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Self-Help Is Not Personal Development

Let’s get this out to the public once and for all: Self-help is not personal development. 

I recently created an account on Clubhouse and joined several rooms listening to different topics. I am not an auditive person, but whenever someone said self-help / personal development or even switched them in between just not to repeat themselves, it scratched my hearing. 

If you are still wondering, no, self-help is not personal development, as personal development is not personal growth (but this is for another article). Do not feel bad, it’s a common misuse of the wordings for the sake of not repeating oneself – at least I like to think.  


Ok, let’s break it down!


Self-help is an action that you take based on the resources that you already have in order to see an immediate result or feel better. 

Just think of it as a do-it-yourself project: you see a beautiful shelf in a magazine, you say “this would suit perfectly in my room”, you remind yourself of some materials that you already have somewhere in the garage and you suddenly wake up Saturday morning crafting your soon to be new shelf. Sunday morning it’s already done and you start using it. Pretty good, huh?! 


Personal development is a process of self reflection and conscious choices to rewrite your patterns which almost always requires external professional help for a specific outcome with long term results. Kind of different, right?! 

Let’s continue the before mentioned example and put them in comparison. So according to personal development, you wouldn’t even begin with a shelf that you saw for like 10 seconds in a casual magazine. As personal development goes: you observe that something is not right in your living space anymore, you feel uncomfortable and feel the need for change. You start researching for better spaces that would suit your needs. You analyze what the costs would be, how would this have an impact on your life, what would the outcome be besides a new house. Suddenly you realize that what you desire is out of your reach for now. So you start getting help from books, papers, the internet and changing your social circle to gain more information. Still you are not where you want to be, although you are doing everything right. This is when you need professional help. You start some sessions and start working on your limiting beliefs in order to apply what you have already learned. After 2-3 years of hard work on yourself, now you can see that things are going into the proper direction. Now you have the resources to build up your new home. Not that simple anymore, right? We are long down the lane from a shelf. 


This is the difference between self-help and personal development. 


Let’s be honest here: self-help was a response movement to the individual needs of the early 20th century. It’s an industry of billions of dollars and nowadays everyone can write a book with 10-steps to become better… Usually people buy them in good faith, try to apply those steps and label it as bogus because it didn’t work for them. They are not wrong, nor right either. 


The harsh truth is that not everybody has time, money or even the environment in which they can just walk up to a professional and pour tons of money to see some results in about 2-3 years. Most people don’t even have the discipline or the will to do this. They want to see the results now with the least effort or no effort at all, especially when they are paying for it. 


If self-help can be applied to minor changes like drinking water or making your bed every day, personal development requires every bit of you. It will make you go down that rabbit whole and face your biggest fears or traumas. It will make you relive them and give you the necessary tools and resources to rewrite them. Personal development is not for the light-hearted and this is exactly why it needs professional help. At first you will not have the proper tools, methods or neuronal pathways to pull yourself up and walk out of that trauma. Professionals will support you doing that, so that you can make it on your own the next time. 


Please don’t be so ignorant thinking you have no traumas. High impact events happen to all of us, whether it’s the loss of someone we love, a natural disaster, an unfortunate accident and so on. This is life and we need to get really good at managing ourselves while going through it.


So to conclude, at the very best, self-help can be named as the precursory phase of an actual research in the beginning of the personal development process.


So there it is, hope I have answered some of your questions. Leave a comment or message me for more.

Stay curious,



📷 Photo by Caique Silva on Unsplash

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