The dishonesty of self-help

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My English is fluent and practically perfect. My written English is less good but it still serves me well.
 
My English proficiency is a highly prized skill because the English language makes a decent claim to be the earth’s primary language. If Aliens ever do arrive, the attempted introductions are most likely to be in English. And of all the billions of people who have some English language skills, I would rank amongst the world’s elite speakers of English.
 
Not that this is much to boast about,  of course. Such commanding English is hardly noteworthy given that I was born in England. It is my first language and only language, in fact.
 
But I shouldn’t be too hard on myself because I still have much better English than a huge swathe of my countrymen. And I don’t just mean the ill-advised youth who deliberately mis-speak because they think it makes them sound cool – when in fact it just makes them even more unemployable.
 
How did your English exam go?
Yeah brov, done good, man.
Er… No you didn’t.
 
No, I refer to a growing contingent of adults and often an ‘educated’ elite who can’t speak properly either. Allow me to demonstrate…
 
Are you well?
Well, that depends…
I welled up.
I will fetch a pale of water from the well.
Well?
Well done, you.
Medium rare or well done?
Well, well, well. What have we here?
 
You can see a theme here, hopefully. These are examples of uses of the short but versatile word, well. I used it earlier when I said ‘my written English is less good but it still serves me well.’ No doubt, you can think of other examples…
 
But I hope, not wellness.
 
I know that language evolves and that our vocabulary constantly expands. Woke being a good recent example, no longer just a word for arousing from sleep. Being ‘woke’ now means something quite different. It is a condition where-by people appear to be very angry and it seems for a lot of the time. It must be exhausting. But having ‘woke’ as a word might be necessary because it  allows us to have discussions and derivations also, like ‘wokeness.’
 
But how necessary is the word wellness?
 
I have a good idea what it means. I imagine that it is the general sense of feeling well.
And here it is then,  the case against ‘wellness’ as a word - is that we already have the perfectly adequate word, WELL. 
As in…
Are you well?
Yes, I am very well, thank you.
 
Is anyone confused by this short exchange? Is it too vague for some people. No, of course it isn’t. So then why do we need a new word, wellness?
 
Well…
 
Because wellness means much more. It is broader and more encompassing; a combination of our physical and mental disposition. A more complete sense of being well.
 
Er… you mean, like healthy? Or happy. Or how about, well-being?
 
But this is to miss the point of wellness and this happens to be money. Because Wellness happens to be a multi-billion dollar industry. A faux science which has mushroomed in the self-help space where a great many practitioners should check themselves and question its ethics and validity.  
 
A quick search on Amazon throws some light on this with plethora books claiming to hold the secrets of wellness…
 
The Wellness Revelation,
Wellness by Design,
The Wellness Remodel,
Complete Wellness,
Wellness Coaching…
and
Wellness is just dressed up Bullshit
 
(The last one is not yet the tile of a book but I am tempted)
 
And not just wellness for humans either. We love our pets, right? And we want them to experience wellness too. So how about…
Energy Wellness for your Pet, or A Complete Guide to Wellness with CBD…
 
Because it is only in this broad church of self-help that the word wellness is ever used. Never in everyday language. Not in my experience anyway. People ask me all the time, ‘am I well?’  But never have I been asked, ‘hey Dom, how is your wellness?’
Professionals who are charged with our well-being (health), like doctors of medicine (real, actual doctors) would never ask such a thing.
 
I think we should be wary of such trends. Or mindful even, which brings me neatly onto ‘mindfulness’, another dubious word that we spend a fortune pursuing and making a few people very rich.
 
Another soft academic science to take advantage of people’s insecurity and their search for happiness. Publishers and authors on-hand and in cahoots to shamefully fill their boots.
 
My English skills might be high but my mathematical skills are correspondingly low. I am much more comfortable with a fitted sheet than a balance sheet. I have a basic grasp of numbers and just enough to understand that 110% is not a thing. Anything more than 100% is impossible and why I cringe whenever I hear it.
 
But this is an over-reaction on my part. I know what 110% means and it does no harm. Not really. Unlike the new movements in our social sciences which I think can and do harm people and at the very least, exploits people. 
 
My last gigs this year were in Dubai, an adult playground of hedonism consisting mainly of shopping malls and opulent hotels. And where practically the entire workforce is bussed in from all over the world. It tends to attract people of a certain type. The young of course, on the lookout for fun and excitement but also many people on a rebound or who appear to be on the run from something. Restless types in search of something that they can't really define. I say this because in Dubai this year and trawling yet another Mall, I was excited to find a Borders book shop. I asked for the non-fiction department and the lady took me to the self-help section. And this was it. Self-help was the entire non-fiction department. A huge department that dwarfed even fiction. Rows and rows of books on wellness, mindfulness and helping people to find happiness. And this reflects the characteristics of so many of Dubai's transient workforce.
 
The Wellness industry is not terribly edified. It cloaks itself in virtue but is primarily self-serving for its practitioners. If the readers are helped along the way, then great. But I imagine that a great number of these books are started with verve but remain uncompleted. Which is fine for the authors and the publishers, just so long as they are purchased and the money keeps rolling in.
 
And if that book didn’t do it for you and you’re still feeling unhappy, then no problem. Because we have more books for you. Here, try this one at $20, or this one... We have more books coming out all the time and audio recordings…
 

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11 Comments

  1. Beth October 18, 2020
    Reply

    Ever heard of plant wellness. Apparently that’s a thing too. Out of curiosity I have flicked through some of these books and most of them start with chai and kale…

  2. Lorraine October 18, 2020
    Reply

    Love today’s blog Dom. I think all this wellness stuff is a fad and have no time for it at all. Hope you have a good week and all keep well

  3. Megan October 18, 2020
    Reply

    I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s hugely disrupting to my life and really drags me down at times – I was diagnosed when I was 10 and am now in my mid-twenties. I’ve gotten the Disorder down to a ‘manageable’ level, but especially during this pandemic when I’ve felt so much anxiety, it’s up and down. A lot of people mistakenly believe that to have OCD is to be ‘clean’ and ‘neat,’ but I’m a very messy person and it mostly shows itself in routines, compulsions, and intrusive thoughts.

    This is all to say that as someone who has struggled with mental illness since I was very young, it’s been interesting to watch the evolution of how mental illness is perceived. There has been some progress that I am very grateful for but not enough. I think that the ‘wellness’ movement has good intentions to be certain – and it might help some people if they are able to find good tips and practices along the way – but a lot of it falls into the trap of those practitioners wanting to profit off of giving advice that they might not be 100% qualified to give.

    It definitely depends on the individual, but I think for myself, I haven’t found wellness in these trends. Life is hard. People want to attain complete and total happiness and etc., but the reality is that unexpected events can always rock the boat. The trick is not in mastering ‘self-help,’ but in making sure that you have a balance between self-reliance and asking for help in the support system around you when you need it, whether that be from friends or family or licensed doctors or therapists or support groups.

    A long comment, your blog had me thinking! I will be glad if the ‘wellness’ trend helps even one person, but I hope that the industry evolves to offer more sustainable advice.

  4. Sacbé October 18, 2020
    Reply

    One of the Best blogs ever, I’m from México and this blog help, to see what a lot of people do just because want some attention from other person, but now I can see is just to be much cooler. I’m so happy whit you mister Hollad, You help the people to see what is the real life and the real words what exist in this world, I want to say you thank you, you help me to be a better person. ❤️❤️ Greetings from Mexico

    • Jaqueline October 18, 2020
      Reply

      One of the Best blogs ever, I’m from México and this blog help, to see what a lot of people do just because want some attention from other person, but now I can see is just to be much cooler. I’m so happy whit you mister Hollad, You help the people to see what is the real life and the real words what exist in this world, I want to say you thank you, you help me to be a better person. ❤️❤️ Greetings from Mexico. Instagram: @sac__maciel__rosas

  5. Sacbé October 18, 2020
    Reply

    One of the Best blogs ever, I’m from México and this blog help, to see what a lot of people do just because want some attention from other person, but now I can see is just to be much cooler. I’m so happy whit you mister Hollad, You help the people to see what is the real life and the real words what exist in this world, I want to say you thank you, you help me to be a better person. ❤️❤️ Greetings from Mexico. Instagram: @sac__maciel__rosas

  6. Sydnee Coleman October 18, 2020
    Reply

    I’m a bit late but better late then never, lovely blog Mr. H, I can understand the hardness of trying to understand the world and yourself. Self help books help certain people, un-like some of us whom wellness is just fine. I also find it hard to understand a lot of the new slang or trending words. I’m an old soul, I watch old TV, I read old books, I consider myself with a high vocabulary and it takes me at least two months to learn a new slang word from “my” generation or I have to ask a friend with a new emoji means or how to work the new update on Instagram. And to ask, are you doing well with your wellness Mr. H?

  7. Susie October 19, 2020
    Reply

    Well, that was a really deep subject!
    (sorry couldn’t resist)

  8. Rachel Conrad October 19, 2020
    Reply

    Man, I’m jealous. Borders went bankrupt in the US almost ten years ago!
    I loved the blog today! I know I’m not really on the “wellness” wagon either.
    Looking forward to next week’s blog!

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