Self-improvement — or, rather, self-improvement culture — can become obsessive and therefore toxic.
I know. It seems counterintuitive that “self-help” and “self-improvement” could ever be a bad thing. “Help” and “Improvement” are right in the names! And yet. Despite the self-help industry being one of the fastest growing and most highly profitable markets out there, there seems to be a backlash growing against the ubiquitous “Wish it, Work it, Achieve it” model posited by many self-proclaimed self-help experts.
For example, this past January, former Love Island star Molly Mae Hague faced criticism over some insensitive comments she made concerning self-improvement. Speaking to the Diary of a CEO podcast, she said, “You’re given one life and it’s down to you what you do with it.” She continued, “When I’ve spoken about that in the past, I have been slammed a little bit, with people saying, ‘It’s easy for you to say that, you’ve not grown up in poverty, you’ve not grown up with major money struggles, so for you to sit there and say that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, it’s not correct.’” She concluded the lovely harangue with this: “I understand that we all have different backgrounds and we’re all raised in different ways and we do have different financial situations, but I do think if you want something enough, you can achieve it.” Finally, she added, “It just depends to what lengths you want to go to get where you want to be in the future.”
If you agree with Hague, congratulations; I’m sure you’ll be very successful in your endeavor, and I’m certain your vision board is brimming with possibilities of the beautiful things you’ll surely become and do. But, unfortunately, this article is not for you.
If, however, you find her comments clueless, condescending, and wholly out of touch, I invite you to stay a while! We have some things to talk about.
Hague’s statements highlight the toxic aspects of self-help and self-improvement culture: namely, that one’s bootstraps are entirely responsible for getting you where you need to be. If you’ve failed or are struggling, you simply haven’t worked hard enough.
At this point, I’d like to note that I don’t feel this way about self-help/improvement in general. That’d be irrational. Like any cultural movement, it can have some elements that are benign, even admirable. But it can also contain components that are emblematic of more …….