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

“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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