Have You Self-Improved So Much that Now You Suck?


All the psychologists and marriage counselors know to flock to my garage sales because every few months my living-room shelves sag with the extreme weight of hundreds of self-help books (ranging from having better relationships to communicating more effectively to figuring out if you’re addicted to self-help books!) and so I put every single paperback and hardbound copy on the front lawn with a sign, “Take All My “Fix Yourself” Books For $500.”  Oh! I’m not selling them for that price, I’m actually willing to pay someone that amount to haul them the heck off my property.

In addition to reading scads of these books, I participate in dozens of self-improvement courses, programs, classes, groups, meetings, and listen to Ted-Talks and podcasts. And this is where all of this SELF studying has gotten me today.  Have a listen!

SUPPORT GROUP SOCIALIZATION

ME: Wow, that was a great discussion you facilitated today. I got a lot out of it.

LEADER: People-Pleasing!

ME: No, I just meant it was perfect for me.

LEADER: Perfectionism!

ME: Oh gosh, sorry.  I appreciate you pointing this stuff out. I don’t think I’ll ever stop saying those kind of things!

LEADER: Catastrophization!

ME: Oops, you’re right. I just really want you to like me.

LEADER: Not everybody is always going to like you, you just have to accept that.

ME: Yes, how does that go again? Let’s see…”What other people think of me is none of my business?” Is that right?

LEADER: Approval-Seeking!

ME: Oh now this is getting kinda silly, don’t you think? Just tell me if I said it correctly.

LEADER: Controlling!

ME: Oops, I guess that kinda was. So how are you? You mentioned last week you were getting over a cold.

LEADERS: Boundaries!

ME: Oh gosh, sorry. I didn’t mean to overstep, I was truly concerned. I’ll just keep my big, fat mouth shut from here on in and then maybe you’ll be happy.

LEADER: Self-Deprecating AND Passive Aggressive!

ME: I am soooooo sorry.

Leader: Overly apologetic!

As I leaned in to give her an “I’m not upset” hug goodbye, she whispered “Co-Dependent!” into my ear.

While I went about the rest of my day, I decided that two can play at the psychobabble game! And this time it would be to my advantage.

PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE AT SON’S MIDDLE SCHOOL

PRINCIPAL: We’d like to discuss with you what we foresee after graduation when your son starts high school.

ME: Oh!  I’m sorry but I only live in the present moment.

PRINCIPAL: Really?!  Well, don’t you think you should think about the fact that he’s not passing several classes at this point and he should have a tutor.

ME: Watch those “should” statements. Always substitute “Could” for “Should.”

PRINCIPAL: Alright. Could you conceive of your son failing biology, history, and math? Because every single one of his teachers Could.

ME: Magnification!

PRINCIPAL: Well, what’s your plan as a mother to cope with your son not graduating?

ME: I’ll just “ACT AS IF” he’s graduating. Haven’t you read The Secret? You really should.

PRINCIPAL: I suppose I Could.

I flounced out of his office and went straight to the bank to secure a loan. When the teller went to shake my hand, I pointed out that he might want to deal with his attachment issues.

FIRST AMERICAN NATIONAL UNIVERSAL WORLDLY BANK

ME: Let me start out by clearly setting my intentions. I am here to borrow money. Dollar signs have also been placed on my vision board.

TELLER: Your what board? Never mind. So you say you’d like some extra cash for Home Improvement? Can you be more specific?

ME: Boundaries, please!  Let’s just say I’ve given up on Self-Improvement.

TELLER: (odd look) I see. Gosh, Miss Menopause, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do for you today.

ME: You’re in denial!

TELLER: That’s a river in Egypt.

ME: Humor Defense Mechanism! Let’s unpack what’s making you so uncomfortable about this issue, shall we?

TELLER:  I am required to ask you certain questions and I’m also accountable for deciding if you’re a good risk. It’s a lot of responsibility for me.

ME: Narcissism! It’s not always about you.

TELLER: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been at such a total loss before, like I am right this very moment.

ME: Reclaim your power!

TELLER: Ok. You’ll either need to respond directly to my questions or immediately leave the premises.

ME: Black & White Thinking!

And with that I raced home to practice my relaxation and meditation. My kids were in for a treat because I challenged myself to see how many times I could (NOT should!) use the word “Mindful,” which was how my yoga instructor told us we should approach life.

FAMILY TIME

SON: What’s for dinner?

ME: Do you think you can go one morning without asking that idiotic question? It’s enough to make me lose my ever-loving Mind-ful!

DAUGHTER: What do you think of my new dance routine? Do you like the music?

ME: please! Do you Mind-ful?? I’m trying to relax right now and that godawful song is blasting!

DAUGHTER: Can you at least tell me what you think of my new outfit?

ME: It’s wintertime. I have a good Mind-ful to let you freeze to death in those skimpy shorts.

SON: Gosh, whadya think is up with Mom today??

ME: Will you both just Mind-ful your own darn business?!!

At that point I gave up completely and wisely switched from meditation to medication. Forget Self-Help. What a difference in my life just a single letter can make!

READERS:  Are you, or do you know someone else who is overdosing on Self-Help Stuff? Leave me a comment if this strikes a chord and then God help us all! 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Have You Self-Improved So Much that Now You Suck?

  1. Oh, yes for sure. In fact, I’ve blocked a few of them from my FB page. If I have to hear one more word about how grateful they are….I’ll give them something not to be grateful about!

    By the way, we got a funny Chanukah card the other day that reminded me a lot of you. I recall something about Stephanie Hallmark Lewis. You should probably look into that!

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    • Haha on your first paragraph and good memory, I had a line of greeting cards I was very into but marketing them became problematic so I didn’t go forward. But here’s a makeshift card just for you…

      Happy Chanukah and hope it’s filled with light and the right # days…. and also an enlightened right daze! 😉 (see why I got booted outa Hallmark??)

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  2. That was hilarious, Stephanie! A ripping good read. I enjoyed it immensely.

    Now I must admit that I’ve never read a self-help book before. Hmmm … I wonder if there’s a self-help book for that?

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  3. I used to read a lot of self help when I felt there was something wrong with me, or with my relationship. Then I read one self help book to end them all: Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie. Turns out the best thing for the best me was to quit the self-help! And the relationship, not-coincidentally! Now the favourite of the day: fantasy fiction. 🙂 That’s not everyone’s story of course, only my own. Got a good chuckle from your post though, brilliant piece 🙂

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  4. Did I just write my own blog on your blog. Sorry, it kinda got away from me. But YOUR BLOG inspired my words, and they just flowed out of my fingertip. I hope you can forgive me.

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  5. Barry just blew my question right off the page. I was about to ask why women seem to go for the self-help books while most guys just ignore the fact that they even might need help, and then if they do decide to try, they try it by helping themselves without the help of a self-help book? (Did you follow all that, Stephanie, lol?)
    That’s how I did it, and it worked just fine. I did it by following the four following guidelines in the order about to be given:
    1) KNOW THYSELF — every time you you do something for or in front of a person that you don’t do for or in front of anyone and everyone, take notice of the action or feeling or self-doubt and write it down under the heading FRACTURED PERSONALITY. Similarly every time you do something for or in front of anyone and everyone take notice of the action or feeling or self-congratulation and write it down under the heading BASE PERSONALITY.
    On another page write down everything you notice that you believe without question and where that belief came from: your MOTHER, your FATHER, a different relative including a sibling (and who, if you can remember), a FRIEND, a BEST FRIEND (even if that person is no longer a best friend or even a friend at all), an ACQUAINTANCE, a CLERGYPERSON, a TEACHER, someone else important in you life like a SPOUSE or BOY/GIRL/OTHER-FRIEND, a BOOK, or JOE SCHMUCK from down the lane. OR, on their own page, dare I say it, write dowen the beliefs that came from inside YOU or that YOU ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED IN YOUR LIFE. (Don’t bother with any beliefs you picked up from SELF-HELP BOOKS, those are just clutter that can be easily dispensed with. I’m talking about the beliefs you live by, the ones that help define who you are today even though you came to believe them before you could even talk.)
    These two subject above areas both fall under getting to KNOW THYSELF. Be thorough, and include religious or race/gender/nationality/etc beliefs. I bet you are going to make some fantastic discoveries…
    2) INTEGRATE THYSELF — After you feel you have enough material on who you are no matter who you are with, take the things you don’t like that you do, and transfer them to another page while slashing them off the first sheet with vigour. Make sure you enjoy doing it. Then take the sheet with all the beliefs you came by from other people, scrunch them up into a ball, and burn them either outside where the fire cannot spread, or inside in a sink or toilet bowl. (The sink is better for more complete burning, leaving no traces of what was on those pieces of paper.) Next, look at the page with beliefs that you developed on your own or from your life experience. Is there anything there? I hope so, but you might be surprised if there aren’t very many. Don’t let that upset you, however, the cleaner the slate the easier it will be to create a list of things you feel you need or want to believe in. Don’t fear that a belief might be wrong for you, this time you get to decide what you want to believe. As a child you had no choice.
    Part two of this section is learning about those parts of you, of your personality, that you want to preserve, what beliefs you choose to believe. Just remember, you are safe in the hands of these beliefs and personality traits, because you are in your own hands.
    3) BE THYSELF — Now you have discovered who you are, and who you want to be. The next step is just a little bit harder than the first two steps, because the theory part of this exercise is over. It is time for action. But you are ready for it.
    Start practising being the person you want to be IN EVERY SITUATION YOU ENCOUNTER, AND IN FRONT OF EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER. It will not be easy, not at first, because you (and everyone alive today) is used to being different people in different situations. But ask yourself, does this truly make sense? What is it you are hiding about yourself? Why are you hiding it? Who are you hiding it from? Is there a “GOOD REASON” to go on hiding it? Or would you rather stop stressing yourself out trying to remember which YOU is the CORRECT YOU for each situation you find yourself in? From my own experience, after I developed and practised this method for the better part of two years, I found life to be so much easier to live. I found living by my OWN TRUE BELIEFS to be so much easier than living by the BELIEFS OF OTHERS. And, this was an added bonus, I found more and more people started to like the new me, no matter how different I was from the older mes. All this just from BEING ME, and allowing everyone who looked to see the REAL ME.
    4) BE — And the last step is actually the easiest… And this too I learned from experience, it wasn’t part of the original process. The more I worked to become the same person in front of everyone, the more I forgot I had to work at it. “I” became second nature to “MYSELF.” I came to BE the same person in front of everyone, always responding in similar ways to similar situations (meaning I also learned that two situations are NEVER IDENTICAL TO EACH OTHER. Even if the VERY SAME PEOPLE are involved in a certain type of situation, something is always different.)

    There, if you are willing to work your ass off, Stephanie, is the best SELF-HELP page in the world. Be yourself, and everyone will notice, even you.

    As for your beliefs, well, not having many, if any at all, opens up the entire world to you. People tend to feel safe all wrapped up in certain belief systems, and if that is what you choose to do, sobeit. But if you are anything like me, you are going to go on a spiritual journey of discovery, and every path will be open to you. Enjoy discovering what your path is. I did.

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