I know that this message is flawed, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. Because I live in an “instant gratification” culture, I’ve been trained to doubt myself if it takes me any time at all to achieve my goals. For example, if I want to get rich, society sells plenty of “get rich quick” ideas.
Of the many mantras Kaiser puts forth in her book, I chose this one because it speaks to my particular fear — that I am inadequate. I’ve been socialized by a patriarchal society that even if I “give it my best”, my best might not be good enough.
In this get-happy-quick environment, I struggled with my self-esteem when I was unhappy all the time. If I can’t get happy here, where happiness is sold to us every second of the day, there must be something wrong with me.
This stuff works. Give it a try the next time you feel afraid and intimidated by a goal or experience. Take a breath and remind yourself that you’re actually feeling excitement. You may be surprised at how quickly you feel better.
At the same time, there was all this stuff about my life that I desperately wanted to change, and had I been able to bulldoze through my holier-than-thouism, I could have really used some help around here.”
I’m with Sincero on both points. I used to think self-help was for desperate people. And I had no idea it had anything to do with God. By the time I was thirty, I’d graduated from seminary with an M.A. in Religion and no desire to serve the church.
In the rest of You Are a Badass, Sincero writes about the concepts and practices that she’s gleaned from the self-help world and how they have really made a difference in her life. By the time I’d read the whole book, I found myself relating to the happy side of Sincero’s story. If she could find happiness, I thought, maybe I can too.
It’s so interesting to me that self-help books expound on the benefits of spirituality. In many ways, self-help books are spiritual books. They might not be considered sacred texts to most people, but they certainly point the way to living a sacred life.
Worse still, society teaches that the pursuit of happiness isn’t really a pursuit at all. It’s a commodity. Look at any advertisement (and they’re not hard to find). What are they selling? It’s not a product or service. Not really. It’s what that product or service can get you — they’re really selling us happiness.
“The best advice I can give you is to take big, easy breaths when you feel fear. Feel the fear instead of pretending it’s not there. Celebrate it with a big breath, just the way you’d celebrate your birthday by taking a big breath and blowing out all the candles on your cake. Do that, and your fear turns into excitement.”
“To sustain happiness, you must work towards self-mastery. It’s an inward journey that requires substantial spiritual growth. Choosing empowering thoughts over limiting ones should become your natural way of thinking.”
This insight is brilliant. And incredibly helpful. Whenever I’m facing a big goal, I often tell my friends that I’m “excited and terrified”. When I’m setting goals that are aligned with my highest potential, it feels like falling in love. There’s a huge potential for risk and reward.
Reading Kaiser’s book, I gradually learned better. There’s nothing wrong with me. As she says, “I belong and fit in the world just as I am.” And as far as expressing my true self goes, that’s why I write every day.
And, like Sincero, I could have really used the help that self-help books provide. I’m glad she opened up about her skepticism early in her book. It made her writing more accessible to me because I could relate to her journey.
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