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I got my only self-help book ever from The Warehouse (basically NZ's Target) when I was about 14. I still remember pouring over it, trying to fix myself using stupid lines and quotes. The title is forever burnt into my brain: Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (and It's All Small Stuff).

Word to the wise - IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE AND IT'S NOT ALL SMALL STUFF! Some stuff is actually very fucking important and you need to sort it out - carefully!

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Feb 7, 2023·edited Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

The self-help industry is prime territory for grifters and scammers to take advantage of vulnerable people, so it's no surprise that it's such a hellscape.

There's only one (1) book I'd recommend, and that's Feeling Good by David Burns. It was suggested to me by a therapist, and I actually found it rather helpful. The author is a psychiatrist, so it's basically therapy in book form. It helped me realize how much emotions were influenced by my thoughts, and vice versa. It might seem obvious at first, but I found it quite effective in practice. Instead of big sweeping changes, it has small practical steps you can take to improve your mood. I started keeping track of my fleeting thoughts, and I was shocked at how negative they could be. No promises obviously, but I found some benefit in it.

Nothing about donkeys though. I would stick with Shuruppak for that.

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Thanks for the recommendation, Joe.

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

I think therapy in general is a form of self-improvement but with someone who is trained to kind of scaffold your journey for you, so I’m not surprised that the one book you would recommend was recommended by a therapist and written by psychiatrist.

That is not to say training makes people good actors. nxivims (it’s not how it’s spelt but it’s such a nonsens world you know what I mean) was based on several established therapies that were used to break down and brainwash people. I think what makes therapy a little bit more “good actor”

Territory is that there are ethical bodies you can check to see if your therapist is registered to and if they act in a predatory way you can report them and they loose their registration.

I think a lot of these more grifter type self improvement things take advantage of the fact that people want quick fixes that are simple and with dramatic results.. in general life is a bit more muddy and recovery or change takes time and hard work and often involves several backslides.

I do think that living in a neoliberal world makes people more desperate to find a quick fix because neoliberalism makes it a moral failing that you aren’t doing well financially, emotionally, romantically, health wise etc. and sells the story that it is completely within your reach to change these things.. and the fact you haven’t is due to laziness or some other character failing. when it’s not really. But that cultural belief absolutely helps grifters pray on people.

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I actually had a self-help book recommended to me by a therapist as well, and like you, I found it really helpful! That's one of the reasons I'm so fascinated by the genre, or movement, or whatever it is - I'm sure there's genuinely good stuff out there but I find it very difficult to distinguish from everything else, because it's all pitched the same way.

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I think I may have that book as well, based on a therapist's recommendation. That's the thing that sucks about this genre is that there *are* actually good resources out there, but it's hard to filter out all the junk.

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Hello! Thank you for reading whatever that was. As usual when I write something for Webworm I’ll lurk in the comments to answer any questions you might have. Also, because disclosing this much of myself is a pants-shittingly-scary anathema for me, I’d love it if anyone wanted to talk about any of the weird (or banal) self-improvement holes they’ve found themselves going down. My theory is that a hell of a lot of people are just as taken by self-improvement as I am and I want to hear about it. What’s on the bookshelves? What have you tried? What’s failed, and what (if anything) has worked?

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I did Weight Watchers, because I came home from university 30 pounds/13 kilos heavier than I went in and my mother freaked out. It did not work, because I hate rules and rebelled against it and started binge eating, but I got VERY into the blog section of the website. It felt great to be cheered on my mostly middle-aged women as I wrote mostly about my friends, my relationship with my mother, my irrational fears of driving and of paparazzi, reviews of Lake Street Dive concerts, and the amount of ice cream I repeatedly downed while hanging around the Colbert Report. I really wish I could find that blog now, I bet it’s hilarious.

In my early adulthood I also tried calorie counting and the gym, to no effect. Unfortunately, it turns out that the only successful weight-loss strategy that I found was developing a distance running habit, born out of anxiety after my ex boyfriend killed himself and strengthening during a global pandemic. Maybe I should write a self help book!

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I am NOT a diet expert but from what I've read, the body does tend towards the place it's genetically set to be, right?

So any fasting tends to be temporary as your body just sends you back to its old habits.

But yes - turns out exercise is good! Our bodies are not meant to be sitting down all day. I constantly have to remind myself of this!

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Discovering running is definitely the best self-help thing that has happened to me, even more than therapy. But I don’t think it could’ve happened if I hadn’t been so anxious and grieving, because starting to run is HARD, and you have to kind of want the pain, I think. But a few years later, when it’s easy and relaxing, it’s often the best hour of my day.

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Like an absolute dingus, I commented from my *other* Substack account, but rest assured that this is actually me (Josh) as well. I'll do the rest of my comments from this account!

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I've taken a paid subscription to add a tiny little amount of additional pressure. What if your output isn't worth the modest investment of subscribers? What if you let us down? Is this helpful?

Good luck and regardless of what happens even making the attempt is a kind of improvement right?

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I mean I read this while at the gym at 6am so I’d say I’m probably caught up in some self improvement bs right now 😂

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I'm all for exercise but what motivated you to go at 6 am? Was it a book, or life necessity, or are you just one of those morning people I've heard so much about?

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God I wish it was any of those! I have a sister that is one of those mystical morning people, and she drags me along most mornings 😂

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taking notes:

*needs a sister to get fit*

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*needs a sister who is also a professional gymnast* 💔

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Can you find the secret to becoming a morning person - are there self help strategies for that? Id love to be one of ‘those’ people...

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I think Amy identified the MOST common thing about "morning people"! Either WANTING or NEEDING to do something that requires an early start. I'm normally a night owl, but promise me a dawn service for Matariki, or an early morning start for an iconic tramp, & regardless of when I went to sleep I'm up and at'em! And of course when I was working an early morning shift, so $$$...

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I am a morning person, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! Sure, I wake up energetic, and it’s great for my 9-5 work life, but when my friends want to go out drinking at 10pm I’m like “but, it’s time for bed!”

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See I’m not a night person either AND I get the mid afternoon dip. So having a crap tonne of starter energy would be amazing! I guess that’s why coffee and crack are so popular

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Josh.. A good read. Thanks. I've tried a few over the decades through varying levels of shame at yet more failure. Sigh. I'm pretty sure I even failed to finish reading The Art of Not Giving A Fuck! SO good luck on your quest but tbh... I'm a bit nervous about subscribing... ;-)

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Haha, no worries at all. Look, one of my pet peeves about self-improvement is the fact that nearly all the self-help books I've read could be at minimum about 80 percent shorter and nothing of value would be lost. So I plan to start a project which is just all the cliff notes summaries and actually useful tips I've been able to pick up from various books. If you're struggling with making your way through a book, this might be just what you need.

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I think a lot of people have a moment of 'this is probably stupid but it couldn't hurt' and then just ... keep doing the thing. Which, if it's not hurting anyone, is fine! But it also means that they might start prescribing it to others and claiming it helps (when it was really just luck or timing or placebo) and that's where it becomes a problem.

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Josh, great piece, good luck in the deep dive. I follow Mark Manson and in a lot of ways have found him a good sense check.

The question that I always ask also is why do so many need "improving"? Why is it such a captive audience? Is it because we feel like we are missing something?

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I'm completely out of my depth on this but that's never stopped me before! So, obviously this is conjecture, but I think that sense of needing to improve is readily explained by evolution. A sense of restlessness and a desire to be prosocial plus just generally good at things is probably a really useful set of survival traits. The problem is it gives preachers, cult recruiters, self-help gurus (and MLM sellers!) an easy in. "Hey, friend. Do you feel like something is *missing* in your life? You do? Well, just take this pamphlet..."

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Hi Josh, great read and I’m in! Subscribing to the journey... it’s always about the journey. “Atomic Habits”, by James Clear -- I’m keen to know if this book is being considered for your repertoire? I formed one habit and then abruptly stopped reading the book. One new habit was enough, and one of the few pearls of wisdom from self help books that have stuck with me. I’m keen

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I've read Atomic Habits (I might even have finished it) and I'll be looking at it again as it's one of the biggest sellers in the genre. I hear you on stopping half-way through though. I almost always finish fiction, but I find a lot of self-help incredibly difficult to wade through. So much is just so boring! I'm glad you did get one habit to stick, though. Out of interest, do you mind sharing what it was? Hopefully it wasn't smoking.

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No, I did actually quit smoking a few years back and it wasn’t due to a self help book - purely due to the cost.

The habit was to set up ‘stations’ with all the tools in one spot for repetitive tasks. Many of us already do this - the coffee pods near the coffee machine, etc - and, using those stations as a prompt and in a location that makes sense to your daily flow or movements. It’s pretty basic, but for me it’s made life a lot easier. Kind of approaching my home with Kaizen.

I also have garnered some better direction into my plans with Japanese Ikigai. It’s not life changing, but it has helped with accepting that this is a utopia and achieving just half of it still provides some decent balance.

Most books - and I’ve read loads of them - are just so full of back-story, examples and padding.

If TikTok teaches us oldies anything, it’s that the future generation has a short attention span for new information. The sheer volume of information available to all of us warrants the snippets-only condition. I’m on board with it. The memes, not so much. The passive aggressive ‘more lovey less judgey’ memes telling people what to do with their life are more bossy and less oozing-of-the-deflective-confidence that many of us seek.

Credibility, qualification, research, tried and tested methods - if I can get a book where I trust all of that exists without reading the waffle, I just need the page that says: do more of this, less of that, it might be hard at first, but it will get easier, and life will get better. That’s all I seek, really. The lazy ass person’s guide to being a little less lazy. :)

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Such a good call. That's all a self-help book *should* be! And I'm pretty sure there's enough collective experience in 5000 ish years of recorded civilisation to put something like that together. It wouldn't even have to be that long! I suspect that the reason it's not been done that way is that good advice, when it's rendered free of mysticism and guff, is just kind of boring.

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Professional medical advice, lose weight, exercise and be healthy lead me to; eat the right proteins, fats and fibrinous vegetables and lose weight. So I followed a mix of professional and self help advice, and I lost 10kgs. And I feel so full, I'm still eating burgers.

And I have watched various videos on YouTube about fatty liver, insulin resistance, why the standard American diet is bad and what it does to our bodies. People have also told me a good variety of the right whole vegetables and right fruit and that may fix your gut bacteria and in turn fix health problems.

I'm a little skeptical of it but my health is better and I've lost weight and I'm still eating burgers. And I'd agree on the "do one thing a day, that makes you feel better / happier", it's common sense advice that comes from many self-help sources.

I can confirm it works, true story, but ya know it's sometimes the most basic straight forward advice that we ignore, discount and complain about. Lose weight, eat right, be healthy. And to do that I put my brain through the mental gymnastics of understanding gut bacteria. We like to overcomplicate and ignore simple advice. And everyone's telling us if we do something it's going to be better than doing nothing right?

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Honestly, we might be better off if more self-help books were donkey-based nowadays. Remarkably less harmful than 90% of the nonsense most folks are peddling.

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Not enough things are donkey-based, these days. In general.

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

Hi all,

I am an aging doctor. I used to work in a high needs practice and found that if I did not have a scaffolding of strategies around me I erred towards burnout. I know if I exercise that I sleep better and as I age it staves off the back pain that I wake with and the shoulders that get sore if I do not regularly exercise them. I have done a Tai Chi class for much of the last 10 years. This is very much related to mindfulness. Again I kept doing it because I slept better the night after Tai Chi...my mind was not teeming so much with all the problems of the day and it also moved bits of me that would otherwise have become stiff. I go to church (St Andrews on the Terrace Wellington). This one feels a bit weird to me as I was brought up very much anti-religion. However I get comfort from the community. On a bad week I found myself weeping in the pews and felt better afterwards. The ritual settles me and I have been particularly grateful to have this relationship when dealing with death, a well structured funeral (or tangi) for me significantly eases the grief of death. Whilst in practice I regularly saw a therapist to talk about the things that got in the way of me doing a good job. I am always wary of my alcohol intake and if it starts climbing will try to understand why.

There has to be something about making a profit out of "self help" that is a part of the problem. I think there is also something about being able to critically appraise evidence. For example it is almost impossible to get robust evidence about any particular diet. To do this you would have to have the intervention group and a control group. The intervention group would have to stick to the diet of interest (how do you measure that...food diaries are notoriously useless) and the control group would have to eat something different. You would have to keep the diet going long enough to make a difference (??at least a year probably longer) and then you need to measure something meaningful to see what "better" actually means.

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Being able to critically appraise is a big one. I had not really factored that in to my thinking - but yeah, part of how the self-help industry gets people hooked in is the fact they are after easy solutions, and don't have the time to appraise (which is why they need the help - so sort their time / lives out!). I am over-simplifying but you get the idea.

Your system sounds - smart. And as you say - it's not about money. You logically came to those things that work for you.

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Great points. A very early conclusion I've come to is that the best self-improvement stuff either is (or should be) free. I think there's a persistent delusion that if something really works it must cost a lot of money. My experience so far has been the opposite - with the exception of therapy, which really is expensive but also isn't really "self" improvement, if I'm being strict about definitions. Definitely agree on the difficulty of measuring improvement or evaluating evidence. What works for me might not work for someone else, and I'm always working with a sample size of one.

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I love this!! I think it’s exactly as you said, the things that really work are sustainable, affordable (or free), and grounding. The profit of this “industry” has made it irresistible to some very-not-good people, and unfortunately it falls to the individual to try and navigate that.

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

Excellent wrap up of the major self improvement themes. We live in interesting times. We have more knowledge available to us than we can handle, more ways to express our individuality (that we are told is our absolute right), in a vastly more connected (I use that term very loosely) world. We find ourselves floating in a sea of anonymity illuminated by the fact that we are, like it or not, made painfully aware of 7-odd billion others on our planet, most of whom are a damn sight worse off than we are (which makes us feel a bit stink about ourselves).

Or... am I significant (a very Western idea)? Is everybody else's life as shit as mine or are they all as Insta-perfect as they appear? Am I in the minority or majority shitty-life group? Yes indeed 'the fields are ripe unto harvest' for the opportunistic grifters (who are simply me or you with the volume turned WAY up) to ply their message of hope and validate our distrust of anything we are not. If a little bit of self improvement is good then there must be hoards of people who'll pay big bucks for my shortcut to happiness. And there are. Its a billion dollar industry.

Which brings me to another point - self-help is the soulchild of the happiness movement. Who the fuck says life has to be all sunshine? There's gotta be a little rain sometime (perhaps an insensitive metaphor in the current climate crisis). All this to say this sits on a continuum of intensity from utter disinterest to radical fundamentalism. You can apply that to pretty much anything - religion, science, politics, health... and so on.

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Love this topic. I’ve seen a lot of good, well meaning, but slightly dim friends throw themselves into sound healing, reiki, energy healing, crystals, breath work and all manner of diet changes since the “plandemic” while sharing anti-govt propaganda and Pete Evans/David Avocado Wolf posts. All extremely privileged women who have become unwitting foot soldiers for the far right. It’s all tied in but I’ve never been able to articulate it quite as well as you do. Fascinating stuff for us social science students, although somewhat grim.

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Sound healing! Argh! That's a new one to me. Will have to Google it!

Also, here's a weird admission to go with all the others (and more to come): I really like crystals and minerals and all that junk. Not for magic reasons, I just think they're neat. I have a bunch of crystals within eyeshot as I'm writing this. When I was a kid I picked up a labeled mineral collection that I must have stared at and fiddled with for hours. It's long lost, which might be a good thing as one of the items was a big chunk of asbestos.

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Omg ME TOO! I loved crystals ever since I was a kid, but this wellness/healing caper has actually ruined them for me. I had a Disney encyclopaedia set (an actual thing) and one volume was about gems and crystals. I used to read it over and over, the pictures were beautiful.

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There's currently a guy on MAFS who has been paired with beautiful woman who seems brilliant for him, and he got the ick cos she pulled out a crystal and asked what star sign he is.

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The Conspirituality podcast is all about this wellness/far right crossover, it’s really good!

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I L❤VE the Conspirituality Pod - so so good.

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The best advice I ever got was from my dog and it goes like this, “live in the moment.” I don’t know that my dog worries about his thigh gap as he happily chomps down another treat. When his human returns after being away, he’s not sulky and sad, he’s off the wall happy, wagging his tail and ready for a pet. If I’m in a bad mood one day, he doesn’t remember that for a lifetime and bring it up the next time he has a bad day. He’s perfectly happy going for a run or walk or a bit of fetch no matter the day, time, or temperature; and in that same manner, he’s just as happy to snuggle on the couch and watch tv for a day, no guilt or pride in whichever the day plays out.

I’m just so tired of waking every day and not being happy with my body, my bank account, my relationships; am I doing enough, doing too much.....I just wanna eat, sleep, love and enjoy the time I have. But dear god, all the background noise!

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Excellent read, thank you!!

I dunno, I could perhaps be biased because of my own negative past experiences, but I’ve always felt like churches, cults, mlm’s, and the self help industry all recruit in a similar fashion. They look for an emotional vulnerability they can lean on, hit it as hard as they can, and then offer you both a solution and a community. The thought of a solution to your problems draws you in, and then the community traps you. It’s hard to pull yourself away from something when it feels like your whole life is wrapped up in it.

And don’t get me wrong -- I have a whole mess of practices I follow to get myself through the day. I have six different tarot decks, various oracle cards, and more crystals than I can probably justify. I spent a year doing yoga every single morning at 5am, with a former playboy bunny turned off-the-grid hippie. I’ve done weekly barre classes. I’ve stopped by more churches than I can count. I’ve tried journaling, too many diets to name, and CBT. The only thing I’ve ever been able to conclude is that ... if it makes you feel good, and it’s not doing anyone any harm ... why not?

It’s just that once self improvement crosses into the sphere of commercialism it literally profits off our insecurities. It’s not in any self help guru’s best interest for us to be fully comfortable with ourselves, because then there’s nothing to improve, and we won’t cough up money. And unfortunately we’re all insecure by nature, so it’s easy to fall victim.

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Spot on. If you're cured, you're no longer a customer.

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Apt, I can relate :)

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

This very much hit a nerve - not so much the current self-help literature (although I did listen to the audio version of the Subtle Art of not giving a Fuck [banal to the point of a lullaby which was problematic as we listened on a road trip] & have tried and failed on my fair share of das diets) as “The Instructions of Shuruppak”.

As the owner of two miniature donkey boys (in spe, they’ll arrive in May), I feel like I should get deeply into that ancient tome of wisdom. Shame I’ll have to insert my own words into the ??? - could be an interesting journey testing out different variations with the donkeys. “If you feed a donkey weed, it will smoke another donkey?” 🤣

Awesome work as usual Josh, can’t wait to read your exploits!

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

i love everything about this

The ability to truly connect to yourself, like that person and actively look after them is the key. and all of that is achievable by you, for you, if you just give yourself some time and space to think. but noone makes any money based on that idea- so we must keep selling the dream of something external being the solution.

my plan has always been to write a book around this, that is actually helpful, and somehow free

obviously im too busy with my dieting, F45 and cooking meals i just take photos of for instagram to have done this yet- but one day!!!

good luck Josh, if you just have a positive mind set and some morning protein powder and kale, you cannot fail

i believe in you

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

Yes, it's wrong to mock those who are trying to improve themselves but it's well and good to truly interrogate those who are selling it to us because they are so often, deeply sick themselves. This is why I adore the Apple TV show, Physical (which is about a woman with an eating disorder so if that triggers you in any way, please stop reading this and stay away from the show). The main character is in the throes of an eating disorder (being highly restrictive in her food intake with occasional binges where she purges afterwards) and she wanders into an aerobics class and gets hooked. She gets so hooked that she builds her own aerobics empire (not a spoiler, the show's first scene establishes that she does successfully establish her business). She is also deeply unwell and suffering from a lot of family trauma which mirrors Jane Fonda's own experience with building her aerobics business, she was also dealing with an eating disorder (which started long before she went into aerobics) and she didn't disclose this until years later. She was sick and trying to help other people become better. I try to stay away from self improvement for my own sanity since I don't deal well with failure at all (I don't even do New Year's resolutions) I truly believe that the only safe form of self improvement involves therapy with a licensed professional and possibly an actual psychiatrist. There are too many scams out there and too many unwell people who are trying to get better by selling you something that hasn't even worked for them.

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Feb 8, 2023Liked by David Farrier

Also, me again. I have been involved in some of the wellness world a bit and here is how it sometimes goes:

1. You're very special

2. Your'e also fucked

3. Only I can fix you. Give me your money

Bastard part about it is I suspected that all along! I know I am special! I have a special destiny! I am different! I am socially awkward but nevertheless terribly interesting! And fucked, yeah, I know that too! So wow this wellness influencer/grifter knows me so well and this confirms what a special little starseed I am! Of course they can have my money! Dammit, I gave them all my money....

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I love your scientology brings you in with a 'personality' test (which I have taken) - and all the things that are wrong with it!

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This is a story we've been fed all our lives though - The hero of every children's fantasy is the Chosen One, with hidden Special Powers. So when we sit at the cusp of adulthood and our magical powers haven't manifested yet, what is there left to do but hand over the dosh to the nearest confident-looking person.

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Feb 7, 2023Liked by David Farrier

Good article. I have breathed in deeply, read my horoscope, taken a few drugs and now feel mindfully stoic enough to give self improvement claptrap a big swerve

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Feb 7, 2023·edited Feb 8, 2023Liked by David Farrier

These MLM are all blinded by the faith in their beliefs and something that will never eventuate.

Every day they tried to throw the I’m getting paid to make up half-truths about genuine get rich quick opportunities at me as well.

The other statement is they have a go at the information I provide but the honest truth of it it’s very hard to find the truth when you’re going through the latrine, trying to fine good clean facts/information about a WEWE.

I’ve done my upmost to try and stop this event happening in Christchurch. Phoned all the hotels hosting the events in AU and NZ, contacted the serious fraud office, Play my third complaint with FMA, telephoned the police to talk to the “Criminal Financial Unit” went into Christchurch Central police station. They had to do an investigation to see whether “Criminal Financial Unit” was in the building that took over one hour.

After searching upstairs he said they weren’t in today, so the constable said, as he handed me a post it note write down what do you want to talk to them about and I’ll get them to phone you on Monday!

I said don’t you know who I am?? I’m “The Crypto Ponzi Scheme Avenger” featured in New York Times been on radio New Zealand in the Otago Times and four pages in The Listener and quoted on a article produced by a true soldier David Farrier. He didn’t even know who you were David can you believe that!

They’re not up with the play, he did say there’s a lot of crime happening in Crypto at the moment I wanted to say no shit Sherlock but this is WEE WEE not shit.

Anyway other than standing outside the event with a sign looking like an idiot trying to warn people, who will be telling me I’m an idiot I think I’ve done my part causing disruption.

I’ve even been texting one of the guys that’s going to be standing on the stage “Steve Condos” he’s a bloody Australian already know for scamming people in the past, what more do you need two know about WEWE.

People who go to these events have not been in the trenches with people like me or David, we go through this shit and it gets dirty.

Mum and Dad investors will listen to their polished sales techniques and they will leave the event with doubt is it a scam or is it legit. Often these sales guys use NLP training, many of the people in the audience will keep thinking about getting rich, just like you think about imagine if I won lotto this week what would I do with the money dinner becomes a no brainer to buy a lotto ticket and that’s how they hook you in.

It’s not rocket science it’s de Hek science!

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Thanks for your extreme levels of doggedness in this, Danny!

As for the police - gosh I don't want to get into it here - but they are slow and hard to work with, man. And this is my experience as a white dude. God knows what people of colour have to deal with.

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I’ve decided I’m going to get my private investigator license so I get a better understanding of what I am and aren’t allowed to do when investigating these lowlife’s.

Apparently it’s okay for me to stand outside and event with my budgie smugglers on holding a sign saying “this is the naked truth about Ponzi schemes they get away with modern day robbery” I might need a big sign

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Feb 7, 2023·edited Feb 7, 2023

[Apologizing up front for how absurdly long this one is.]

Yeah, most of self-improvement pop culture is a grift. I think that monetizing the grift has shifted from books to influencers, the latter actually being *worse* because anyone who likes taking selfies and pointing at invisible pop-up text boxes can do it. It doesn't need to be accepted by a publisher or go through an editor.

Much like MLM, the grift targets a certain group of vulnerable people. In the case of self-help, I think it's often people with trauma. Trauma fucking *sucks* and learning to live with it while remaining functional is a long, exhausting, and arduous process. People deal with it in any number of ways. Two prominent examples:

-Modern psych has a whole bunch of methods to choose from. Cons: takes forever, variable effectiveness, fucking hurts like a bitch.

-Substance abuse ends up being a coping method for many. There's probably some good stats out there by smart people who aren't as lazy as I am. I'm sure SAHMSA has some good stuff. Cons: stigma, difficult to access treatment, can kill you.

So maybe people who haven't found success going the traditional route and, understandably, want to avoid the drugs and alcohol, have found the secret third thing: the self-help market.

Here's a way you can actively take positive steps to improve or even reinvent yourself! I can see the appeal. I think that you will find a ton of these people in the categories you listed in the article. It's part and parcel with the toxic positivity game.

I've observed people I know fall into this crap. I'll briefly describe one example from my life because it has pretty decent reliability (like in research terms): My sister and are two years apart and were always close. As such, we grew up in the same household, have had many of the same experiences, and have gone through much of the same trauma (that's the "reliability" part). Specifically, our family started going through some pretty horrific stuff around 2015. At first, she and I stuck close together in dealing with it all, but eventually our paths diverged.

Hers veered sharply into self-help/toxic positivity territory. She's now a "certified" life coach (the " " because there are not any accredited licensing bodies). Recently, she's started training to be a yoga instructor. Yoga has a lot of evidence-based advantages! I think it can be a great activity. But making it part of your identity, that's the part that's the self-help delusion.

So has this self-help thing worked for her? I mean, in some ways, I guess...she's doing really well in her career. But it also made her into this weird sort of zen robot that acts nothing like my real sister did. It's disconcerting, frankly. So self-help isn't *really* helping; it's just giving you things to do that seem really healthy...but it is just another type of protective shell into which our battered selves can retreat.

I know David always tells me it's fine, but this really *is* too long. =\ I edited it down some, though! Anybody who read all of it...thanks, I dig you.

Thanks for the great insights and brain fodder, Josh!

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Thanks for sharing that - I love yoga, I loathe yoga’s cultyness. The guru dynamic can put some very unhealthy people & practices on a pedestal selling more than just ‘yoga’ & like you say it’s unregulated. I went to Wanderlust a few years ago (what a clusterf*#%) & the weird zen bot vibe sums up so many of the people there - throw in some offensive cultural appropriation, constantly being shilled oils (probs MLM come to think of it) and a lot of shonky life advice and I was out of there: 3 day pass be damned.

I’m very grateful for Yoga with Adrienne & being able to do yoga at home alone... like the misanthrope i obviously am 😂

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I had to look up Wanderlust, and I think I would've felt the same way you did... once your peaceful retreat away from the pressures of society becomes that commercialized, well, that's kind of antithetical, isn't it? (cough burning man cough) Good for you for leaving when you knew it wasn't right for you.

I was going to say maybe it's not so misanthropic when all the people suck...and then I realized that that is itself a very misanthropic statement!!

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Not too long at all, in fact I really value the time and thought you put into this. Thanks for being so up-front about what is probably a really difficult topic. I think you make some really good points about the relationship of toxic positivity to a lot of self-improvement and especially about the pitfalls of making an activity part of your identity, either by letting an activity subsume your personality or by adopting someone as a guru. The likes of MLMs and cults all leverage this tendency to a pretty alarming degree.

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Yes it's all very culty and weird, I agree. David talked about this stuff a bit in these Webworms from way back and I still think about it!

https://www.webworm.co/p/americancult

https://www.webworm.co/p/americancult2

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Not too long! Yoga can help people - absolutely - and doesn't need to become a "religion" as it does for some. It's benefits are accessible to both beginners & more advanced. But like anything, it needs to be part of a balanced approach.

I got shamed in front of a class of people by a so-called "Yogi" because I could not sustain forward bends for as long as she would like - I was told it was "Yoga or tramping ... you can't do both" which is a load of BS!!! Yes, walking/tramping shortens your muscles etc. but you can counter that with massage & stretching, just not to the nth degree for obnoxious self-absorbed "teachers" who don't actually practice the true spirit of Yoga! Rant over? (BTW despite walking for 2+hrs most days, I can still forward bend more than most people, so ...)

Sorry about losing the closeness with your sister ... mine was a dear cousin who went down the anti-vax rabbit hole. I just insist on being an optimist that our special people will come back to us one day, and we will be here waiting to hug them.

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Definitely, yoga has lots of physical and mental benefits! And the thing I appreciate about it is how much it can modified to fit different needs...sounds like your Yogi never learned about that part...

Yikes, sorry to hear about the anti-vax cousin. So many people have disconnected from love ones over that and QAnon, it's truly devastating!

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