Aside from a few writers who are gracious enough to acknowledge that the world is a larger place beyond their tiny social clique, most of the self-help writers these days seem to focus on nothing but their own personal opinion when giving advice.
We need to make money and/or cater to our hobbies, I get it. But can we also agree to not spread BS online?
Or at least acknowledge that it’s an opinion piece and not a universal “how-to-do-something” piece fit for every living human?
I’ll give you an example:
A certain writer is writing about how to have a great and peaceful long-term relationship (or something along those lines, I’m being vague to avoid slandering).
One of the ways to achieve long term peace, according to this writer, is for the men to open doors for the women. Because well, what woman wouldn’t like having their doors held open by their man?
Now, what do you think is wrong with this?
A few things actually. Notably,
- This assumes a relationship is between a man and a woman. That in itself is problematic.
- It is also extremely sexist. Can we universally acknowledge that chivalry is a form of sexism to make women look weak and that we should all actively fight against it?
Just so we’re clear, I’m not suggesting that if my partner is walking ahead of me, they should let the door slam on my face. Not at all. We should all hold the door for those right behind us, regardless of gender and partnership status; it’s common courtesy. But please, do not assume I enjoy waiting in the car for my male partner to come around the car and opening the door for me when I’m perfectly capable of doing so myself.
Also, is it really that simple to have a peaceful long-term relationship with things like opening doors for your [female] partner or telling your [male] partner (yep, the woman should tell their male partner, according to this author) how much you appreciate them?
Please, give me a break!
Of course, that was a particularly disturbing piece. I’m not sure if I’m overreacting or not, but I’d like to think that most people, regardless of gender identity, would agree with me.
And then there is the less intense nonsense. For example, you’ve got to wake up at 4 in the morning and take an ice-cold shower followed by drinking two liters of lemon-infused water, and then a breakfast consisting of 6 hard-boiled eggs and a bowl of kale salad. That is the key to somehow magically transform us from potatoes into pineapples.
These are not bad advice, but they’re just not applicable to all.
Another author stated that willpower doesn’t work. I mean, sure! Say that to a chronically depressed person who can only ever get shit done by willpowering through each and every day.
Privilege comes at a cost whether we realize that or not. It comes at the cost of [not always, but sometimes, and definitely not for everyone] humility, modesty, and worst of all, self-awareness, and awareness in general. Privilege makes us forget we do not live on an island. The result? Shit like the above where some of us profess to know what we clearly do not know!
The only thing I can say is this: we, as readers or self-aware members of the society at large, need to be able to think for ourselves, learn for ourselves, and not wait for someone to spoon-feed us everything worth knowing. It is not somebody else’s duty to make us realize what a sexist society we live in, or that people are unemployed not because they’re lazy, but because of income inequality (and sexism, misogyny, racism, and all of that,) and some of us are so screwed up that even when we love something with every fiber of our body, we cannot get ourselves up from bed every morning at the prospect of being able to do what we love to do.
Some of us can only think straight after 5 in the afternoon, not 5 in the morning.
Some of us spend our entire lives adjusting to what normalcy looks like to other people.
Some of us are homeless and we cannot start our days with a protein-heavy breakfast of half a dozen boiled eggs.
I believe that we all go through hardships and struggles, but apparently, that’s not enough to make someone humble or empathetic. Some people would rather remain ignorant and selfish their entire lives than acknowledge that there’s more to what meets the eye, or that a whole world is out there beyond the neighborhood they grew up in or beyond Fox news.
So, if you’re thinking about writing self-help books, I suggest you start by learning about people first. You do not even have to empathize, but if you could bring yourself to sympathize with people regardless of whether you agree with them or not, or whether you understand their situation or not, I guarantee that you’ll be a better writer, and moreover, a better human being.