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Why Self-Help Might Actually Be Making You Less Happy

Too self-focused

In the self-help world, it is very common to say that you need to work on yourself before you can work on the world. It's not a stupid thing to say.

But, people are becoming too self-absorbed, looking only on themselves and forgetting to take an interest in the people around them. We actually need people who are brave enough also to take an interest in the broader structure.

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Why Self-Help Might Actually Be Making You Less Happy

Why Self-Help Might Actually Be Making You Less Happy

https://www.gq.com/story/why-self-help-makes-you-less-happy

gq.com

6

Key Ideas

Constant self-optimization

The problem with focusing on constant self-optimization is that it is a process without end. We can never say we've reached the full version of ourselves. We may feel that we are not (and can never be) good enough. We're never allowed to be happy and satisfied.

Also, it's not that you shouldn't become your best self, but the concern is that the self-help craze, with the drive to optimize yourself all the time, has become pathological.

Self-optimization and depression

In a way, depression is our way of reacting, withdrawing, and possibly metaphorically recharging our batteries.

There's so much pressure in modern society to perform and be productive, to be efficient, that we don't get time to recharge. This leads to sadness and loss of energy.

Something concrete we can change

We should stop trying to adjust people to circumstances that are not worth being adjusted to. If people suffer from stress in an organization, try to look at how work is organized and change it, instead of referring them to something like stress coaching, or psychotherapies or mindfulness exercises that are really just treating symptoms.

These sensitive, intelligent, resourceful people should be out changing the world, not just sitting in therapy rooms trying to improve themselves.

Too self-focused

In the self-help world, it is very common to say that you need to work on yourself before you can work on the world. It's not a stupid thing to say.

But, people are becoming too self-absorbed, looking only on themselves and forgetting to take an interest in the people around them. We actually need people who are brave enough also to take an interest in the broader structure.

Reconcile ambition with self-improvement

We're obsessed with being ourselves, being authentic, being unique. This is sad because what if you find that you are just the average, boring, mean person.

It's better to emulate someone you look up to. If in doubt, ask what your role model would do.

Self-improvement and happiness

  • Be interested in something beyond yourself. Go into the world instead of looking at yourself.
  • Try not to be so obsessed with happiness. Life is not just about being happy.
  • If you pursue valuable and meaningful activities, you will attain happiness as a side effect more than as something you are able to pursue directly.
  • Meaning is often something you discover rather than something you choose. Saying happiness is a choice is a lie because happiness depends on more factors than you can control.

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