Why Self-Help Is Scammy, And What To Do About It

When I was little I really wanted to help myself. Mostly because I was paranoid enough not to trust anyone. That’s why I started to obsessively read self help books. My biggest problem with them was that they were very very inconsistent and dogmatic.

This is mostly done for marketing reason. To charge very high fees for your services you need to position yourself as a larger-than-life guru that’s smarter than anyone else- including all established scientists. Because if you said the same thing that everyone else with a Phd in your field was saying, you really wouldn’t stand out enough to charge the ridiculous fees that some self-help authors want to charge. (NLP people are a great example of this. Bandler charges 10000$ for a private session, while the average for his students is about 200-1000$ per hour. They charge so much because they position their  stuff as a magic bullet)

There’s a problem with this science is by and large a collective thing- Peer review is the basis of established science. For a  study to be accepted it needs to be reviewed by numerous  many people, and  it’s put into a journal only when a number of scientists find it credible. Even in ancient spirituality for something to be accepted it had to be shown to work on many, many people. Things like yoga and qigong were tested for generations before they were integrated into spiritual systems.

Most self-help authors generally assume that they don’t need to bother themselves with science (They either claim it’s boring or that their personal experience is good enough of a proof) and that’s why they write something that worked for them as something that works universally. This is by and large not so.

I’ll use diet to illustrate this, because everyone  knows what a diet book is.

Let’s say someone looses weight and functions optimally on a raw vegan diet. He’ll promote it as the ultimate diet for everyone because it helped him achieve it’s goals. There’s nothing wrong with it, but at the same time the Paleo movement will claim that meat eating is the best thing ever and that everyone should eat as much protein-rich foods as they can.

Where is the truth? Well science basically claims that it depends on your goals. If you’re sedentary or only do cardio the probability that you’ll function well on a raw vegan diet is very high, but if you want to become a muscle-man like charles atlas you have a much higher protein requirement. (The normal protein requirement is 0.8 grams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) while someone who does strength training needs twice as much – at least 1,6 per kilogram, even 2 grams per kilogram if he really wants to maximize his results- this is almost impossible to achieve without supplements on raw food diet)

This is what a dietician studies. If there was an ‘optimal human diet’ a dietitian would be worthless. Because the whole point of being a dietician is to be able to customize the diet for the patient’s specific needs customizes the diet for your specific needs

So we have two conflicting approaches that just create confusion – each one of them positions itself as a wonder-remedy and as the ‘ultimate diet’ while the truth is that each one of them is optimal for different people.   A very similar thing happens with all forms of self-help. All psychotherapies are not optimal for all people, all forms of exercise are not optimal for all people.  No meditation technique will work for everyone, and nothing is an ‘ultimate remedy’

The solution to it is to basically have a more scientific approach to self-improvement. One in which you’ll learn which techniques are optimal for which situations and why, so you can tailor your road to mastery to your specific needs, and this is exactly what I’m trying to achieve on this blog.


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About the Author ()

Hello I’m Matt Pepliński, the lies in alternative medicine have literary given me psychosis and as such I created this site to take the pseudo out of pseudoscience to make it actually useful in your life.