October 15, 2016

A Cynic’s Guide to entering the Self-Help World without being Woo Woo.


I’ve always been skeptical of the self-help world.

My dad has been a long time subscriber and his spiritual journey often felt…confusing. For example, he wasn’t afraid to tell us (his kids) to “shut up!” because he was meditating.

Plus, I’ve always identified myself as a fairly cynical and sarcastic person. I held this belief that if you are drawn to a darker humor or enjoy sarcasm, you couldn’t party with the self-help world.

It wasn’t until a friend recommended a self-help book that I realized how false my ideas were and have since found so much beauty in this world.

My Self-Help Takeaways:

Gratitude: Learn it. Live it. Your life will improve. Immediately. As a cynic it’s easy to go down the life is hard and why me path. Plus, the news is filled with horror stories. As Steven Fry said: How loving and benevolent could God be if he created pediatric bone cancer?

One of the sweetest, funniest, most popular kids in my high school died in a car crash. One of my closest friends was at the wheel. I could go on and on. We all could. Life is filled with tragedies, which is why it’s so important to focus on the beauty. To actively seek it out.

That said, you can be cynical and be grateful. This is where I struggled: the idea of “practicing gratitude” always felt forced to me, like people who were practicing gratitude were somehow ignoring their pain and the pain of the world.

As someone naturally drawn to the cynical and sarcastic, it certainly didn’t feel like me. What I have learned though is that having gratitude isn’t about ignoring your pain: it’s about understanding it, dealing with it and making a choice to actively seek out the beauty of life, in spite of it.

Gratitude and Hardship: Having a screwed up childhood, divorce, loss of loved ones, none of that means you can’t still be a grateful person. Vulnerabilities do not make you weak, they make you human. I really enjoyed listening to Tony Robbins talk about how people who have had the deepest tragedies can rise to be the most empathetic, strong, kind hearted people.

Too often in our society we are willing to sympathize with victims and then label them as “damaged.” If people are able to work through their tragedies, they have the potential to soar higher than people who have not had them. I truly believe in the idea: “Rougher seas make better sailors.” If you can learn how to navigate these hardships, you will be a better “life sailor.”

Talking about things makes things more manageable. Cynical bad-ass Fred Rogers stated: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” Okay, Fred Rogers may not have been that cynical but he was adorable and honest and he knew that, if you can talk about your dark times, you can manage them.

Also, make art because no one gives a f*ck. People are often so concerned about what people are going to think about them, but the sad, awesome truth is: no one really gives a sh*t.

So have an opinion. Create. Rock the boat.

When you’re on your death bed are you going to be thinking: “I’m really glad I didn’t create anything because Matt the middle school dickhead might have made fun of me.” Matt the dickhead has other things going on besides your art. He’s walking around terrified that everyone’s going to find out why he’s such a dickhead. 

Also, people will complain no matter what you do. I know a girl who created a bucket list for her two year old daughter who is dying of cancer; it was the sweetest, most beautiful thing in the world and yet still people called her “selfish” online. It’s insane.

People have their own shit and it can make them nasty and mean and it has nothing to with you, unless you let it. I can’t help but think about what if this mother thought about what some online troll thought about her creating a bucket list and didn’t do it. All that beauty and kindness would be lost. And for what?

I read a news article yesterday questioning Mother Teresa’s motives. Mother Teresa (a literal saint) can’t escape this treatment. Do you think she’s sitting on her saint cloud regretting her life of service? No. She’s eating a saint sandwich (my guess would be a BLT), hanging out with Nelson Mandela, and waiting for Bette Milder to get there.

My final takeaway: Life’s not about how much you have, but how much you give. There is so much focus on consumerism and keeping up with the Joneses that the real joy of giving is lost.

Never in a eulogy is the square footage of someone’s house mentioned. When summing up someone life it’s about how they gave back to their community, how they helped people and their relationships with the people they loved.

With that I am grateful that you took the time to read this and allowed me to share. I know that time is the greatest gift you can give someone and so to everyone reading this: Thank You. Thank you from the depths of my cold black heart.




Author: Deirdre Londergan

Images: TV Still

Editor: Travis May

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