The anti-self-help movement*

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately. Substack is my new podcasts. I’m obsessed, in a good way, I think.

I get to read the work of my favourite thinkers, their actual words, not approved by a publisher, but something they work on and publish themselves. I know I’ll sound like I’m promoting the platform, it actually feels like Twitter, without the bullshit. Or maybe it feels more like picking and choosing the parts of a newspaper you want to read, mostly as long-form writing. You might call them essays. Some feel like treaties.

The sort of essays you rarely get to read anymore unless you subscribe to some great indie press that only 5 people have heard of (tell me!) They’re long. They’re raw (but well edited, because we’re not wild animals). They’re hard and, on a good day, I might understand at most 70% of what they’re saying. (But on no day do I manage to get anyone to read them, so I can’t ask questions about the remaining 30%).

Many of the newsletters I read (I know, I’m actually reading emails again!) feel like they are “anti-self-help”. But, I suppose they end up being self-help in reverse.

Given all this, tonight I wondered:

Am I reading these anti-self-help newsletters to stroke my ego when I come across something I have (not) been doing since way back? Do I want to learn a thing or two? To adapt? Or am I literally looking for the bits that already align with me so I can feel pleased with myself that I’m just like the author?

*Not actually a movement, nor a cult.

This is a cult