Self help, also commonly known as self improvement, refers to personal development. Personal development usually has a spiritual or psychological foundation and is often categorized under economic improvement, intellectual improvement, or emotional improvement. The key components of self help are self-reliance, publicly accessible literature, and support groups.
Self help groups are centered on peer-to-peer support, and there are literally thousands available for an individual suffering from any emotional, physical or spiritual problem.
Some of the benefits of self help groups are:
- Friendship and networking
- Emotional reinforcement
- Knowledge acquired and shared through experience
- Help with re-establishing identity and boosting self-confidence
- Meaningful roles and service work
- Personal growth
- A sense of belonging
- Infomercials, which are aired on national and local television channels.
- Mail-order catalogues obtained by writing or emailing the production company, prominent examples include: Comfortably Yours: Aids for Easier Living, The Do-able Renewable Home, and Tools for Living
- Holistic Institutes, meaning institutes that provide mind, body, heart, and spiritual services for an individual. Services include massages, acupuncture, weight loss programs, therapy directed at self-motivation and self empowerment, and spiritual healing.
Self help books are one of the most popular modes of self-help and are meant to aid the reader in successfully resolving any number of personal issues. Simplified psychology and characteristics of human behaviors are two methods of discussion usually found in a self help book. Two examples of self-help books are the Dummies Guides and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to:
- Audio cassettes/CDs or iPod downloads usually profile a motivational speaker
- Seminars include a motivational speaker, and an advertised self help program
- Personal and life coaching
- Stress management programs
Historically, the self-help movement began to evolve when Dale Carnegie published his famous book in 1936 – How to Win Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie was, reportedly, obsessed with the link between success and self esteem. His various books have sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937 and written by Napoleon Hill, was another key influence for the blooming self-help industry. Hill discussed the use of positive thinking to attract happiness, wealth, and satisfaction by utilizing the “infinite intelligence.”
Recently, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne became a blockbuster hit in the self-improvement market. She discusses and demonstrates how positive thoughts and images will lead to obtaining what we visualize for our lives.
Although the self-help industry is a growing every year, some critics disagree about whether or not self-help books and programs give “easy answers to difficult personal problems.” Author, Wendy Kaminer, questions the self-help market in her book – I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional. She criticizes the self help movement for motivating individuals to work on self improvement alone rather than joining a social movement to resolve personal issues.