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October 25, 2013

Are Personal Development “Gurus” Condescending and Self-Righteous?

“The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.””
–Jim Rohn

Over the last three years, I read close to 100 books on personal development and self-realization, from the classic, The Four Agreements, to the newest stuff from positive psychologist Shawn Achor (Before Happiness) and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. I’m not alone in this pursuit. Many of you are well-read in the area of mindset, and if you aren’t yet, you read and resonate with this blog because you want to get better, learn more and explore your own personal development. Good for you. It takes courage to say, I don’t have all the answers. And then go looking for them within.

And guess what? I don’t have all the frigging answers either :)

I’ve read, I’ve reflected and I’ve gone through some shitty times. But I’m still a work in progress. I see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, even though it can sometimes be painful as hell, and I simply TRUST that the more I delve into “my stuff” the better off I’ll be in the long run.

JillFit started off as strictly a nutrition and training blog in 2010. But over time, we noticed that more often than not, people knew WHAT to do, but for various reasons, they simply could not implement. We know this is common because willpower is exhaustible, and many of the changes we try to implement simply cannot be implemented at the desired pace. This is a focus and willpower problem. In other words, a psychological problem. A mindset problem.

And thus the new “voice” of JillFit started down a road pairing mindset WITH nutrition and training for a more holistic approach. Well, that, plus the fact that I was going through some of my own personal challenges that required deeper introspection than I ever thought I was capable of, and BAM, our message started changing.

Fast forward three years and here we are. At the intersection of fitness and personal development.

And I’ve found it a tricky place to be. Personal development, in and of itself is tricky, because you have to actually want to do it. You have to be at a place in your life where you are open and looking for it. It doesn’t resonate otherwise. This is why I love the quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” We get exactly what we need at the exact time that we need it.

But what if you are not ready for introspection and self-help?

What if you think you have it all figured out (I’m not saying you don’t), and you think personal development is a bunch of crap? Well, you’ll probably not take to it kindly. You might find it “too woo-woo” or “out there.” You might think it a waste of time, or for the really effed up people (not you).

And you might find it self-righteous as hell.

You might find it preachy.

It may come off arrogant to you.

It might make you feel threatened.

It might make you feel less than or that you are doing something wrong.

It may make you feel defensive.

All valid feelings. And I totally get that.

But isn’t it ironic that it can make us feel the very things we are trying to get a better handle on?

Let me back up and explain. For me, I started my introspective journey into self-help because I noticed that my insecurities were not serving me. I often acted out of fear, tried to control situations and walked around feeling hurt and betrayed. My feelings were valid, of course. Emotions are always valid. But in these situations, I was the only one in misery. Everyone else was just fine. I was the one holding the grudges and feeling “done wrong.” I was the one who was struggling day after day. The people who I perceived to be the assholes were just fine. They didn’t give me a second glance, they were good.

So after harnessing a small amount of introspection, I realized at this point I had a choice: I could hold onto my anger and hurt and let it keep me insecure and small, OR I could own my insecurities, look them dead in the face and deal with them, even though it meant having to take responsibility for my BS and cop to the fact that I didn’t have it all figured out. Ouch! :)

Like Byron Katie says, “I could be right, or I could be free.” Eventually, I got the point where I just wanted to be free, so I chose introspection and I chose to face the ugly stuff.

And though it’s taken me years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I am owning more and more my own security and authenticity. However, I’ve noticed something: When I was in my insecure place, I’d take everything personally and let my sensitivities rule me. Before, if someone mentioned they were going to work out, I took it to mean I didn’t work out enough or was slacking. If someone skipped bread at dinner, I took it to mean they were too good for everyone else. If someone was prepping for a show or getting lean, I made it mean I was fat and insignificant. If someone told me about a win they had in their work, I immediately made it mean that I was incompetent and unsuccessful.

Can you see how when we act from an insecure place that we see things uniquely through the lens of insecurity? We make things mean whatever we need them to mean to prove that yes, we do indeed suck. We use others’ wins to mean we’re a loser. We see the things other people say and do mean that we’re not good enough.

When we act from a place of insecurity, we always feel threatened and not good enough.

Could you then see that in this way, if we see someone else acting from SECURITY, that we take it to mean they’re self-righteous or trying to be better than?

Could you see that when we feel insecure, it makes us feel like SECURE people are arrogant and condescending?

I think this happens a lot in the world of self-help. We perceive self-realization books, experts and texts to be self-righteous and preachy when we are operating from a threatened, insecure place.

When we come from a secure place, nothing anyone says or does can feel threatening, because we know it doesn’t mean anything about our own progress.

But when we come from a SECURE place (a practiced result of introspection, letting ourselves be vulnerable and eventually deciding that we are okay), nothing someone else says or does can feel too preachy or threatening. We don’t feel defensive because we don’t take what those people say or do as a personal affront on our own competency. We don’t jump to the conclusion that just because someone else has it figured out, it mean we DON’T have it figured out.

The most secure people are the ones who can give compliments and praise freely, because they don’t feel like giving them takes away from their own power. In fact, it adds power to the relationship. Kind words and sincere acknowledgment of someone else’s successes empowers you AND them. It doesn’t make your accomplishments any less.

So back to the Self-Help World … the bottom line is that “self-help” or personal realization books, texts and experts help us overcome THE VERY THING that makes us perceive it to be preachy in the first place: insecurity.

When we are more comfortable in our own skin, then we don’t need to put down other people to make ourselves feel better. We realize that all people are doing the best they can, and so are we. We give others the benefit of the doubt and judge them less. We also give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and discontinue SELF-judgment.

One last question to ask yourself: Does this post itself make you feel defensive and/or pissed off? This blog in and of itself is not threatening. It’s just words, my thoughts written and put out in the world. You can choose to resonate with it or not. It’s not an affront to how you see things. It’s not “the way”–it’s my way. And your own opinion–whether in line with mine or not–is 100% valid. And the beautiful thing about self-help is that it’s a completely individual journey on which you get to embark when you’re ready. No judgement, no considerations, no expectations. Just awareness, introspection, learning and growing.

Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts. I am always so honored to be able to put down into words my struggles, my successes, my insights and my journey, and the fact that anyone reads it still shocks me. THANK YOU for being here, and thank you for embarking on your own personal development. Besides, I truly do believe it’s the best gift we can give others :) Ox, Jill


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