A Tipping Point
The self-help genre has been around since ancient Egyptian and Greek times, yet according to Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, author of Promise Land: My Journey Through America's Self-Help Culture (2013):
"Despite its ubiquity, it’s hard to say whether or not self-help books really help anyone. There is very little scholarship on the subject. Publishing statistics claim that 80% of self-help book customers are repeat buyers, which could indicate that they are not helping. Some suggest that buyers of self-help books don’t read more than the first twenty pages, if they open them at all. Just the act of buying a self-help book is reported to make someone feel better."
The self-help community often suffers from both an instant gratification and an entitlement mindset. People are constantly being told, "You deserve X" - just because you want it. And you should have it now."
While one notion is that self-help books don't work, the bigger problem is that the person most likely didn't actually do the work – let alone read the entire book. And then of course there are the snake oil sales people who offer nonsensical advice to the desperate, the lonely and the naïve – who then blame the reader/student if their advice doesn't work for them.
When the latest trending self-help topic doesn't "fix or save" someone from themselves (or make them rich beyond their wildest dreams), then it's onto the next Big Thing. Then that Big Thing is marketed, cherry picked, scrutinized and ultimately found lacking by the reader or the reviewer. Opportunists in the multibillion-dollar self-help industry rake in the big bucks until that wave passes, and then move on to the next one. Much of the criticism of the self-help industry is therefore justified. Many so-called "prophets" care more about profits, and I and countless others have had direct experiences with self-proclaimed "enlightened gurus" and big name players in the self-help/personal growth industry who revealed their hypocrisy when no one was looking – and often their abusive, unethical behavior.
Telling you to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty and actually earn what you want (even though it may take some time) is avoided simply because it doesn't sell as well. Instead we are told to put it on a vision board and we will simply "manifest" what we desire – and if we don't it's our own damn fault. Groupthink reinforces both these and self-indulgent, self-focused mindsets – and if you've plunked down thousands of dollars in pursuit of self-enlightenment, it's usually hard for your ego to admit you've been conned. The heart of the matter is that inward-bound practice only also reinforces a "me-me-me" culture that is more concerned about self-gain than helping others succeed as well.
When we make our life journey all about "What can the world do for ME?" the focus becomes:
my success | my failure | my purpose | my followers | my "brand"
my "truth" | doing my thing | "manifesting" my desires
making sure my needs are met | what's in it for me?
looking out for "number one" - me | my competitive edge
my self-esteem | my healing | my "inner child" | my "enlightenment"
my pain my comfort level my profits
my political party/religion/philosophy/belief system/gender/race
my _________ (fill in the blank)
... our ego runs the show, and leaves us wide open for compromises in integrity
and a decline of humane morals, values, and ethics.
It's no wonder change is so difficult with our ego kicking and screaming, blaming and denying, justifying and excusing, whining and complaining.
It's no wonder we don't even consider the impact our thoughts, choices, actions, and behaviors have upon others - or take responsibility for it.
It's no wonder why we see others as a threat to getting what we want, especially if they are "different" than us.
It's no wonder why we hear people using the words "old-fashioned" and "quaint" and when discussing character, values, morals and ethics.
It's no wonder why the old status quo continues, and so many human internal operating systems are slow, bug-ridden, and hacked.
It's no wonder why people play small, are addicted to drama, and act petty - instead of being accountable, self-honest, and Playing Big in life.
It's no wonder why those in official leadership positions abuse their power and sully their character.
The mature antidote to a self-involved, entitled, attention seeking and approval addicted stance is making an intentionally conscious choice to make our life journey not just about "ME ME ME."
"One with true virtue always seeks a way to give.
One who lacks true virtue always seeks a way to get.
To the giver comes the fullness of life; to the taker, just an empty hand."
- Lao Tzu,Tao Te Ching, v. 79 (Dyer translation).
"Let's create the Help-Others industry, not the Self-Help industry."
- Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last
If you genuinely want to lead the change you wish to see, you have to authentically be that change within yourself. That includes rising up from the depths of a "me me me" to a "we" mindset, because doing the sometimes scary, messy and uncomfortable (at best) work of innerevolutionary growth and change is a lot easier when it's not all about you. It becomes much easier when you a) get over your self-importance, b) see that no one is more or less important than anyone else, and c) see we all have a part to play in service to the whole of humanity and the planet we all call Home.
This is how you begin to become Ethically Intelligent.