Episode 38: How I Stopped Feeling Ashamed Of My Self-Help Obsession

Episode 38: How I Stopped Feeling Ashamed Of My Self-Help Obsession

Until recently, I did my best to hide my obsession with self-help from my friends. I was scared people would think there was something wrong with me – why else would I be trying to improve myself?

If you’ve ever felt ashamed for being into self-help, you’re not alone! In this episode, I’m chatting about the stigma around self-help, whether I talk about it with my friends and how I stopped feeling ashamed for being a self-help junkie.



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In this episode, Sam is talking about whether you should be embarrassed of your love for self-help.


Hi, and welcome to Episode 38 of The Smart Twenties Podcast. This is a podcast where I share personal growth and life advice for women in their twenties.

My name is Sam Laura Brown, and in this episode, I’m going to be telling about whether you should be embarrassed of your love for self-help. And this is something that one of you guys actually asked me about whether I could talk about if I talk to my friends of our personal development and my family and how I approach it in my personal life. And I thought it was a really good one, because I hadn’t really thought of it, but I do know that I used to be really embarrassed sharing that I was into personal development and it’s something that I still actually don’t mention to too many people unless it comes up and I think it’s because with self-help, there is a lot of stigma around it and that it seems like if you are into personal development, there must be something wrong with you.

So I think that there’s probably a lot more people that are interested in personal development than what we think there are because a lot of people actually do hide their interest in personal development because it does seem like if you’re reading a book like How to Win Friends and Influence People then you must have no friends and no influence on people and you don’t want to be advertising that. That’s the way that we think. So, we’ll hide personal development books and only read them when we’re in private. Or maybe if you’re like, on a train, you might read it so that no one else can see what book you’re reading.

And just little things like that or not mentioning it ever to friends and family. And I’ve actually found that when I have brought it up with people… a lot of people are very interested in it, and just haven’t spoken about it to other people because it seems like, if I had this interest then people will think that Is something wrong with me and we’re all trying to put on this front that we’re all perfect and have nothing wrong with us.

When I don’t think self-development personal development, personal growth whatever you want to call it, I don’t think it’s about that at all, but I did want to talk about this because I definitely used to feel that way. I definitely used to feel very ashamed of liking personal development.

I did grow up in a household that was very book-focused and I was saying to my dad recently that he really taught me that money spent on a book is always money well-spent, and I was thinking about this as well before recording this episode about where the influence for personal development came from, and dad was always telling me when I was like, “I don’t know what to do with my life” he was like, “Read that book, like What Color Is Your Parachute” or whatever, I don’t know if I’ve even read it, but he was always telling me to read that book, and always interested in that kind of stuff himself. And I actually got into personal development really into it, I wasn’t into it, as much in school, just because I didn’t really know about it and then my brother told me that I should read this book called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann and that’s like a business-y, personal development book and it just opened my eyes to this whole world of personal development and that’s really when it started for me.

And I talk about it a lot with dad and with my brother Alex, who recommended that book to me because they’re both very interested in it. And once I found that book and I was like, “Oh my God, this is actually a thing!” I just felt so inspired by reading that book. I don’t think- I mean it was a good book, but there wasn’t anything particularly amazing about it, it was just that, that was my first real introduction. Of course, I loved Oprah way before that, but a lot of her show that I was watching most of it was like celebrity interviews, and all of that and I never really connected her with personal development, I connected her with being more like an interview show. And even though they often talk about personal development topics, I never really saw it in that light.

And yeah, once I read The Go-giver that really opened my eyes to everything, and then I started to find blogs and websites, and podcasts and then it just took off for me and I think also my interest definitely came from me feeling like there was something wrong with me, and that I needed to figure out how to fix it, which I think I would say 90% plus people feel that, that there is something wrong with them and have some kind of shame about how they are and some people turn to self-help, some people don’t, but I think that that’s not uncommon. And a lot of people never feel like that good enough. And I think- I definitely… and I talked about it in my personal development breakthroughs that I’ve had, the podcast that I did on that. I have definitely come so far in terms of that belief and I don’t actually have the belief that I’m not good enough anymore.

And that was something that was on autopilot in my brain up until last year and then I had a few significant breakthroughs that I talk about in that episode, and a lot of you guys have probably heard me speaking about them, so I won’t go into it, but I had really… I’ve just completely changed the way that I’ve seen myself through doing personal development work and I’m such a big believer in it. I’ve completely obsessed with it and I love talking about it as you guys know, I will always be fascinated by a personal development, including why we do what we do and all of that kind of thing.

I’m always interested in learning about learning about myself and learning about the way I interact with others and how I can prove myself and how I can share that with you guys and it’s endlessly fascinating to me. So, when I first starting getting into personal development, I don’t think I spoke about it with many people at all. I was really ashamed of liking personal development and as I spoke about in the episodes where I chat about my personal development breakthroughs and all of that, feeling ashamed about myself was a habit that I had and it’s one I can still default to, but I can really call myself, we’re out of it, now. And I think shame is a normal human emotion that we all experience but being able to not have that turn into what Brené Brown would call a shame spiral. But actually, just sharing, being really vulnerable with you guys on this podcast, I basically don’t have a filter on the personal development stuff that I share and that means I do actually share a lot of things that are very uncomfortable for me to share, but do we not also helps me feel much less a change especially because I get so many messages saying that you guys feel the same way, and hopefully by sharing this stuff with you, you guys can also see that you’re not alone in thinking the way that you’ve been thinking and that it is a really normal thing to experience shame and it’s not that we’re trying to get rid of that emotion out about emotional vocab but to instead process it in a different way by not just piling it on top of itself which is what we tend to do. We feel ashamed, and then we feel ashamed about feeling ashamed and then it just goes on from there.

So, being vulnerable is something that has really helped me as well as doing a lot of personal development work really exploring where the beliefs I’ve had have actually come from seeing it the very significant thought errors that are based on absolutely no evidence. And I’ve just been like, conclusions I’ve drawn as a child that I’ve just had as a default, and it’s why I think a lot of. Not that everyone has the same things that have that been through but I think we all process things in a really similar way. So it doesn’t matter exactly the events. I do think a lot of us process especially if you relate to what I talk about, you’ve probably processed things in a very similar way.

And had that way then dictate the way that you behave in it that’s why a lot of you guys have very supportive friends and family, you are doing super well, whether you’re working or you’re studying and everything about your life looks great from the outside, and yet you never feel good enough and you don’t actually know what you would need to do in order to feel good enough. That is where I was, I had absolutely no idea what I could do, like what circumstances in my life, I could change, to make myself be good enough because no matter how hard I worked, nothing was ever enough for my standard and a standard that I would never put on to another person, I had just this incredibly high standard for myself and it was just because I had this story that I’m not good enough and that if I’m not perfect, then everyone’s going to leave me, everyone’s going to reject me and I’m going to feel extremely ashamed of that.

And that’s what I was trying to avoid. And it’s just completely ironic because if you relate to what I was just saying which I’m sure you do that, your life looks great, from the outside, everyone probably thinks you have it super together, but you just feel like it’s never enough you also are a procrastinator and you really struggle to get things done and to follow through with the plan. And that’s because the standard is so high, that if you attempt it and don’t achieve it, you’ll also shame yourself. So instead of doing that, you just don’t try at all and you withhold effort so that you have an excuse for not succeeding. So you can at least say to yourself, or the reason I’m not good enough is because I haven’t been following through because I’ve been procrastinating.

And what we often do, even though we could start to figure out how to stop procrastinating and do all the things we like to keep that out of reach, so that we always have that there as an excuse because it requires… so I feel like no one really talks about this, it requires so much vulnerability to really go at a goal hard-out, all-in, full-on. It really does require vulnerability and courage, and that’s something I’ve worked so hard to develop and I’m continuing to do that, and I didn’t really realize that before that it takes vulnerability because there is a vulnerability in the fact that it might not work out.

And often what we try to do is just completely withhold effort, so we have an excuse for it not working out, but then we get so frustrated because the reason it’s not working out is because we’re withholding the effort and so we’re creating exactly what we’re trying to avoid. But what I’m trying to say is, I did use to be really ashamed of my addiction really, to personal development and that there must be something wrong with me if I need it, and Steve isn’t into personal development or anything like that. And just most people aren’t, I mean, not that they aren’t as I was saying before, I think a lot of people are, but most people don’t share it and don’t put it on display. So we all kind of feel like we’re the only one working on ourselves and it is very helpful to actually start mentioning things because people I’ve found they’re either really curious or they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’ve read that book” or “Oh yeah, I know who that is.”

So yeah, I used to be really shy of it and I used to hide it and you guys probably would have guessed that because I hid my blog for bloody like two years. And part of that as well was, not only was I been really vulnerable and sharing like “This is the real me” on my blog and this is what I’m actually interested in doing, and I think maybe I could succeed at it. I was just petrified of putting myself out there, like putting a goal that maybe I could succeed at this blogging thing like out into the world, as a thing, because I didn’t believe in it at all but also because on my blog, I was sharing personal development stuff, so it like doubled that, because not only was I actually putting my hand up and saying, “Hey actually, maybe over here, I have something interesting to say that could help you” I was saying, “I’m really interested in personal development, and improving myself” and with that, as I was saying often comes this underlying notion that the only reason you need to improve yourself, is if you’re not good enough. The irony of which is that almost everyone doesn’t feel good enough, just because… not because we’re not good enough, but because we have drawn a really illogical conclusion early in our lives, and lived based on that and never being able to see that like it was only when I could see where my belief that I wasn’t good enough, has come from and being like, “Oh my God, that makes absolutely no sense!”

And then I have from then only looked for the evidence of when I’m good enough, whatever the hell that means because it’s so vague, but you know what I mean. And then have rebuilt myself and my self-image and my self-worth and my self-confidence from that and just this idea that someone isn’t good enough when after having that breakthrough I couldn’t- even though I do until actually before I didn’t get it that there’s no world where someone isn’t good enough.

And if you think about when a child’s born, like the parents love for the child, it’s like, they’re not like, “Oh this baby isn’t good enough” like no matter what the situation is with the baby, it’s like… we’re just born good enough. Regardless of whether your parents approve of you or not, we’re just born good enough. And then at some point, it’s just a very human thing to do. We decide that we’re not good enough, and then we live our life based on that conclusion that just completely makes no sense when you think about it as an adult.

Anyway, definitely listen to my episode. I did share in there the actual breakthroughs I had and all of that because that is where I will talk about it. And a lot of you guys have told me that when I have shared the breakthrough that I’ve had it has given you a breakthrough. Breakthrough meaning you’ve actually seen something of yourself that you hadn’t seen before. That’s only me when I say break through its basically just seeing something that’s been in your blind spot. And so what I’m trying to say is basically, I did use to be really ashamed but I just kept doing it.

And if you’re at that point where you feel like there must be something wrong with you if you’re in to self-help and you feel really embarrassed like, sharing that you’re interested to help with your friends or your family, it’s okay and just keep… if you’re not ready to talk about it with people just keep talking about it. And the beauty of it is that if you keep doing the personal development work that you’re really interested in doing, you will get to a point where you are more comfortable sharing that, and when you do see that there is nothing inherently wrong with doing personal development, I think it should be part of school curriculum.

I don’t know why the hell we don’t get taught this stuff in school. It’s so important, it rules our lives the way that we think about ourselves and all of that kind of thing, the thoughts that we have whether we react to our feelings or not all of that is so fundamental to life. I just don’t get that we’re not taught that stuff in school.

Anyway, it’s okay if you’re feeling embarrassed about it, I just want to let you know that a lot of other people feel that way too. I felt that way. If you’re not ready to talk about it with other people, that’s totally okay, just keep it, keep it to yourself for now, if that’s what you need to do and eventually there will come a time where you do share it with others. In times when I talk to my friends about it, I would say it’s like 50-50, my friends know me as a personal development nerd and I’m the wise friend that always has the advice, and I don’t talk about, like with my friends from school, I don’t talk about personal development stuff as such like I don’t talk about it in the way that I would talk about it on this podcast. A lot of them are interested in different aspects of it, but they’re not regularly reading books, they wouldn’t know all the podcast I listened to, they wouldn’t know all the authors like the main personal development people. And I think that’s totally okay.

It’s one of those things like, even though a personal development is something that I am such a strong believer in, I do also believe that it’s important not to assume that just because something is important to you, it needs to be important to everyone.. And I mention things to friends, like I’m like, “Oh maybe this podcast episode would help with whatever you’re struggling with” and stuff like that, but I try my best not to just turn into talking about personal development stuff.

And of course, if it’s relevant and if I think it will help and if they seem interested I do talk about it, but I don’t do it in the same way that I would do it on this podcast, and I’m just respectful that now everyone in my life, once to think about themselves all the time, though, let’s be real everyone’s thinking about themselves all the time. That’s how we’re programmed to operate. But some people aren’t really interested in self-improvement.

I don’t think that everyone should be. I know a lot of people if you have something that you’re really interested in, maybe that’s a certain lifestyle or diet, maybe it’s a certain kind of exercise. If something really works for you, you want to share it with other people and you want them to experience the same benefits that you’ve experienced. And I know, I’ve definitely wanted that for some people in my life like to really… I can see that something that you’ve learned will help them and you want them to want it for themselves, but it’s totally okay if people don’t want that. And it is part of learning.

I feel like it’s part of life, just learning that everyone doesn’t have to be interested in the same things to you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that, and even if you think you’ve seen the light and that everyone needs to know about it. Yes, share it. But, I just personally think, with sharing things, it needs to come to respect that the other person they can do with that information what they want, and they’re going to interpret it differently, to you. And all of that kind of thing.

Like I have a lot of friends who aren’t interested in personal development stuff and that’s totally okay. It doesn’t make me a better person, and it doesn’t make them a better person than me. None of that. It’s just whether you like coffee or tea it doesn’t really matter, it’s all good, it’s all good, and it is… I’ve definitely struggled with it, I’m sure at different times throughout my personal development journey, I have been telling people that they should be like, “There’s this book, you should read” or “What about you do this thing” and it is, it’s like this fine line of balancing… it’s great to be able to help people learn things about themselves that they haven’t been able to see and then giving them something that will help them really understand themselves and then feel better about themselves and be less frustrated with themselves, and stop beating themselves up and all of that kind of thing. And when you can see the potential for someone and you know that you have the ticket to fulfilling that. It’s so hard not to be like, “Please just listen to this podcast, please just read this book” but you have to be ready for the information and if that person isn’t actually wanting it most of the time, even if they do read the book, even if they do listen to the podcast, they are not going to get as much out of it.

I know that from experience when I have shared things and people haven’t been like I have been, it’s been my own agenda, basically, and they’ve just done it out of some sense of obligation and it just, they just don’t get what I want them to get from it, and of course, they’re not going to, a lot of the time, because I’m interpreting it all through my own beliefs that I have about the world, and they’re interpreting it through their beliefs. And if you’re not ready for it, then a lot of things…

This is why I love going back and reading books I’ve already read before and listening to podcast episodes I’ve already listened to before because I get a different thing out of it, when I’m at a different stage in my personal development journey, like I’ve been showing that I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, a few years ago, and I got nothing out of it. Basically, the book could have been written in gibberish. I didn’t understand anything, it felt like I read a different book and this year when I read it, I was like, “Oh my God. This is the best book!” and same book but I just wasn’t at the point in my personal development journey in my life where that was really resonating with me.

It wasn’t like I just wasn’t immersed in that stuff and I just got a totally different… this was a totally different experience. Literally exactly the same copy of Think and Grow Rich. So when it comes to friends, a lot of my new friends, are definitely interested in personal development, because I have made those friendships around them either having them on business or being interested in personal development, and I also have on display much more that I’m a personal development person, so that when… now when people are becoming friends with me they know that’s something about me. And so, I’m guessing people who think personal development is weird, I’m like, not really interested in being her friend which is totally fine and I’m not less interested in being friends with people who aren’t into personal development as I said, Steve’s not into it though he is into psychology and that kind of thing, but he’s definitely not a personal development junkie at all. And I do love talking about it, so I do love being surrounded by people who, like, talking about it as well, and who are working on themselves and who are trying to sort themselves out and I think more people are trying to sort themselves out, just everyone has a different way of doing it.

But I do have friends that I talk about personal development with, I do talk about it with my family as well, and then I have friends that I don’t talk about it with and they know that I’m really interested in it, but it doesn’t come up in conversation, and I might mention a thing or two, but I’m not going to be like… “Oh, did you listen to that episode of this” like they have no idea what that is. And yeah, I just think it’s okay, people like it, it’s okay, people don’t.

I also wanted to mention as well because I know that you might be the INFJ personality, which is, if you haven’t done it and you like this podcast I know you love personality tests because don’t we all, if you don’t like personality tests and you’re listening to this podcast, I’m very impressed because I know a lot of you… do you like them? And if you haven’t already done the Myers-Briggs test as a website called 16personalities.com that you can do it. And when I was thinking about this… so INFJ basically the letters stand for different facets of your personality. And when I read the profile for IFNJ it feels like I am just basically reading someone’s reading my mind and the thing about IFNJ friends so there’s on this website, once you do the personality tests takes like 10-15 minutes. Not connected with them in any way at all, but I just love personality tests and it goes through, once you’ve done the test, strength and weaknesses, romantic relationships, friendships, parenthood, career parts, workplace habits and tells you how your personality type acts.

So this is what it says about INFJs with friends says, “INFJs are often perfectionist looking for ultimate compatibility and yet also look for someone with whom they can grow and improve in tandem. Needless to say, this is a tall order, and INFJ should try to remember that they are particularly rare personality type, and even if they find someone compatible, in that sense, the odds that they will also share every interest are slim. If they don’t learn to meet others halfway and recognize that the kind of self-improvement and depth they demand is simply exhausting for many types. INFJs are likely, will likely end up abandoning healthy friendships in their infancy in search of more compatible, in search of more perfect compatibility.

So I can relate to that, so much. I have definitely when I found myself growing apart in friendships, I’m definitely like I’d rather have a few really amazing friendships than a lot of friendships that are just mediocre and recognized that the kind of self-improvement and depth they demand is simply exhausting for many types, when I read that initially, I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so true!” because I just… most people aren’t- to the extent that if you like this stuff, interested in personal development to this extent, isn’t that common and expecting everyone to be on the same page and to be wanting to improve themselves to such a degree isn’t going to really help.

So yeah, if you haven’t done that personality tests highly recommended. I am an INFJ it’s just… so it’s also so interesting because so many of you if… and it’s a rare personality type, but I think because I am and I talk about a lot of things that relate and would attract people with the INFJ personality. I have so many people telling me that they’re also an INFJ. So that’s so fun. So I just wanted to mention that as well. If you’re an in INFJ, again, if you don’t know what that means, go and take the personality test.

Yeah, I just wanted to share if you’ve been feeling ashamed or embarrassed about being into personal development stuff. There’s no need to be, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re not broken, and if you aren’t ready to talk about it with other people. Yet, that’s okay. And eventually, you will be because you’ll be interested in personal development and doing the work. But it’s okay if there are people in your life who aren’t interested in it. And I think I found at least that at times when I’ve been thinking like, “God why isn’t everyone else interested in improving themselves?” It has not been helpful at all. It only ends with me being more disconnected from the people around me because I’m trying to push something onto them that they don’t want. It’s the same for any kind of lifestyle thing, whether it’s eating a certain diet or doing a certain exercise if you find something that works, you really do want to share it. You feel like you’ve seen a light and you’re like, “Oh my God, I just need to tell every single person about this!” and again, you might not be yet in that stage because you’re feeling ashamed, but then to some point if you see someone struggling, you be like… “Oh, I just want them like, “Why don’t they read this book, why don’t they listen to podcasts?” And I still struggle to get why people wouldn’t listen to a podcast and they listen to the radio instead of it… I just don’t get that podcast at the most amazing thing, there’s, oh now, some of them have ads.

But there’s barely any ads. It’s actually really helpful, really interesting. You can put it on whenever you want, the radio they just play the same songs all the time. They have long ads. I hate listening to ads so much. So Youtube and all of these things I have subscribed to the premium one so I don’t ever have to hear an ad. And yeah, I just don’t get why some would listen to the radio when you can listen to a podcast and you probably agree, because you’re listening to a podcast, but it’s okay that people don’t listen to podcast, it’s okay that people don’t listen to audiobooks, they don’t read personal development books or think it’s all a load of complete garbage it’s totally okay.

So yeah, that’s all I really have to say on the topic but because I’ve been asked I did want to share my thoughts on this kind of thing and whether you should be embarrassed and if it means you’re broken and you should do expect other people because there is also this temptation to cut out these people who aren’t as positive, or who aren’t interested in improving themselves. And I think that… there are… you do grow apart from people and if you’re really into personal development and people… your friends with aren’t and then there might be a point where you actually don’t have much in common and it would be better for you both to spend the time you spend together with other people. But it’s okay if your friends don’t like it, it’s okay if the people around you aren’t interested in it totally fine.

So yeah, that’s all I really have to say. I hope you’re well, I’m going to link everything in the show notes, it’s smart-twenties.com/episode38 and I will talk to you next week, bye!

Author: Sam Brown