A couragemaker’s guide to navigating the self help world

I’ve ranted a lot lately. About online gurus, about get rich quick schemes, and other bullshit that creates an alluring trap for couragemakers like you and me but ends up with us feeling worse in the long run. Now, believe it or not, the self-help (or as dream chasing as I prefer to call it) and autobiographies sections in my local library are by far my favourite sections. For me, there's something so powerful in someone telling their story, and sharing their dreams, and being vulnerable as hell about where they’ve come from and where they’re going.

That inspires me above all else.

But it’s taken me a while to navigate that whole world and make it work for me.

When you're in a place of quiet desperation, you'll try near enough anything. But when you're in that place of quiet desperation, you're also incredibly vulnerable.

And let’s face it - we all need help sometimes. Whether you're wondering what to do out of college, trying to figure out how to chase your dreams, want to improve a relationship or want to up your confidence, sometimes we need a gentle reminder, or strategies to deal with something we’re going through.

And there’s a whole lot of help out there. Everyone wants to help. Everyone has an opinion. And let’s face it - there are a lot of people want to charge you thousands for things you already know. Some want you to buy into (quite literally), their way of doing things.

It’s a messy world.

As it stands right now, on Amazon UK, there are 405,108 books in the Mind, Body, Spirit section. In the kindle store, there are  253,342 e-books in the Self Help/Counselling section. That’s just books. That doesn’t include the thousands of self-help podcasts, the hundreds of thousands of life coaches online, or the thousands of YouTube clips on self-help.


That’s a whole load of people with a whole load of different opinions on how they can improve your life. They have conflicting viewpoints, conflicting methods, and conflicting promises. But they all have something in common. They want to help you.

But where on earth do you turn to? Who can you trust?

That’s where these questions come into it. Answer them, and you’ll find a much better tactic of finding help that’s suited to you than just picking up the latest bestseller.

When you’re finished, you’re going to have a better idea of what you want, how you want it and what works for you. (Me? Ryan Gosling, on the kitchen table. Thanks.)

So, let’s get started!

What do you actually need?

What are you dealing with? And what do you actually need?

When you're looking for help (this also applies to when moaning to a friend about something), you generally want one of the following:

  • Permission - and confidence to do something.
  • Reassurance - that things will work out, that we’re a good person, that everything will work out okay in the end
  • Confirmation - that you’re doing the right thing and you’re making the right decision
  • Understanding and knowledge - you want to get down to the root cause of it. Knowledge is power!
  • Actionable steps - easily laid out things you can do to get your where you want.

Figuring out what you need makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for. It’s also an excellent way of cutting out a lot of the shit!

What qualifies them to help YOU?

I used to trust easily and I used to be pretty naive.

Now things are different. I know that not everyone who says they want to help genuinely wants to help. Some are more motivated by money, and some bring absolutely no experience and aren’t qualified on any level to help.

The way I see it, if I’m going to take my vulnerabilities anywhere, I want to know that they know their shit, that I can trust the information I’ll receive. I want to be respected and I want to feel safe.

That’s why I recommend creating a quick mental criteria that someone has to meet (whether they’re an author, podcaster, or a coach you’re hiring) that they have to meet. My criteria might look differently to yours, but it looks a little something like this:

1. They have to have experience with what they’re dealing with. They have to be brave in sharing their story and respect that others are being courageous in just seeing help.

2. They have to be passionate about their subject area, and not just see it as a quick money-making scheme

3.They have to be realistic about what they’re promising.

4. Credentials and initials don’t mean shit unless they have the experience to back it up. Now, when I’m in the library, I flick straight to the about the author section before checking out a book. I want to know who the are to help me, and whether we’re a good match. Make your criteria, and stick to it!

What are they promising?

I’ve said this before, as have many people, and I’ll say it again. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you’re struggling with your weight, if someone is promising you a bikini body in 6 weeks, it’s probably bullshit.

If you’re struggling with relationships and someone is promising you the perfect partner in 12 simple steps, it’s definitely bullshit. It’s a bit of a balancing act: having realistic expectations for yourself, and finding someone who can help on those expectations.

What works for you?

We all find motivations in different ways, and we all take things on board via different means. For me, I love podcasts and things that are very action oriented. The more practical the better for me. But we’re all different.

Do you like workbooks? Do you like practical exercises that gently take you outside your comfort zone and put what you’re learning into practice? Do you like working with someone 1:1?

Does the idea of sitting with someone and chatting it through sound like hell to you? Do you prefer reading a book or listening to an audiobook/podcast in the comfort of your own home with some privacy? Do you get motivated through watching?

It’s all about YOU. There is no right and wrong.

And I think where people go wrong when wanting to make a change in their lives, is buying into something that was never going to work for them in the first place.

Spend some time working out what works for you, and then when it comes to sorting shit out and making your life work for you, you’re more likely to find something that is actually effective. And a last couple of things on the topic:

Please, judge a book by its title


Perhaps you’re struggling because you’re single and you think your self-confidence is holding you back. Let me tell you, a book called something like ‘Little Black Dress: Why you’re still single and sitting on the shelf’ isn’t going to help you.

You don’t need to be shamed into changing. You don’t want to be told what you’re apparently doing wrong.

Chances are, you’re not doing anything wrong, and reading a book that makes you feel more shit about yourself is only going to feed your anxiety and problem. Nor is a book titled ‘Fat Pig: adventures in greed, rejection and flab’ going to help you with body issues.

And if you’ve picked up a book called '10  Short Steps To Success, Riches and Happiness', I think you know what I’m going to say.

Protect yourself

When you’re looking for help, chances are you’re in a vulnerable place. Look after yourself. Only give your heart to people you trust not to crush it.

Give yourself time, space, and celebrate the shit out of your small wins.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly...

Sometimes you don’t need anyone else. You have more wisdom than you know inside yourself. Ask yourself  the question you want answered, listen hard for the answer, and trust yourself.

You matter, you’re the expert on your life, after all.

I’d love to hear what you think - let me know in the comments!