Self-help from someone who can’t stand any of that bullshit

I’ve never gone near that part of the bookstore. I’ve always regarded it as for weirdos, freaks and future mad cat people. Self-help? I don’t need help. I’m a man and I’m fine.

My biggest nightmare is attending a Tony Robbins seminar. No, I don’t want to fire walk. I don’t want to roar like a lion. I don’t want to unleash the power within. I really don’t want to do anything, just because an oversized man with oversized teeth is yelling really intently. As I may have mentioned before, I’m fine.

Self-help is a $10 billion a year industry. It is overflowing with people claiming they can make you more successful/productive/mindful/influential or alternatively less stressed/worried/fat/likely to end up a sad, crazy cat person. As you may have guessed, a great deal of what’s on offer is bullshit. Very little of it stems from scientific rigour, in-depth research and a nuanced understanding of psychology. A small proportion does, but most of that is frightfully boring, complex and wordy. 

I’ve spent most of my career as a writer working in advertising. I’m slightly cynical as I know the awesome power of bullshit. Wielding this power like a light sabre, I’ve encouraged people to make all sorts of poor life choices, such as purchasing artificially coloured cheese snacks, cheap bourbon and really ugly off-the-plan apartments. These I regarded as fairly obvious manipulations, but I drew the line at the much murkier world of self-help.

Then I met a woman – a smart, good woman. Pretty soon that woman became my wife. She’s a psychologist who knows her stuff and works with real people and does incredibly long, complicated research studies that would drive most of us insane. She wanted to create a self-help product that really does help. One that was based on scientific rigour and in-depth research and an understanding of what actually improves the lives of real people.

I said I’d do my best to make sure it wasn’t too boring.

Together we developed RAW Mind Coach. It’s an e-learning program designed to build resilience at work and equip workers with a wide range of really useful psychological skills.

I don’t expect everyone to go out and instantly enrol in it. Like me, you may be cynical. Like me, you may treat a book store’s self-help section like Chernobyl and stay the hell away. Like me, your first reaction may be to say “I really don’t need this. I’m fine”.

To all those tough, cynical bastards - I get it. You’re not the easily brainwashed type. You’re a person of intellect and reason who doesn’t follow every trend like a lost Dalmatian. You’re no hypochondriac sooky-pants. You’re fine. Right?

The thing is, statistically, it would seem a lot of us aren’t fine. Around half of all Australians will experience a mental health condition at some point in their working life. And while conditions such as anxiety and depression are common, they are also preventable… if you know what to do.

But just maybe, like me, you were taught basically nothing about how to deal with difficult thoughts, uncomfortable emotions and all those inevitable times of high stress. You winged it. You made it up as you went along. You developed all sorts of ingenious coping strategies, like sucking it up, ignoring it or drowning it in alcohol.

Well, it turns out there are some very different strategies for dealing with all this stuff. These strategies are shown to work far better than pushing all that worry, anger and frustration down just far enough that you can still manage to say “I’m fine”. Some are a bit unexpected and counter-intuitive. Some require you to stop being so damn tough and start being a little more flexible and self-compassionate.

These well-tested strategies can help do more than deal with a stressful day at work. They can help you cope with all of life’s ups and downs. They can improve your relationships. They can even help you lead a richer, more meaningful life.

The best thing is, they’re not bullshit.   

I now live in an apartment which has a bookshelf overflowing with self-help books. They are typically the books written by serious academics, who do serious research and have a seriously long string of letters after their name. I’ve actually read quite a few of these books. Some were a little dry. Some were quite insightful. None of them turned me into a crazy cat person.

As part of RAW Mind Coach, we have incorporated a section called Brain Food. In it, we curate the best material on the topic of resilience, hand-picking books, videos and articles which are useful, accessible and based on sound research. In putting all this together, I have discovered a lot of incredibly interesting stuff, much of which has forced me to challenge my lazy misconceptions.

One of the things I now realise is that the people who seek out self-help material are not the weirdos and freaks. In fact, research shows they tend to be far more resilient and mentally healthy than all those who run away from anything self-help related, screaming “I’m fine, I’m fine.”

If you are one of those people who claim to never be anything other than fine, it’s unlikely that I will to convince you to take on an online resilience program. I would however like to ask you some questions. They’re questions which will seem incredibly blunt, but if you are anything like me, they’re the kind of questions you probably need to answer.

If you really can’t stand bullshit, why not challenge some of your own? Are you fine or could you actually be doing a lot better? Are you being strong or are you simply uncomfortable with your emotions and slightly terrified of appearing weak? Do you have a good plan in place when the going gets tough or are you likely to re-use those same dumb strategies which didn’t really work before?

For generations Australians have been brought up to be tough, stoic and as outwardly unemotional as possible. But I would like all of us to have real courage – the courage to overcome pre-conceptions, to look honestly within ourselves and to take responsibility for our own mental wellbeing. Isn’t it time we all got over our own bullshit and started making meaningful changes?

Find out more

If you would like to discover more about RAW Mind Coach or register your interest please contact us.