Our resident self-help guru sounds off on the false promises of the "empowerment" industry.
No matter how much they promise to "empower" you, most self-help columns are all about keeping you down. Magazine editors design these pieces to fill you with temporary feelings of well-being; feelings that they hope you will associate with the advertisements on adjacent pages. These articles aren't there to help you "be well," they're there to help you "buy well."
Well, not this self-help column.
Not only do I not give a shit what kind of cosmetics you buy, I'm not particularly interested in making you feel better. Worried that you're too lazy? Stop worrying – you are. Feeling old? Take a number. And don't even start in about your weight.
Here are some bullet points you'll never see eating up white space in my column:
• Make an occasion of it! • Make sure you get plenty of water (doctors recommend 8-10 glasses a day)! • Invite a friend along – experts say it's easier when social interaction is involved! • Above all – have fun!
Cheery, optimistic pointers like this could have been pulled from any modern self-help article, even though they were actually pulled from "How to Stab the Elderly: A Workbook in Three Parts" (which was a gift, not a purchase, so stop judging me). The point is obvious – generic suggestions such as the above won’t help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself or the problems you have. At best, they will temporarily motivate you. At worst, they will make you feel inadequate.
In contrast, here are some bullet points you may see at some point in any of my columns:
• Nobody's going to tell your boss to fuck off for you! • Remove your blouse! • Have you ever stopped to consider the plight of the hunchback male? • Monsters.
Just as unhelpful, but 85 times more thought-provoking. And aside from removing your blouse, none of these pointers are applicable to elder-stabbing. And that's the best I can hope to do – get you thinking and keep you from murdering old people. The rest is really up to you.
The primary reason I set up my practice was to dispel the self-help myths that so many of us have been sold on, whether we know it or not. Most of my clients wander around every day believing that somewhere a woman is accomplishing everything she wrote in her planner, varying her cardio routines and sending out personalized thank you notes for Christmas gifts, all the while pleasing her man in bed and helping her kids with homework (hopefully not at the same time). Many of us even believe that the guys we know at work have everything figured out somehow – they’re investing their money wisely, drinking moderately, and laughing off their gray or runaway hairs.
I call bullshit on all of it. These modern icons of popular imagination just don’t exist outside the pages of Oprah. The medical diagnoses of medieval doctors were far more accurate about the state of humans – mixed up batches of four contrasting humours that can change at any time, or as I tell my clients, seething cauldrons of unpredictable emotions that can and will boil over several times a day. The people we put on pedestals, whether real or imaginary, are no different than you and me.
I’m Fucked Up, You’re Fucked Up. Together We’re Delusional Liars.
Does this mean we shouldn’t strive to be better people? Absolutely not. It just means we should take the pressure off. The first thing my clients notice when they meet me in our first session is what a mess I am. Unshaven, reeking of storebought Glade and brandy, wearing a sweater vest and no shirt. And they begin feeling better immediately, because if even the “expert” can’t stop huffing cleaning products, they’re really doing OK!
This is why I’ve been able to help MILLIONS of people over the short course of my career, by tearing down the myths and replacing them with stupid bastards. And, if you think about it, it’s the unrepentantly stupid bastards we end up loving the most anyway. When somebody comes off as “too perfect,” we don’t trust them. So why aspire to said “perfection” in the first place? Screw it. Be the idiot you really are.
The number one predictor of successful change in a person’s life is strong personal desire. No matter how many diet books you read, things won’t change until you’ve finally had enough. And then you’re going to do the thing that works for you, advice be damned. The only thing that’s valuable in self-help literature when you’re ready to “get better” is perspective – some fresh ideas that you may add to your tool belt. And when your time comes to make a change, you’re going to need something better than “Make an occasion of it!” You’re going to need to think about the hunchback male, and what his life is like. You’re going to need to come to me.
So keep reading to find that fresh perspective and I’ll keep providing it. And while I’ve got your attention and good will – let me please direct your eyes to the Google ads right there to your left. Looks like some good deals!
More of Chad Fifer's self-help advice can be found here.
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