Why Your Obsession With Self-Help Might Not Be Healthy


“I read a book a day. Heck, sometimes two books a day. If you want to be ahead of the curve, you’ve gotta do what no one else is doing,” says the expert on your business podcast.

“If you want to have clear skin and balanced hormones, you need to drink green smoothies filled with ashwagandha,” the shiny-haired wellness blogger shares earnestly. “It’s also important to exercise daily, avoid sugar, dairy, gluten, and definitely don’t drink alcohol.”

“The path to enlightenment is two hours of meditation every day,” says the spiritual teacher sitting in lotus pose.

These types of messages travel from my Apple earbuds into my psyche nearly every day. I’m deeply steeped in the world of self-help. I consume personal development content with the voracity of a starving teenager and then I ask for seconds.

There’s a lot of exciting information out there, endless amounts of it. For anyone trying to improve their lives, discovering the vault of self-help content feels like striking gold. But before you fall into the grips of Tony Robbins and Rachel Hollis, let me share a word of caution. This may completely consume you.

There’s a fine line between a healthy obsession and an unhealthy one.

I knew I was bordering an unhealthy obsession with self-help content when I began feeling guilty for watching TV. As soon as I’d sink in to watch an episode of Vanderpump Rules, a knot would form in my stomach. You’re wasting time, Alissa.

I used to be Bravo TV’s number one fan, too. I was well-versed in every minute of drama on the Real Housewives of OC, Beverly Hills, and New York. I even used to read the Housewives’ blog posts to get more drama! Seriously #obsessed.

When I discovered self-help back in 2015, the way I allocated my time unconsciously began to shift. I was just so excited about what I was learning. Over time, the Real Housewives were replaced with The Four Agreements, You Are A Badass, and Girl, Wash Your Face.

My commute to work also became prime time for more self-improvement. For a couple years, I essentially stopped listening to music in my car and listened solely to various business, self-help, and spiritual podcasts.

For the record, I’m much happier now than when I was a Bravo-fanatic reading Housewives’ blog posts. I’ve gotten endless value from those hundreds of hours self-help books and podcasts so, “no ragrets” (I hope you get the movie reference there!).

But, the fact that I couldn’t even relax anymore without feeling consumed with guilt? That was a problem. I believed every minute needed to be spent productively. I needed to be at 100% at all times. When I wasn’t, my mind scolded me.

You’re wasting time, Alissa. While you sit here watching reality TV, someone else is publishing more articles than you. You’ve going to fall behind.

You should be journaling and writing your goals for tomorrow. That’s what the successful people are doing.

Only 15 minutes of meditation this morning? You barely concentrated. C’mon, you need to do more than that!

A life that is enjoyed is a life well-lived.

I love healthy habits. I firmly believe a solid morning routine will set you up for a great day. I believe in the power of exercise, eating healthy, and practicing mindfulness.

I also believe in living and enjoying life. And I believe when you live your life with too much rigidity; too many rules and rituals, it’ll stop you from doing just that.

I was set on going to a yoga class after work the other day. I hadn’t hit “reserve” on ClassPass quite yet, but I knew I should. It had been a busy week and I hadn’t worked out once. As I sat at my desk and scrolled mindlessly on Instagram, I was bombarded with images of beautiful, fit women and pictures of colorful buddha bowls. I was further reminded of my laziness this week.

My fiance, Matt’s week had been twice as busy as mine. Though we were home together in the evenings, he’d had a couple trials to prepare for that required his full attention. We were both physically there but not mentally present. It was Thursday and I missed him.

Amidst my Instagram scrolling, a text popped up on my phone from Matt. “Hey babe. How’s your day going? Want to go somewhere for dinner tonight?”

The scolding voice said, ‘Alissa, you said you were going to yoga tonight! If you go out to eat, you’re going to drink wine. You need to work out.

A loving voice chimed in, ‘This will be a good opportunity to reconnect with Matt, though. You both have had busy weeks. This is good for you guys.’

In the past, I might have listened to that scolding voice. I would’ve succumbed to the guilt of not being “productive” enough. I would have told Matt that I was already planning to go to yoga but I’ll see him later, further contributing to the separation I’d felt all week.

At this point, though, I was tired of feeling guilty. I wanted to live, damn it. So, I chose to listen to the loving voice. The voice of my intuition, the one that knows what’s truly best for me. I told Matt, “Yes! Let’s go to dinner tonight.”

Over red wine, crab cakes, and applewood smoked pork chops, we caught up on the craziness of our weeks. We shared funny stories, talked about what good things happened to us that week, and made plans for the weekend.

At the end of dinner, I felt reconnected, happy, and in love. Though yoga makes me feel really good too, it couldn’t fulfill me in this same way. This was what I needed.

“What is the most loving choice for me right now?”

If I haven’t made my point clear, it’s this. The self-help world is filled with tons of invaluable content. It’s opened my mind and shaped me into a better person. I’ll never stop learning and growing. But, what’s the point of self-help and the pursuit of “living your best life” if you aren’t actually enjoying yourself along the way?

When you get too caught up in following all the rules and guidelines from self-help gurus, you run the risk of forgetting how to simply live. You forget the joy of blasting the radio in the car or watching reruns of Friends in your PJs. If you aren’t careful, you’ll miss opportunities for true connection with someone who just wants your presence.

Living your best life doesn’t come from a place of guilt or from a desire to be constantly productive or from achieving a bunch of goals. It comes from a place of love and kindness and service.

Start asking yourself, moment to moment, what is the most loving choice for me right now?

Sometimes that most loving choice is the yoga class. Other times, there’s nothing better for you than a glass of wine with your best friend in the world.