When “Self-Help” is Actually Self-Harm

Shawn Casey
Feb 11, 2018 · 5 min read
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I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write for my next blog post. It’s not for lack of ideas — but more for fear of writing something that is akin to those click-baity self-help articles that have become ubiquitous on sites like Medium.

I’m sure you know the ones, but here are some real examples from this week:

“9 Key Habits That Will Make You Automatically Attract Enormous Success” (14,000 claps)

Want To Become A Multi-Millionaire? Do These 15 Things Immediately” (27,000 claps)


These articles drive me nuts. And I think it’s because they actually cause more harm than help.

In attempt to get clicks and claps, these blogs expertly tap into the ego’s deep insecurity that “I am not good enough” and plays on our very human inclination to find a quick fix for the pain.

The subject lines remind us that we are nowhere near where we should be and if you want to be a millionaire then you need to hurry up! and adopt these super simple habits FAST because that’s DEFINITELY the only thing between you, your millions, and insane happiness.

That is such bullshit.

But there’s more. The next day, a new blog by the same author is out with a whole new list of tips and tricks. Even more things that you should be doing — but you aren’t!


And your poor ego, drawn to the drama, clicks again and again.

Perhaps you follow some of the advice (the tips are ok) but more often than not you read them, feel overwhelmed, and slump back into the feeling that you’ll never be able to do all the things the internet insists on (or is that just me?).

I don’t want to write these blog posts.

I want to share my knowledge — and I am firm believer in tiny habits and the power of routine and I guess can get behind certain #lifehacks — but I truly believe the major shift occurs when you do the hard work to recognize and accept yourself fully: warts and all, meditation routine or not.

Creating a lifestyle that consistently supports this endeavor is not simple — and accepting yourself can rarely be “hacked.”

Realizing that you have everything you need right now and deeply believing that you are good enough “as is” is very, very hard because we’ve been conditioned our whole lives to think otherwise.

The striving that these click-bait articles tap into is a striving for something to make us complete: happiness attained by a bank account, a cool career, a killer bod.

It fortifies the lie that in order to be happy, we need to acquire something from the external world.

But what if we challenged this belief and for a few minutes each day deliberately muted the noise of social expectation and external conditioning? What if we contemplated on a reality in which we already possess everything we need to be happy, content, and successful? What shift do you experience just thinking about that?

And to be clear — having external goals and pursuing your dreams is not a bad thing. Wanting to be a millionaire is totally OK.

But there’s a danger in the perpetual pursuit for something you do not have.

If you are constantly striving for a future contentment, you’ll never actually find it. You will always, even as a millionaire, be striving for more.

I wonder about this state of contentment a lot. If I were to believe that I was complete and didn’t need anything to bring me peace and happiness, would I lose my drive? Would anything even matter anymore?

My answer is no and then yes, respectively.

The swirling thoughts of anxiety, worry, self-comparison, etc. layered on debilitating doubt and fear take up a lot of time, space, and energy. To accept yourself and your “status” at this very moment calms those thoughts, clears your mind, and replenishes your energy.

When you say to yourself “you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be” your mind relaxes, your ego settles down, and your inner power shines through. With more clarity and energy, you not only recognize your potential but have the capacity to act on it.

Soooo… what am I talking about here?

I am no expert in self-realization — let’s just be clear about THAT.

But I have been exploring (for many years, with the help of a teacher) the concept that everything you need already resides within — it’s just that we’ve been disconnected from this truth and distracted by the pushes and pulls of the external world. The goal is to recalibrate, recognize, and reconnect.

I like to visualize my inner self as a beaming light from within. It can almost feel like building energy or excitement — it’s my potential.

But that light often gets clouded by societal expectations and my ego’s penchant for misery. Anxious thoughts cause stormy conditions and distract me from this light — and lethargy covers it up completely.

When I identify these ego-driven thoughts and gently brush them aside, the light peaks through. I start to feel my power again and reacquaint with it. I trust it, test it out, and slowly disprove the idea that I need something outside of myself to be happy or successful.

This also doesn’t mean laying back while the universe provides all you need. When your personal power is revealed to you, you don’t sit back and do nothing — you get up and live out your purpose.

So again, this is not easy but I believe self-acceptance is perhaps the most fruitful “hack” one can focus on.

And it’s actually not a hack. Self-knowing and self-acceptance requires deep work and cultivating a lifestyle that supports clarity. It might require a therapist, coach, or spiritual teacher. It will definitely require consistent self-reflection and practice to undo deeply ingrained beliefs — like recognizing how that click-bait subject line really makes you feel.

If this seems overwhelming, just remember: you are exactly where you are supposed to be, reading this blog post, planting that initial seed.

Below I’ll include some resources if you’re feeling motivated to explore this further.

And I’ll also leave you with this — real life examples of how I use a simple mantra to reconnect with myself:

  • “I really should be meditating or cooking or reading or writing or yoga or side hustle or this or that…but for now, Netflix.”(You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.)
  • “OMG that woman has three prestigious degrees?? Ipso facto I literally know nothing.” (You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.)
  • “Just a casual reminder that your baby clock is ticking so chop-chop, time to upend your life and make that shit happen.”(You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.)

As my teacher said just last night “you are not broken, because you cannot break.”

❤ ❤ ❤


For an awesome podcast about reclaiming your intuition — check out my dear friend Allie Stark’s “Gutted” podcast.

For a spiritual perspective on your true self, check out Vedika Global, my beloved Ayurveda & Spiritual Wisdom school.

To help get in a routine that allows you to reconnect with yourself and the natural circadian rhythms of the earth, check out my awesome friend Nicole Matthiesens’s Thrive & Shine course (that I am currently participating in and love).

To get in touch with your “seventh sense” stay tuned for another rendition of Erica Matluck(trusted friend, colleague, and healer)’s “Seven Senses” immersive retreat.

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