The Evolution of Self-Help and What It Looks Like Today
A little bit of stress can be a good thing; it pressures you into performing at your very best at work, at the gym, and in life. But too much stress can lead to anxiety, lack of sleep, and general unhappiness. In this day and age, managing your stress levels is as easy as downloading an app, but it didn’t used to be that way. The self-help movement began with books on living a better life, but it’s still evolving today to address modern challenges and concerns.
The terms “self-help,” “self-care,” and “self-love” used to vary in their meanings, but today’s leaders in the field increasingly believe that their definitions blur together. Lori Harder is an expert in self-love and the author of A Tribe Called Bliss: Break Through Superficial Friendships, Create Real Connections, Reach Your Highest Potential ($26) — and she believes that self-help’s new, all-encompassing meaning is a good one.
“Self-help today takes on so many different forms and that’s what I love,” she says. “It can be anything that challenges you to look at how you are showing up, acting, and reacting. It can be seeking out resistance in order to get stronger or it can be simply using your life and your relationships to see how much more loving you can be in the circumstances and relationships that already exist.”
While the definition of self-help in the 21st century remains ambiguous, Harder says that there’s been a key shift in self-help philosophies since the mid-1900s when the movement took root. The self-help of the past had to do with finding happiness, which is why it was called self-help; we tried to help ourselves be happier. Now, that phrase has morphed into the more appropriately named self-care — because, as Harder says, we have the opportunity to care for the happiness that we’ve found.
“I think it has changed from the past from trying to figure out what makes a good life and business, to now, what happens after the happiness comes,” she says. “That is how our happiness can lead to our ever-changing purpose, which can lead to impacting the planet for the highest good.”
The prevalence of social media in the lives of millennials has contributed to why the term “self-love” has been thrown into the mix; the idea of self-love has popped up to address the challenges of comparison, bullying, and popularity that are synonymous modern life — especially online.
“We live in a world that tells us we are never enough no matter what we are — and the only way to survive and thrive is to accept, love, forgive, and become a person who learns to see their own value and accept and release everything else,” she says. “It’s not what happens to us, but what matters is to learn how to tell ourselves an empowering story after the event occurs, and this takes a lot of self-work.”
No matter how you spin it, the modern era of “self” has culminated in what Harder calls “a focus on healing on your own,” meaning that we rely on inner strength to overcome our tribulations in life. However, Harder also says that no amount of self-help, self-care, or self-love is a complete substitute for the capacity we have to find our purpose in groups.
“Essentially, this vision will be groups of people agreeing to communicate openly and hold each other accountable to higher standards,” Harder says. “Otherwise, it would be too easy to just go back to how we were before [we read] the book or [attended] the events.”
In other words, inspirational Instagram accounts or books like Harder’s — while certainly helpful — aren’t enough to change our internal mindset. The irony of self-help, then, is the fact that we are so dependent on the presence of others in order for it to truly work.
What does self-help (or self-care or self-love) look like in your life? Let us know @BritandCo!
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(Photo via Boss Babe Photography; featured photo via Getty)