This year has been the weirdest of my life. For the last nine months I've been living by the rules of a different self-help book every month to see if self-help can really, well, help.
I've jumped out of planes and performed stand-up comedy in my Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway month, chatted up strangers on the tube in the name of Rejection Therapy. I've travelled to Italy to swear with strangers, doing something called F**K It Therapy. I've even tried - and failed - to talk to angels.
I started this project because I was in a rut; I was 36, single, anxious and broke. I hoped that this self-help immersion would turn me into a kind of super-sonic version of me. Turns out that's not the case. Quite the opposite.
The truth is I've become a bit nuts.
Shock horror, it turns out that analysing your feelings and facing your every weakness is a recipe for crazy. There is now hardly a minute in the day when I don't think: Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Am I self-sabotaging? Am I scared of being vulnerable?
I am fast becoming that person you'd back away from at parties. The one who gives a two hour answer to the 'How are you question?'; an answer that involves therapy speak about my childhood and inappropriate details about my issues with men.
A couple of weeks ago, I met a woman at a work drinks who didn't beat about the bush.
'Self-help books only serve to make neurotic people more neurotic,' she said.
'Why on earth do you need someone to tell you how to live your life? Can't you figure out how to do it yourself?
I couldn't come up with an answer for her. Maybe she's right.
Far from helping, it seems that the more I look at my flaws, the more I have.
I could spend a whole year addressing my money issues alone - and I haven't even got into men yet! Let alone my fear of confrontation, the crazy voice in my head that tells me everything I do is a total failure, my fear of planning/commitment...
I now long for the days when I thought happiness lay in a pair of new jeans or being a size ten. There's a reason the whole work/shop/eat/drink/forget approach to life is so popular - it's easier than this. And actually, maybe it's no worse for you.
One of the arguments against self-help is that it gives us unrealistic expectations about how good our life should be - and there's truth in that. Although there have been moments in this year when I've felt so proud of myself - chatting up strangers, performing stand-up - I'm frustrated with how slow my progress is.
The other argument is that if any self-help book worked we'd buy one and that would be it, we'd be cured! As it is people who buy self-help are likely to buy a new book every 18 months. Every eighteen months? I've downloaded five last week. The more self-help I read the more I want to read. It's like wine - one glass (book) is too many, twelve is never enough.
My brain is now a sea of affirmations and slogans. It's overwhelming. I can't think for myself anymore.
I dread to think how much time I've spent reading some form of self-improvement this year - I must spend an hour a day just looking at inspiring quotes on Facebook. Productivity was never my strong suit, but it's now fallen off the cliff. I am getting nothing done because I'm too busy waiting for The Universe to deliver. Which, of course, is the other argument against of self-help - people hide behind the books without actually doing anything to change their life.
Which is why I'm NOT going to quit my self-improvement mission. I'm still convinced there is wisdom in these candy covered bibles, if we just actually DO WHAT THEY SAY as opposed to reading, nodding and carrying on as usual.
So next month I am going old-school with my next book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Otherwise known as the Seven Habits of People who Get S**T Done. Now if only I get get through the 330 dense pages (with diagrams) and actually start implementing it... then my life would be fantastic...
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