.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the best place for me to be in. This emotional time in my life pushed me to challenge and redefine the type of relationship I had with myself, which ultimately impacted my relationship with life.

A self-awareness journey had begun like never before in the midst of believing I needed fixing.

My whole life I had always dabbled in personal growth, always having a curiosity about life, the purpose of it, wanting answers on how to find fulfillment. So I felt I was pretty well versed in spiritually and well-being.

I would soon find out that this time would be different.

I began to soak up all the information I could on the “how to’s” of personal growth and development, to help me get to a better place in relationship with myself.

And it did help me—to a certain point.

While I learned a lot from books, retreats, and online courses, my subconscious intention was to fill that void within me. So nothing really stuck long term.

All the happiness, love, and peace I felt lasted as long as my boyfriend approved of me, or people only had nice things to say about me, or I was the perfect friend, daughter, employee, or boss.

I was still operating from a place of inner emptiness and a lack of self-love, so I didn’t fully see my own beauty. As I went deeper within, unraveling layers of myself that I had never tapped into before, some I didn’t even know existed within me, my fear started to evolve into self-love.

I realized that we are taught how to love others, how to get love, how to be lovable, but we’re never taught how to truly love ourselves—at all, let alone unconditionally. Why? Because on some level, our society believes that it’s egotistical, not important, or narcissistic.

What I now know for sure is that each time we depend on others or things to give us happiness, approval, to make us feel loved, important, successful, to receive guarantees, peace, or security, we give a piece of ourselves away.

We give what is happening outside of ourselves permission to dictate our level of happiness and self-love.

For me, that evolved into people pleasing, because I allowed others to be my lifeline to feeling good. I didn’t realize that I didn’t need fixing; I just needed to be re-introduced to who I truly was and I have always been. Whole and complete.

Once I stopped giving away my power to everyone but myself, my relationship with myself changed, and so did my life.

When you meet yourself with love, you allow the process of personal growth to be about fulfillment rather than filling in. You begin to be kinder to yourself, more understanding, compassionate, and supportive of your journey. The love for yourself expands.

Self-love is not about the ego or selfishness; it’s a pure, positive, compassionate attitude toward yourself. So when we hear that voice within saying, How dare you love yourself? I ask, How dare you not?

Personal growth is a lifelong process that is not about getting to a destination, but the journey itself. There is no right or wrong way of going through this process.

Each of our life journeys is unpredictable. The only thing you truly have control over is yourself—your actions, your effort, your words, your fun and play, your ideas, your mistakes, or your behavior. You have the power to decide how you will continue along your journey. So ask yourself…

Will my decisions come from a place of love or a place of fear?

Build a solid foundation from within by tapping into your beauty, confidence, strength, resilience, and all the other good stuff that may be buried away and forgotten, so that you don’t lose yourself during life's ups and downs.

Know that nothing or no one can validate you, because you are already valid.

There is no “fixing” that needs to be done, nor are you “flawed” for seeking help and guidance. It just means that you are ready to experience yourself and your life in a new way, because what you’re doing is no longer working.

The next time you pick up a self-help book, go to a spiritual healer, hire a life coach, see a counselor, or attend a personal development workshop, let these resources be a means to support. Let them help and guide you toward true fulfillment rather than inviting them to be a substitute for your true happiness.

You are perfect, whole, and complete exactly as you are!

About Michelle Pena

Michelle Peña is the founder of LivTru Coaching, where she helps women unlearn the stories that hold them back from fully embracing themselves and their lives. She comes with a toolkit, experience, and a bounty of compassion, making her a true compassionate champion and coach for women who are ready to create change.

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  • Cathy

    The article is so spot on to what I’m experiencing right now. If I worked in the publishing business, I’d be re-categorizing some self help articles into more specific categories like mindfulness techniques, self inquiry tools, and spirituality seeking. Maybe change the self help section title altogether and call it self expansion section. 0:-)

  • Aelio

    Thank you very much, one of the best articles I’ve read on here. Love the part where you mention guilt for loving ourselves and then say “how dare we not?”. I’ve been trying to self improve through fixing myself and I just recently came to this realization. It was nice reading this, sometimes the timings of these articles and how I’ve been feeling really line up lol spooky

  • Michelle Peña

    Hello Aelio,
    Thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy to know this article was timely for you and you found it helpful on your journey. It’s amazing how what we need will show up in perfect timing not on our timing but when we really need it. Keep shining Aelio!

    -Michelle
    xo

  • Michelle Peña

    Ohhhh Cathy I love that…Self-Expansion section! Great idea 🙂

    I’m so glad my article resonated with you and hopefully helped with what you’re experiencing right now. Our personal journeys of self-love and awareness can be tough but oh so worth it! Thank you.

    -Michelle
    xo

  • Michelle Peña

    Marie you are so welcome. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you summed it up so nicely. Fully embracing our little selves. Thank you!

    -Michelle
    xo

  • sian e lewis

    you MUST love yourself or you will never love another unconditionally You will always look for something from them unless you truly love yourself

  • Aah self-love. Once you truly understand it, that you are someone worth loving, not alone by others but so by yourself. That you should be proud to be chosen to live and see the beauty of your own soul, a path of true light and happiness shines.
    Beautiful article Michelle, thank you.

  • Claire

    This is a really great article Michelle, thank you very much.
    You describe exactly my situation: the void, the emptiness inside, the people pleaser…
    I realize a few weeks ago that I’m always giving so much of my energy for other in order to please and to fill this void: be the best employee, the best friend, the best daughter… I didn’t listen to my body who several months ago start saying stop (illness, neurodermitis, tiredness, brain fog…).
    Now I really try to take more time for myself. I know it will be a long road but I’m going to do it one step after the other.
    XO Claire

  • Wonderful article and great tackling of a subject that I have grappled with a lot in the past on my own journey. Thank you for sharing! <3

  • krzkatie

    I am going to save this one so I can read it again and again. Many years ago, I was pretty happy; I didn’t really worry about what other people thought of me, I was able to say “no” to people and not feel guilty or worry they’d be angry at me. Over time, and a 30 year marriage which ended 6 years ago, I became convinced I was broken; I did all the things you describe….. now I’m trying to find my way back, maybe develop thicker skin, I want to be stronger so I don’t take everything so dang personally! Thank you for your message, I’m thankful I read it today!!! Baby steps…baby steps…..

  • Michelle Peña

    100% Sian! Thank you for sharing xo

  • Michelle Peña

    ohhh that is so good Jellis! I love that!

    And you’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it xo

  • Michelle Peña

    Claire thank you so much for sharing this. I want to congratulate you for finding time to take care of you and attending to your needs. So great that you’re committed to doing the work xo

  • Michelle Peña

    You are most welcome Shannon! I’m glad you enjoyed it xoxo

  • Michelle Peña

    Thank you Krzkatie, I’m gald you found it helpful! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your personal journey. You are not alone on the journey of finding your way back. Being strong can take on many forms even when we don’t feel strong. Your perseverance is strength and oh so beautiful! Keep shining and moving forward xo

  • Amanda Walker

    Such a great article. Thank you, just the other night I was searching online stuff for self help articles. And this article hit me good. Xx

  • Pooja Raghav

    helo sian…. i was going through all other comments n then i found yours.. you know what, thts what exactly i always and may be thats the reason why i was always left wondering for something or the other from my past relationship… i have never ever loved my self thats why i always look around for self help… thnks for sharing your thoughts … for a moment i realised this is exactly what i was going through..
    n thnks to you also mam @michelle pena… u bring such wonderful thoughts into our lives.

  • sian e lewis

    So glad to have been of help- persevere and you will be truly amazed at the results.

  • TammyDavis

    Excellent piece Michelle, thank you! Your insight, writing skills, and courage to be completely vulnerable is beautiful, and a wonderful gift to the world. There is a serious need for gifts like yours in the world today, and it is not just women who are in need. Your words are healing for us all. Let your extremely valuable Love Light shine on everyone 😉

    In Peace & Gratitude,
    Tammy

  • Güngör Merve

    thank you a lot! I’m gratefull