Hello, Friends. Are you a Self-Help Junky like myself? Do you enjoy reading about how to better live your life, how to become the best person you can be, and what to change to be a more loving/successful/productive human? I am not alone, then. It is my belief that we Self-Helpers are semi-perfectionists, or Perfection Persuers. Is that a word? WordPress says no, and that bothers me, but I digress. Please enjoy these five signs that you may be a Self-Help Junky.
- YOU WAKE UP SEARCHING. Most of my mornings begin with a realization that I am conscious and a new day is beginning. Then, on automatic pilot, my hand reaches across the void to touch my phone, sitting quietly on the nightstand. It beckons because I want to know if I have missed something important over the still hours. It is not quite a fear of missing out, but a belief that I may glean necessary knowledge which may connect me more fully to my best self and to my global counterparts. Being a responsible citizen of the world is a noble goal, you may agree. My most eager compulsion is that innate need to read about anything promising to ameliorate the self. I soak up these articles, podcasts, and videos like a dry sponge. The search in itself is a non-issue, but the powerful compulsion to search first, live life later, may become a problem. Are some of us hiding behind the search to live life fully, so that we do not fully live life? Is there a phobia here? Maybe.
- YOUR FIRST DAILY THOUGHT INVOLVES THE INTERNET. Most would agree that the internet is a pervasive and somewhat dubious presence in our collective being. As with any tool, one may use the inter-webs for good or for evil. Thinking of another analogy, which wolf do you feed? As a Perfection Persuer, most of my internet usage is to better myself (or others, much to the chagrin of my family.) The internet should be a casual tool rather than a staple in your diet. Most of us understand this, but the draw of all that information just sitting out there waiting to be digested is too valuable and attractive to be ignored. It could be said that this need to “become” is so attractive that it is similar to those special interest obsessions in autistic individuals. Rather than an addiction, our self-help pursuit is that thing which grounds us and gives us the ability to make sense of the systems and patterns around us. Rather than saying Self-Help Junkies have an addictive personality, we could put a different spin on it, viewing this drive for information as a category of high interest which involves the totality of our existence, moving toward an expertise of some sort. Though not all Perfection Persuers are autistic, I would venture a guess that many have autistic traits. It may be important to recognize this, to be self-aware regarding this drive and interest, carrying with us the knowledge that this special interest of web-diving for truth and treasures is not interesting to everyone!
- HELPING THOSE AROUND YOU BECOMES AN OBSESSION. Another sign that you are reading too many self-help articles is that you want to spread the love, so to speak. Self-Help Junkies possess those hearts of gold which, when weighed, are sometimes found wanting, because not only are we striving to change ourselves, we make a crusade of “helping” others around us, even when that help is unwanted or unjustified. We want to spread the love by explaining our new-found wisdom to the loved ones around us. This is, of course, done with the purest of motives. (If you found the fountain of youth or the stairway to Heaven, wouldn’t you, like all good souls, give a shout-out and explain the discovery to the universe?) We easily view others through that lens that sees all imperfection and wrongdoing. When talking with our spouses or children, we extoll the virtues of a book or article which explains all the reasons why we are the way we are- imperfect, lazy, anxious, and obese. We Self-Helpers take in new information and immediately want to add it to our hebdomadarian calandar of actions to pursue greatness, and we do not understand why our audience balks at these suggestions. We must be conscious of our own faults when advising others to “do this for optimal existence.” (Subtlety is often not our strong point.) Some advice is unwanted. Some advice is best given through silent example, which then encourages curiosity and inquiry from others, fostering social peace, and harvesting familial tranquility.
- YOUR DOWNTIME ALWAYS INVOLVES BEING ALONE. Although the majority of humanity enjoys time alone, I believe that the Self-Help Junky enjoys this type of downtime a bit more than the average person. Sure, we enjoy the company of others when we have time off the job, during vacation, on weekends, and the like. However, a great amount of Perfection Persuers are miserly with downtime, keeping much of it to themselves in an attempt to quench this thirst for information. Our pursuit is to understand the best ways to live, whether that be in following lifestyle gurus, doomsday preppers, vegan/vegetarian dietary science, or tiny house promoters. Instead of going down that rabbit hole alone, we Self-Help Junkies could put a limit on these lone pursuits. Some of us may have friends and family who value quality time with us. Are we neglecting them with a selfish pastime? There is no problem if our aloneness balances with the time spent with our loved ones, but our tendencies are rigid rather than fluid. Our alone time remains self-promoting and may require correction.
- THE END OF YOUR DAY LOOKS ALOT LIKE THE BEGINNING. As you wind down in the evening, do you sit with your digital tool of choice and allow the information highway to overtake your thoughts? Does that search for best practices continue without an interruption here and there for outdoor grounding or for socializing? Instead of enjoying a brilliant autumnal hike, we are reading about that activity in the article about how to get those last few thousand steps in the day, or we are learning about the newest scientific studies regarding the healthfulness of eating eggs before we decide what’s for breakfast. Or, we watch a video on the best way to prep our pantry for the demise of society as we know it, when we could be chucking the possibility of zombies overtaking the country out the window, and opt to prep for a family outing instead. These articles were all of great interest to me at one moment or another, so I am not shaming anyone, here. But, I believe we must, as Perfection Persuers, be very self-aware, that these pursuits are helpful to a point, but can also be an addiction which must be understood and viewed from outside of ourselves. When was the last time you made a conscious effort to do something you haven’t read about in a personal development article?
SUMMARY: HOW DO WE FIX US? Are you laughing yet? Because this article is a palindrome, an oxymoron, a self-help article in itself, aimed at combatting the addiction to self-help! As you know, being a Perfection Persuer myself, I do not have all the answers; but as you also know, I will do my very best to fix you and me. I am reminded of the song by Coldplay here, “Fix You.” It is a wholly noble pursuit to strive to help others as we find what helps ourselves. As we see truth, we wish to spread it to others. This makes our subgroup such an important societal faction. We do not give up easily, much to the annoyance of others. But, our motives are pure.
Should we fix us? Should we consciously stop pursuing the best, most efficient, most successful, most healthy lifestyle? No. That would mean an arrest of growth. The search for truth is always worth the journey. Truth is The Way. We should weigh our sources carefully, however. We must understand that bias is everywhere. My belief is that Self-Help Junkies are critically searching for truth, which encompasses altruism, true love, and happiness. To us, truth is the end goal, both scientifically and spiritually, but others are not so in tune with pursuing an ultimate existential meaning. We should remind ourselves to be conscious of our own foibles and to be humble in doling out advice to unsuspecting fellow humans who may not understand our quest. This does not mean we should stop sharing our self-help knowledge, but we should be aware that we can come across as a know-it-all.
Some may argue that Self-Helpers are seeking a fix for inner anxieties. That may have some truth. Anxiety is pervasive in our high-stress existence, so our self-help addiction may soothe some of our inner fears. Self-help, or personal development, has a place and is a reasonable pursuit. So, we don’t necessarily need a fix for this addiction, we just need to be self-aware, not taking ourselves too seriously. We tend to be serious searchers. Our personalities tend toward the serious side of life. So, we must be aware of our tendencies and remain open to those in our lives who enrich our journey with madcap mayhem, comic relief, or spontaneous silliness. We need these less-concerned people on our path as much as they need us. Opposites attract for a good reason. Our seriousness in helping ourselves and others is a mission and a gift. So, my advice is: Searchers, keep on searching. Dreamers, keep on dreaming. Wanderers, walk that narrow path, but do not forget to find the joy in unexpected detours, in strange countries, and in unlikely companions on the way.
As Tolkien coined: “Not all who wander are lost.”
By JB Morris- Poems, Prose, and Possibilities- mostly about life, sometimes about God, with brief interludes concerning shoe addiction.
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