There's a lot of self-help out there. Yoga, books, conferences, inspirational tweeters. Some of it helps! People get healthy, intuitive, creative. They become capable originators in their own lives. They handle challenges with ease, and inspire others to do the same. You want to know these people!
But a lot of self-help doesn't help. People get less healthy, both in their minds and bodies. Intuition fades. Creativity is lost. Many seek the next expert-guru to tell them where to go, what to do, how to live. I've seen this happen a lot around the yoga and wellness communities. We all have. Maybe we've even seen it in our own lives.
What if you could just go to the kind of self-help that actually helps? What if there were a giant red flag flying high over the kind that doesn't?
Well, maybe there's a way to do this. Here are a red flags to keep an eye out for if you're seeking self-help:
Red Flag: If you gravitate toward self-help — but you want someone else to help you — it won't work.
I see this next one a lot.
Red Flag: If you gravitate toward yoga — wanting "yoga" to help you — it won't work.
Here's the problem. Nobody else's rules, ways, or life plans are going to do much for you. Nobody else's yoga is going to do much for you. The yoga that works is the kind you make for yourself. The life that works is the kind you make for your self.
If you push and force to get into someone else's rules, someone else's shape, someone else's life, you may feel better temporarily, or at least distracted. A purpose has been given to you! But it won't last. It won't work.
The stress and strain of this struggle creates physical injury. Worse, it hurts your mind and your life. You've practiced saying "I'm not enough. I can't get where I need to go on my own feet. I need someone else to get me there."
Luckily, there's also a green flag.
Green Flag: Self-help works when you help yourself.
It seems obvious, but this one can be tough. When you're looking for self-help, inertia tends to pull you into something different: sharing your failure and struggle. This isn't always a bad thing! It can be comforting. Comfort can help. But it doesn't help if you get stuck here, complaining.
For self-help to work, you need to move past shared failure into shared success — not holding each other down while hiding from challenge — but lifting each other up to handle challenge with ease.
We aren't generally looking to wrap a security blanket around ourselves, change our names, and hide away from the world. But if we're not careful, that's the easiest thing to do. It's what so many self-help gurus give, because it's what they have in their own lives: struggle without lift.
What you have in your own life is what you have to share. So here's one more red flag.
Red Flag: Self-help gurus who have the words and phrases, but not the life.
You're not in this to humor someone because they bought Twitter followers or an email list, and can now repeat what they read in a book. You're in this to get inspired to create an inspiring you. Inspiration is infectious. We give to each other exactly what we've created in our own lives.
It takes work to build something useful in your life. Even more important, it takes belief in your self — in your ability to be the most capable originator of your own inspiring life.
This is how you help yourself. Feel, believe what you feel, and respond. Find your own way to make your own radiant health and life. Messages of help — or helping hands — can inspire us. They can lift us up. But we each get to do our own work, on our own feet.
Don't wait for yoga or anyone to do things for you. Do for yourself. Support others to do the same, and you'll be supported in return. You'll create great things in the world when you create great things in yourself.