How to not be Normative while Writing Self Help

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Those of us who like to write about personal growth and make self help recipes, often run the risk of generalizing and being factually incorrect about what we say. That’s one of the criticisms of self help books and superficial marketing that follows along with. My professor at college too told me that self help, motivational gurus etc.  is not “real psychology” and its just voodoo or guru shit. Agreed, that a lot of writers who write self help are very commercial, and often inaccurate in their ideas, but there is a way that one can genuinely wish good for their readers and be less assuming, pseudo-scientific in their ideas at the same time.

Often, this is the reason why I myself sometimes don’t write as freely or frequently (took me 5 years after I was writing privately to even start this page), because I not only fear being wrong about my ideas and facts, but that I can be offending people who do actual research on these subjects.

Here are some of the tips I thought of that could help reduce the risk of talking too much faff:

  1. Claim: When you write about personal growth recipes that you have made, understand that they are by definition subjective, and may not work for everyone, hence don’t claim that they are “objective” in the first place. It is as simple as that. Perhaps just suggest that this is an idea that worked for you or you think may work. It’s better to not call your theory/recipe “scientific”. We get that you want to motivate and convince people that your shit works but you might insult science and scientists who work for years to understand something in the process.
  2. Narrative: While writing personal growth recipes, always write about what happened with you in detail so that it is very much your own story and narrative at the end of which you share the realizations and recipe. The background can actually be more important since that’s where you share your experience, journey and context. Cultural, socio-economic, educational context of your issue helps put an accurate picture for your reader. When someone belongs to a similar context, the narrative can be more relatable and the recipe may actually work in that person’s case.
  3. Be specific: After sharing your narrative, one of the ways that you can actually help people is define exactly what areas your narrative and realizations can help one in, i.e. the theme of your struggle. You can directly hence target people who are facing that very issue and provide them assistance through your content. It is preferred, and a boon if you are always able to find people with the same theme of struggle along with an overlapping cultural, financial context. This can ensure that there is more impact of your writing!
  4. Offering help: I understand the need and desire to help others can be very strong sometimes, but something that I have realized is that if you are not licensed or certified (as a coach, counselor etc.), don’t charge your “clients”, or charge an extremely minimal fee to speak with you one-on-one. Offer to speak to them for free or on a voluntary basis, have meet-ups, group discussions on specific themes of interest, but no need to make it sound like a professional consultation. Post your certification, you still may be in a place to charge them. The credibility of a life coaching certification itself can be problematic for many, because the field is hardly regulated, but the least one can do is have it as one form of reliability, if not a degree in counselling yet.

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