Self-help industry and illusion of progress

Written by Sudikshya Ghimire

It all started when I joined my college. Not so popular I had unhealthy desire to be liked by everyone , wanted to be famous; that one popular girl whom everyone adores. I struggled to fit in and find my place in my first year.  This feeling of wanting to make a change brought me into the world of self-help.

The very first self-help book I read was ‘HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE’ a ground breaking guide by Dale Carnegie. It is said , this book gave birth to self improvement that spans the globe.  When I finished reading the book I felt amazing feeling of satisfaction.

Everything was different to me then, that proud feeling; I had within me , knowing the secret to make friends eventually made me think I was superior than everyone around me ,but I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and talked to people. After finishing 260 pages of that book I had so much information inside me, that made me happy.

I brought another book. My second book was ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’. Self-help makes you feel good, there is no doubt about that. While reading final line of any self-help book gave me a pleasure and feeling of achieving something. That rise in motivation in my cells with rise in dopamine in my body forced me to buy another book. Then I brought a third one, fourth one ,fifth one , sixth one and many more.

The illusion that I was progressing  gave birth to the desire of reading another book , watching another video, attending another seminar. Reading , feeling great, buying was a cycle and it took months for me to break it. You don’t get addicted to a product you get addicted to what it makes you feel. I had read more than two dozens of  self-help books upto then. After months of reading self help books what I had was ; an empty wallet , bunch of temporary motivation and soul-wrenching realization in the back of my mind that I haven’t achieved anything. After reading dozens of self-help books I realised they pretty much have a same content being told in a different way. 

Self development ; a world full of people wanting to change themselves, be a better version, a world where you are a driver of your own actions and thoughts. One of the biggest reasons of someone wanting to change themselves is because they are dissatisfied with themselves, unhappy with where they are currently at and there is nothing wrong with that sentiment.

They are helping us to get out of our selves and fight a real battle, aren’t they ? But sad part is , I am not profiting from these book.  If me with millions of others who buy these books aren’t profiting who is ? Behind this self-help addiction there is something more sinister because on the back of my constant purchase, view and constant chasing of motivation someone is profiting. Behind my purchase of ‘ Think and Grow Rich’ someone is actually getting rich , me reading ‘ The science of getting rich ‘ isn’t making me rich but instead someone is using the science of manifestation by selling me that book. It’s a trap . The self-help industry was worth 11.6 billion back in 2019. It is estimated to reach fourteen billion by 2025 with 6.0% annual growth. 

Do I really need to be told to think big , visualise my goals, attract what I want  by ten different books  ten different times in ten different ways.  Too much motivation and too much consuming , action that needs to be taken is actually being postponed. 

Targeting vulnerable audience those who are struggling financially , having relationship problems, having health related issues claiming they can get whatever they want but giving false hope instead. “Rich people don’t sleep 8 hours a day “ , “work like hell “ , “work”, “hardwork”, “you cant die poor”, “rich people read poor people don’t “, “attract health , wealth and happiness”  this hustle culture is creating toxic environment that force people to work hard for the sake of working hard.

You work hard but it doesn’t work it isnt making you rich. It is clearly not because it just doesn’t work for you. It is because you aren’t working hard enough. This culture is making us realise if we cannot work sixteen hours a day there is something very wrong with us. This culture is making us question our worth and abilities. 

  You don’t need to be perfect to fit in this world. Unhappy people are easy to convince and we are more profitable to this industry unhappy and discontent.  A patient healed is a customer lost.   Lets hope it isn’t too late before people start  realising this formula hardwork and  work 16hours a day isnot  for everyone and there is nothing wrong with us. These Instagram entrepreneurs faking  and  forcing  Shakespeare to start real estate business quitting writing Hemlet. This industry is  blurring  our vision with these false stardom. 

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