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Toxicity of self-help - Stop reading trendy self-help. Say NO to Self Help material

I remember reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was a fantastic book about destiny, following your goals and dreams. I loved the way it was written and the story format because to this day I still remember the most salient details within its pages. After reading this book I was hooked I wanted to do more and immediately started working on a project I had been procrastinating on. This was it, this was the book, this is what I needed to succeed, more books on self-development. That year was one of the most productive years of my life, so when I fell into a slump I knew that the answer was self-help.

As a result of a self-help book, I started working harder, studying harder, exercising more, eating better and meditating and praying. I did all these for a very short period. And then NOTHING.

I did all these for a very short period of time.


After a year of extreme productivity, I attained one of my biggest milestones, getting into medical school. Once there, I found myself anxious, lonely and a little isolated. I didn’t make many friends and I binged on TV shows and social media to make myself feel a lot better. After consuming tonnes of YouTube videos on productivity, self-worth, habit change, flow, focus, development and growth, nothing seemed to work. I just did not want to study, even though this meant everything to me. I lacked motivation. I was anxious. I prefer TV. I needed something more interesting than simply learning about the ear. Due to the lack of fulfilment with my life and where I was ultimately heading, I leaned into self-help. It kind of helped me before so why not.

The problem with self-help is that when you are desperate and there seems to be no way out, there is a certain lure. Ultimately, listening, watching and reading self-help has one problem, it makes you feel productive when you’re not being productive. We feel better, complete, THIS IS IT. While everyone is watching a rerun of Friends and streaming makeup tutorials on YouTube, you will finally get to work on that book, that blog, that video, that business, and hand in that paper in advance. There is a sense of satisfaction when the book is about to finish, the video/audible is finished the podcast concludes. There is a surge of dopamine in the brain that says wow!, that was incredible, I feel incredible.

With me this was a continuous cycle, I would find a good book, finish it, and then buy the next book. SELF-HELP creates the illusion that you’re doing something great. Suddenly, you have found the key, something no one else has, you’re better, stronger and wiser. So what’s the next best thing, read more books. So let me break this down: You get your book, realise it is an incredible book, decide on the things you’re going to do after reading the book, you start to feel amazing, dopamine rises and so you read another book and another and another until were you’re a self-help expert. It is almost like a drug addiction. It's not the drug we get addicted to it's what the drug does. It is not the books we're addicted to, it's what the book does to our brains. That surge urges you to buy the next book, go to another seminar, and buy the next audible.


“Feeling like you have accomplished something even though no action has ultimately been made.” - ACTION FAKING

Action faking is cleaning the house instead of starting an application that is life-changing (I did this last week). It’s calling that friend when you could be writing a blog. It’s reading a whole book in the bible when you should be reading a book on renal failure. It’s creating a schedule for when you should start doing the thing. It is working on lighting exposure and hues when you should be making a video or taking a photo. It’s creating YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages when all you wanted to do was write. It’s talking to a gym instructor instead of working out. It’s reading about creating a website and never creating one. It’s NOT DOING THE THING THAT YOU NEED TO DO. IT'S FEELING SATISFIED WITH DOING NOTHING.

I took a little pause after reading my last self-help book essentialism, and realised, that ever since starting self-help nothing has changed. I’m still relatively the same weight, my grades haven’t improved, and I’m more irritable. my diet is okay, I honestly don’t meditate and my level of focus can be compared to that of a goldfish.

Action faking is the worst form of procrastination because, in essence, you think you’ve done something. There comes a time when consumption needs to have less time within one's schedule and doing becomes a lot more important.


I will admit this advice can be a little confusing especially when you need help. A few things that have helped me over the past few months are going to be early, spending time with loved ones, praying and reading books that deal with my current situation.

  1. Avoid self-help GURUS - Questions this process. You are the customer. You are buying what they are selling. The industry relies on you not being content. Do you need to be told to journal every day, have a daily plan, get enough sleep, and switch off your phone from 30 different people?

  2. There is NO ONE MORE THING - This perpetuates the cycle. The notion becomes, once I read this book then I will be happy.

  3. Do that thing now - EVEN WHEN it's NOT PERFECT. In creating this blog I wanted everything to be perfect, the name, the font, the links - Everything. Had I started, I honestly would be 20 blogs in and have a much better understanding of writing. I will be a much better writer.

  4. Meaningful things are created through pain/struggle: My initial year of success was not because of self-help. It was because I woke up at the same time, arrived at the library at the same time and studied until and certain time for a year. Every single day (minus a few days I was probably sick).

  5. Forget hustle culture: The illusion that being busy and achieving something are the same thing. I was speaking to a friend that other day and she was talking about how busy she was. She went on to explain how she had been sleeping late as a means to run a small business, attending lectures, was part of some societies, trying to go to the gym, attending some niche classes, helping a family member with some assignments, dealing with a relationship and at the same time trying to have a conversation with me. Ultimately, this is someone who isn’t essential. They try to do everything and in essence, achieve nothing. They look and sound busy. This will lead to burnout.

  6. WORK HARD AT THE ESSENTIAL - By taking the time to research and find out what works, this can avoid wasting time on the non-essential.


The reason I love the above books is that they didn’t give me a false sense of achievement and ultimately helped me in some key areas. They helped, and in implementing their principles, my life has improved.

To the reader: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. *This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.



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This Blog focuses on the life of a junior doctor working for the NHS as well some interesting topics on organisation, books and christianity.


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