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There was a time…. and then a second time…. when I almost went bat shit crazy in the name of self-help. (It’s weird writing this, because technically, my work would most likely be found in the “self help” section of Barnes & Noble…even though I like to think of the French Kiss Life Movement being in the inspiration genre sandwiched between style and home decor, but I digress….)

Before being exposed to the power of the mind, I was clueless. If I had a thought, I believed it. ‘You’re a loser and worthless’ led to years of struggling with my body, insecurity and a dark sense of hopelessness that infiltrated my future.

Then, I was introduced to the world of personal development

(a.k.a. Self-Help).

Let the angels sing!

I felt like I could do anything now that I had discovered Self-Help.

  • I was happier in my job (I was working as a full-time nurse).
  • I began to truly appreciate my body again (and found my happy weight).
  • I had more confidence to explore the world and have more fun (and discovered my love of France, food & wine, and style).

And then, I felt that I needed to do more and more.  This is when things took a turn for the worst.  I fell deep into the rabbit hole of the self-help world.  And, that’s when it happened: I fell victim to self-obsession.

Yes, my friend, self-help led to a weird form of neurosis.

I spent an entire year writing down every thought in my head, analyzing every feeling, trying meditation, taking every class. I even attempted chanting to access the divine.  My bookshelf was filled with hundreds (and that’s not an exaggeration) of books on productivity, life hacks, awareness and spirituality.  You name it, I’ve tried it.

Before I knew it, I was consumed with trying to be enlightened.

The days of doing things that brought me joy were consumed with me reading about how to be more joyful.

I was constantly trying to be better at being better.

The quality of my life began to decline with anxiety, worry and sadness.

And, my beautiful life rapidly began to feel dark.

  • Instead of relaxing in front of the TV, I was reading about how to not waste time.
  • Instead of cooking a beautiful meal, I was listening to podcasts on how to have a better body.
  • Instead of hanging out with my daughter, I was reading about being a better parent.
  • Instead of writing, I was reading about how to be a better writer.

Self-help was a vicious cycle of the same damn thing that plagued me in the first place.  It was the flip side of the same coin.  More obsession.  My quest for enlightenment began to feel dark.  I wasn’t good enough…at being productive, being happy or being at peace.

I was so mired down with my thought analysis that I truly felt like I was going crazy.

Have you ever heard the saying,

“You can’t bring the same mind that created the problem to the table to fix it”?

I was ready for a fresh perspective.

How I Permanently Broke the Vicious Cycle of Self Obesession

I soon realized that my mind had been consumed with self-help, I needed something different.

But, what?

The teacher did appear, but not in the form of a therapist or a guru.

In fact, she was a French woman.

Here’s what she said that helped me permanently break the vicious cycle of Self-Help:

“Tonya, what every woman needs is the courage to fully live each day of her life. Some days you feel worthless; other days, you’re on top of the world. It’s messy and it’s fantastic. Wake up, get dressed and go out there and embrace it all.”

And I have the utmost admiration because of the elegant life she’s created for herself.

I cultivated the courage to start living again….I am mean, not just reading about living.

  • I began to create things.
  • I read novels.
  • I connected with friends in person.
  • I cooked beautiful meals.
  • I took the time to make flower arrangements.
  • I enjoyed cleaning my home.
  • I showed up for my clients with more joy and presence.

My big lesson on my self-help journey is two-fold:

LESSON ONE: Self-help is wonderful, until it’s not.

I’m not suggesting you give up improving yourself, because our nature is to be successful human beings.  However, my model of success has changed dramatically.

If improving yourself feels like joy and love, I say go for it.

But, if it feels heavy, dark and like a burden, you may want to give yourself a break.

Success is determined by how much joy and love I feel. {tweet it}

This is about you understanding where you are on your journey and what excites your soul. Remember when I talked about the excitement I had when introduced to self-help? I was on cloud nine. It’s what I needed during that time in my life (until it wasn’t).

Some examples to ponder:

….If reading How to Win Friends and Influence People turns you on, then download immediately and read.

….If the thought of cooking a 5-course dinner feels more appealing, then go to the market and get to cooking.

What I’m *really* trying to say is this:  We need different things during different seasons of our lives.

When I mentor women, I’m always assessing where they are on their journey. We are unique individuals, and I don’t believe in a cookie cutter approach.

One Approach…..If you’ve been running from your feelings and thoughts and have never read a book on awareness, you really need to understand how to manage your mind like a Queen.

On the other hand….If you’ve taken every class, read every book and tried every system and still aren’t creating a life you love, let’s have a different conversation about consuming vs. creating, shall we?

As a woman, you must decide what you truly need during this time in your life. Maybe it’s self-help or maybe it’s something completely different. Only you know.

Self-help is truly wonderful…..until it’s not.

LESSON TWO:  Intention is everything.

Yes, my self-help journey has also taught me about intention.

These days, I’m being guided by a fresh, new perspective.

I ask myself this question:  Why are am I doing it?

The answers that come, however, are not so “tidy” as I may like.   They’re not wrapped in that neat little package. (the truth is that my obsessive self doesn’t dig it so much.)

  • It may be meeting up with girlfriends for a glass of wine or a green juice.
  • It may be reading a trashy novel or pulling out the tarot cards.
  • It may be working a 12-hour day….. or not working at all.
  • It may be going to the gym or lounging on the sofa.
  • It may be taking a dance class or signing up for a personal development program

(I know, I know…I’m being contradictory. But, life isn’t so black and white.  Get it?)

Again, it’s all about the intention behind the act.

  • Playing with potential vs. fixing my flaws.
  • Accessing my creative power vs. proving myself.
  • Praying with gratitude and for guidance vs. begging to be saved.
  • Looking for what’s good & right vs. focusing on all I think is broken.
  • Living fully today vs. putting it off until tomorrow (after I’ve read another book on fixing myself).

Psst…. When I’m not sure (because my tendency is to constantly improve), here’s the question I ask myself that has changed my entire way of being:  “Tonya, What feels like love?”  I can tell you from experience, when I lead my decision making with this question, clarity ensues every time.  Always.

Today I’m all about living with more beauty, ease and elegance, which means lightening up.

My experience has been that it’s impossible to feel light when you’re constantly striving and trying to improve yourself. (Are you ready for another paradox? Sometimes you need help to do this).

Equally, part of the fun of life is in the desire.

What if achieving your heart’s desires is less about improving and more about the playing with your potential and relaxing a little (or a lot)?

Some days, I just want to sit on the sofa and binge watch “Game of Thrones” or eat some chocolate…without guilt.

These days, that’s what I’m doing (calm down, not every day).

My life isn’t falling apart either. If anything, it feels so much richer.

  • I am creating more than ever in my life.
  • I am much more focused and productive.
  • My relationships are so enriching.
  • I’m a more effective business woman.
  • I feel more satisfied each day.
  • I’m taking more risks.

And, low and behold….

I’ve never felt more successful.

With all of this said, I must leave you with one piece of advice: be gentle with yourself.

As my French friend said, “Embrace the mess.”

Your Turn.

So, now I must ask (because maybe it’s just me):

Does self-help ever feel heavy to you?

Or maybe you feel like you’re in a season where it’s just what you need?

I’m curious either way, because there’s no right or wrong here.

It’s always about what feels good to you.

Let’s chat about it in the comments.

With Love & Lightness,

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