Thoughts on The New Yorker Article “Improving Ourselves to Death”

I read an article a friend shared today from the New Yorker titled “Improving Ourselves to Death: What the self-help gurus and their critics reveal about our times” by Alexandra Schwartz.

It reminded me a little of the backlash against parenting books. I know parents who are so overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of “expert” parenting advice (much of it contradicting other “expert” advice) that they give up on any parenting books whatsoever and rely entirely on their own intuition.

But that’s a lonely road, and it can keep us from discovering ideas and resources that could really help us.

So I resist an all-or-nothing mentality grouping us into either in favor of or against the self-help movement or endless shelves of parenting advice.

Some parenting books have literally changed my life, and so have some self-help books (like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Eileen

If we take the good advice in this article to avoid feeling pressured by the sum of all the advice and books out there, we can use the books as a menu of ideas rather than a checklist of obligations. Then we’ll have resources for when we really would be happier if we made more efficient To-Do lists and some author has a strategy that might work well for us.

We can scour the shelves for ideas to solve problems we actually have, rather than, a concern posed by the article, using books to convince ourselves we have problems that we really don’t.

We don’t have to choose between our own intuition and the advice on bookshelves. We can use our intuition to help us navigate the information out there and try strategies that resonate with us. Berate the self-help sections all you want, but I love my running drawer when it’s folded using the kon-mari folding method, and when my kids started sleeping through the night because we got the information we needed to break their sleep associations it was game-changing for our entire family.

It’s not all or nothing. There are great ideas out there, and when you want to improve something, there’s no harm in seeing what others have done that’s been successful and deciding for yourself whether you want to try it.

In other cool news – my favorite nutrition expert Dr. Greger was on Live with Kelly and Ryan! Check it out 🙂 

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1 comment

  1. Well said. I find it’s often difficult separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to “self-help”, but there are some great self-help books out there. Your thoughts are always highly valuable to me, Kelly. I hope you and your family have been doing well so far in this New Year. Good luck with your next race or event, keep doing what you’re doing!

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