Self Help is Not What the Gurus are Telling You


If you are new to self help you might be thinking that it is a recent philosophy due to the recent popularity of many of the leaders in the genre. If you walk in to any bookstore and venture down the self help aisle you will notice the shelves are overflowing with titles so varied you might be confused to what this movement really does mean.

Let us go back to the beginning of self help and examine what all the fuss is about. Samuel Smiles wrote ‘Self Help’, and it was published in 1859. It is considered by many to be the first book released on the subject. The books main meaning was that God helps those who help themselves. The emphasis was on virtue, sobriety and honest labour. This time was very influenced by the church and my guess is they had a hand in whatever was published at the time.

‘As a Man Thinketh’, by James Allen was published In 1902. It is a classic self help book with its central message saying that we can control our thoughts and therefore our future. After that, there were a steady stream of books published that blended self help with radical spirituality. The authors contributing to this include, William Walker Atkinson, Bruce MacLelland and Annie Besant. This movement away from relying on forces outside of ourselves was very new but very empowering.

The modern self help movement we know of today began with the publication of a number of fundamental books by Wallace D. Wattles’ ‘The Science of Getting Rich’ (1910), Florence Scovel Shinn’s ‘The Game of Life and How to Play It’ (1925), Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ (1936) and Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’ (1937). Many of these focused on creating wealth and in my opinion that is not the only factor in self help.

Recently “The Secret” movie brought great awareness to the Law of Attraction. This law has its origins in Victorian spirituality which took inspiration from Hinduism, one of the world’s oldest religions. This was first mentioned explicitly in Madame Blavatsky’s ‘Isis Unveiled’ and can be recognized in many books on self help today.

If you consider the words self help, it literally means helping yourself and in order to do this you need to educate yourself on the subject matter that will benefit you. Where this can get complicated is you yourself are complicated to begin with. You are a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being that could use self help in every category. It is up to you to determine what areas you need help in and then, to not waste time, find someone who has walked that path and made the mistakes already so you do not have to.