Has your self-help turned into self-criticism?
The self-help struggle is real. Collectively we search for the truth, our path, and purpose from the outside in. We seek answers from psychologists, psychics, and priests without slowing and softening to the wisest guru of all: Ourselves. During my sultry conversation with Danielle LaPorte about her newly released book, White Hot Truth, she shed some light, because, as she says “it’s all about the light,” on how she became her own guru.
Danielle vividly explained the moment when she realized she was at a “jarring juncture: the conflict between sincere spiritual aspiration and the compulsion to improve.” As she opened her day planner and saw upcoming appointments with a shaman, psychotherapist, and astrologist, along with scheduled massages and yoga classes, she had a revelatory moment where she realized “all of this self-helping was becoming a bit of a burden and impinging on my ability to create with a capital C. Spirituality was becoming just another thing on my f*ing to-do list.”
Through breathy prose she broke down how she questioned her spiritual quest and transformed her to-do list, thus creating freedom and fluidity. With her lyrical lathering in full force (by the way, I highly recommend the audio version of the book; you can thank me later) I noticed my shoulders settling into their natural position, less like accessories for my ears, more gliding down my back like wings. My breath eased its way into a gentle rhythm as I physically released the anxiety of my own daunting self-help regimen.
What is this feeling overcoming me as this diva I’ve admired for years (and secretly channeled in moments of insecurity) – thanks to her rockstar books like The Desire Map and The Firestarter Sessions – reveals her process and progress (because, as she says in her Canadian accent, “everything is progress”) to me? Ah, yes, it’s relief! Relief that there’s another way. Relief that we can still be self-evolving, spiritual seekers, without stressing ourselves out on the regular. Without drowning ourselves in green juice cleanses and repeatedly clearing our chakras. We can liberate ourselves from the perpetual spiritual striving through discernment and self-love. Finally!
“It’s Not How We Seek Spiritual Growth; It’s Why We Seek It.”
Many of us, myself included, are drawn to the vast sea of self-help. Investing copious amounts of cash to feel free. We sign up for the lightworker retreat, past life regression, and some oh-so-necessary karmic healing. Yet, ultimately—I’m speaking from my own decades worth of psychotherapy, angel card readings, and psychic sessions—it wasn’t ever quite what my soul needed to truly heal. Why? Because everything I thought I could find ‘out there’ was already inside me. I’d become dependent, tethered actually, to the feedback from others that only I could best offer myself. What once was a young woman chained to an eating disorder like a dog on a leash, was now someone addicted to guidance from experts. Looking to strangers to tell me about…me. Someone who could only get quiet and still in a yoga studio. I was missing the point.
It’s painful to be lost, for sure. However, suffering is waiting for someone else to bring you home when you knew the way all along. You don’t need to wait until next Wednesday at 2 p.m., or head to an ashram to get clarity about your path, because, as Danielle says, “the best self-help is self-compassion.” Guess what, it’s free!
Self-Help or Self-Hate?
When Danielle described, in her alluringly poetic way, that underneath all of our self-helping is a whole hell of a lot of self-hatred I heard myself silently screaming, “Hell ya, sister! Preach!” I mentally scanned the thousands of self-help books I’ve purchased in an attempt to transcend whatever self-imposed trap I was caught in. Books with promising titles like, 10 Steps to Radical Self-Acceptance, left me feeling frantic as they gathered dust on my nightstand. Why do I continue to buy into the notion that a book, sermon, or healer holds the key to unlock the door to my evolution? Probably because it seemed easier.
Without question, I’m devoted to spiritual growth, healing suffering (my own and others), and tending to my psyche and soul. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these soul goals, unless, they disempower you, or require you to disown your deeply held inner wisdom. Seek the counsel of others as a conduit to connecting with your truth, not as a means to adopt others' truth about you.
Danielle believes, “We are driven by the compulsion to improve. We all look so healthy on the outside, but we’re really actually pretty neurotic on the inside.”
Danielle is clear that she didn’t ditch her spiritual to-do list entirely, she’s found a more useful sequencing of priorities. “Self-referencing is a lifelong journey. I meditate daily, pray, or engage in some sort of contemplation. It’s like brushing my teeth, it has to happen.” Therapy continues to be on her agenda, but it’s evident she’s no longer reliant on it to make a decision.
White Hot Truth is the permission we all need to check in with ourselves deeply, with reverence, and to listen to the wisdom of our bodies and souls. We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep the yoga class if it serves you. Call the astrologist if you’re in the mood. But let’s stop the perpetual insanity of striving to perfect what was never intended to be perfect. Let’s greet ourselves—our messy, sometimes arrogant, or inconsiderate selves—with compassion, gratitude, and unabashed acceptance. We have everything we need. Already. We are wholly (or holy) enough even when we feel dreadfully inadequate. Beautiful even when we feel broken. The solution is not out there, my love, it’s right here inside. Go talk to the part of yourself that knows. Find her on the trail alongside the river. Find him in the pauses, those quiet moments in between. Sit in your own company and dwell there long enough to remember yourself. That’s the way home. Those are the moments where we hear the truth. Lean on others for support, yes, but don’t let their interpretation or analysis be your sole compass.
Hungry for more?
*Part 2 in this blog series will be published on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017
*I'd love to inspire you to take the next step on your path to recovered and send you my free weekly Recovery Tip videos. Please visit my website to sign up.
Angie Viets, LCP is an author and clinical psychotherapist in private practice. She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, and overeating. Angie is dedicated to empowering others to nurture their body, mend their relationship with food, and to embody their most authentic self. Her passion for the field was born out of her own hard-won battle with an eating disorder. She believes that full recovery is possible! Read more.