Hi, my name is Deon and I’m addicted to self-help.
I use self-help to ‘fix’ every problem I have. Since my sophomore at LSU, I’ve read over 50 self-help books. I read self-improvement blogs and listen to podcasts constantly. To avoid having to feel any real emotions of an issue or tragedy, I find a step-by-step list of what I need to do to come out on the other side. I run from feelings to find a new to-do list. I put this same pressure on my friends, family, mothering, and set insanely unrealistic expectations for myself.
When I was 22, I decided reenacting Eat Pray Love would fix all of my millennial, quarter-life crisis problems. I booked a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal for a two-week stay to volunteer at an animal treatment center. I expected to arrive back home looking like Julia Roberts and feeling as spiritually wise as Elizabeth Gilbert. Instead, I stepped back in the Nola airport feeling more tired and ill-prepared than ever to deal with the hornets’ nest of problems I ran away from. I only made it a week, by the way.
When I stumbled upon Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, I decided that this was not only the answer to my family’s finances but also my marriage, life, etc. I mean all of the families on his podcast just seem so happy! This was the answer. I knew it. I started spending hours and hours on budgeting, tying so much deep security to financial plans. When life happened and things didn’t go according to my plans, it made me feel like nothing was secure in my life.
It’s not that these books, blogs, and podcasts that we follow don’t hold value. I have authors and experts to thank for sharing their wisdom in helping me not raise a picky eater (so far), talk to my family the right ‘love language’, understand my worth to negotiate my salary, and so much more.
After having my daughter, God became the center of my life. I started solely seeking wisdom from Christian authors, thinking this was a more noble route to take. Side note: The number of books I read about what the Bible says before actually reading the Bible is embarrassingly high. At some point here, I realized how fruitless these hours of work were rendering me.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Well, I wasn’t experiencing very much of anything. In fact, I was arguably not even getting through anything because I simply checked the boxes on the list, packaged a problem up, and put it away. I wasn’t enjoying life much at all because I was always on a mission to fix everything. I never let myself sit long in the lows, so I never received the full experience of the highs.
In 2020, I exchanged self-help books for novels, books about the Bible for the Bible, and a never-ending to-do list for evenings gardening with my daughter.
Are there coping mechanisms in your life that appear to be positive and productive endeavors that you ultimately use as distractions when life gets tough? Do you channel your energy in work where you’re more likely to yield positive results? Does a quick trip the grocery store turn into a line item that sent you $200 over budget? Does a night of baking turn into a binge eating session? Does a day of using the Konmari method turn your home into a cage match?
The thing is, when you take feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety to a task with the ultimate goal of masking those feelings, they come up, in the end. If you don’t yield the results at work that worked for, the blow hits you abnormally hard. You buy way more than you intended at the store in hopes to have momentary emotional relief. Baking as a distraction rather than an outlet will lead you to the same momentary relief (accompanied by a stomach ache). Also, Marie Kondo doesn’t want you throwing everything out of your house in a rage. (Cue Emily Gilmore getting rid of her dining room chairs because they don’t bring her joy).
I’m not running away from feeling all of the negative feelings in our community right now. I’m definitely not going to teach my daughter to do so. I’m doing my best to embrace the time we are in: The fear of COVID-19, the conversations about race, the fear of hurricane season, and the unsettling feeling I have when I drop my daughter off at the front door of her daycare (rather than getting to walk her to her classroom). I’m going to sit in this low and, cliché as it is, dance in the rain, rather than pretend it isn’t raining. I refuse to put that pressure on myself. There are lessons to be learned right now that simply cannot be learned without the experience. I’m not going to miss out on that. What about you?
I have a degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science. I use my skills to the best of my ability as an advocate for adoptable pets and animal welfare, particularly at Companion Animal Alliance. I have three rescue dogs at home. My daughter’s first word was dog (or ‘gog’). As for my day job, I serve as the Executive Director of a conservative think tank.
I spend the majority of my free time in my garden, attempting to master my Canon camera, reading, walking my daughter through the neighborhood in her wagon, and running.