I just read a blog post by Aytekin Tank about why self-help doesn’t work. There are some truths in that post. Yet, I wanted to publish a response to express my objections. Let’s discuss some of his arguments.
What works for everyone is different. Therefore, self-help content won’t work for you.
I partially agree with the first sentence. I completely disagree with the second sentence.
People are different. Their backgrounds are different. Their challenges are different. Therefore, you can’t come up with a solution that would apply to everyone in each situation.
Yet, people have similarities. There are strategies that work for the majority of people, if not most people. If that wasn’t the case, we had to throw all social sciences, including psychology out of the window.
I heard a prominent natural scientist saying that social sciences aren’t real science, and Aytekin’s post is going in the same direction. Needless to say, I disagree.
Here’s an example. Some people have the so-called photographic memory. Others are better off using the spaced repetition method to learn something for the long term. What’s the percentage of people with photographic memory? I bet sufficiently small so that they can be ignored.
Hiring a coach who listens to you and works with you to develop solutions together with you is much more beneficial than reading self-help content alone. Yet, if you can’t afford hiring a coach, consuming self-help content and actually applying the advice might be the next best thing.
Self-help doesn’t make any difference in your life.
After publishing 300+ self-help posts, I started to see some trends. Most people consume self-help content to distract themselves.
When you’re in stress, and you want to distract yourself for a while, you have two options. You distract yourself with something completely irrelevant like dancing cat videos, or you consume self-help content.
Conscientious people feel bad for distracting themselves with something completely irrelevant, but it’s an acceptable compromise for them to distract themselves with self-help material because they think that they’re doing something good for themselves.
Some people just rely on setting goals and consuming self-help content to feel good about themselves and their lives. Unfortunately, it ends there for them. They use their goals as a drug to medicate themselves.
If someone uses self-help content merely as a distraction and doesn’t follow up on what they consume, of course, that content won’t make the slightest difference in their life. Self-help isn’t a magic pill.
If you are that person, you’re better off knitting socks as Aytekin suggests or watching big cats showing affection to each other.
Aytekin mentions a scientific study that examined people who consumed self-help content and found out that it doesn’t make any difference in their lives.
I suggest another scientific study. Let’s study people who consumed self-help content and did the following.
- They summarized the lessons they learned from the content.
- They reviewed their summaries periodically, weekly, monthly, quarterly and so on.
- They did the exercises suggested in the content.
- They applied the ideas in their lives.
I’m really curious about how the results of such a study will be.
I get where Aytekin is coming from, but I don’t think it’s the self-help industry’s fault that their consumers don’t follow up on their advice.
Well, maybe self-help books should come with warning labels like cigarette packages.
“It won’t work unless you do the work.”
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.