Does Self-Help Do More Harm Than Good?
(Only if you fail to do this)

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I’d like you to meet Kate.

Her desire:

To lose 20 pounds.

She had discovered the world of “self-help” four years ago.

And she was obsessed ever since.

When Kate came to me, she had worked with eight coaches prior.

She confided in me that in her desperate “seeking” over the previous 1460 days, she never lost the weight.

In fact, she actually gained 10 additional pounds.

Why?

Kate had fallen prey to self-help binging.

And you know what?

She’s not alone.

What at first can offer so much possibility – buying programs, hiring mentors and filling up your Kindle with the latest self-help books – can quickly turn into overconsumption with zero action.

Self-help doesn’t help . . . you unless you help you.

I was having a discussion the other night with a friend.

She admitted to buying 5 programs in a month.

None of which she ever completed.

She asked me:

“Do you think self-help can do more harm than good?”

My calm response:

“Only if you consume it and never create something from it.”

Yes, self-help is amazing when you apply it to your life.

I’ve seen a lot of women “pretend” to do the work by simply reading one more book, signing up for one more program and taking one more workshop.

There’s a thrill in the quest, but that thrill is often followed by disappointment with a pattern that keeps you trapped as a self-help consumer instead of a creator.

It’s like stuffing your fridge with delicious ingredients and never cooking a meal. Everything gets rotten and smelly. And then you have to throw everything out into the trash and start over.

Constant consumption is easy; the real work is hard – and so, SO rewarding.

Said another way. . .

Consuming more information is not the work.

The work is taking what you’re learning and applying it to your life.

I’m not a fan of the term “self-help.”

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it seems to confirm one of the main issues I see, which is seeing yourself as broken and needing a fix.

You’re not broken and you don’t need fixin’

(as we say in the South).

I prefer personal growth or development.

And, it’s a world I truly love.

I love the idea that we can grow and evolve beyond who we are today, and we can do it from a place of joy and love, not fear and scarcity.

I’m always seeking out personal development mentors.

When it comes to the personal development world, I am convinced that I would NOT be where I am today without the amazing teachers and mentors who helped me see what’s possible and taught me how to be a better version of myself.

You don’t know what you don’t know. When I think about the young girl living in the trailer, I didn’t know that certain things were possible, but through books and teachers, my world started to expand.

Because, I want to keep evolving and growing, I value personal development and its ability to show me the next possibility that I don’t know where I am.

I take at least 4 programs per year.

And, I just paid 25K for my next mentor. Yep, that’s a big chunk of change, but I believe in myself enough to do the work. And, doing the work = results.

I enjoy investing in inspiration, coaching, and other personal development programs, but the investment only produces an ROI if I put in the work.

I don’t expect my coaches and mentors to do the work for me. I value their feedback, but my success is my job.

And, as a woman who has evolved so many times and is completely unrecognizable to the woman I was over a decade ago, I know when I invest in my personal growth . . .

It’s going to be uncomfortable.

It’s going to challenge and push me.

I’ll have to make hard decisions.

I’ll have to evolve beyond the woman I am today (which often feels like a death because you’re letting your old self-die).

I’ll have to say “no” more.

I’ll risk failure and rejection.

I’ll have to overcome my doubt.

I’ll have to let go of habits that no longer serve me.

I’ll have to DO the work.

I’ll have to create.

From over a decade of creating, I know that this is what you sign up for when you decide to live a bold, passionate life.

I’ve heard so many women say, “That book didn’t help me,” or “that program didn’t work.”

It’s time to get honest with yourself:

Did you help yourself?

Did you work the program?

Magical things happen when you take what you’re learning and CREATE something from it.

Here are a few examples from my life:

I had a deep desire to become someone who wrote about wine, even though I didn’t know the first thing about wine!

So I got educated. When I finished sommelier school, I immediately started pitching myself as a wine expert to get writing gigs and consulting jobs. Keep in mind that my mind was telling me I wasn’t ready but I knew that the only way to learn more was to create something.

I had a deep desire to leave my nursing career and become a life coach.

My first step was to get certified. While I was in my coach certification program, I hired a website designer and started my blog. Before I finished, I had paying clients. Was I the best coach back then? No! But through creating something, I have developed my skills and consider myself one of the top coaches in my space.

I hired a COO.

As an entrepreneur, every business book and program I had ever taken said, “You can’t do it alone.” Yet, my mind tried to convince me that I was different and special. Yes, my mind was scared of the investment of bringing on someone that would cost me more than I made as a nurse. Yet, I knew that I had to trust my mentors and go all in. I hired her, and it was the best decision for myself and the company. We 10x our revenue for that year.

I had a deep desire to lose weight.

Then, there was my weight problem. When I was over 70 pounds heavier, I loved to consume diet information. But reading Skinny Bitch does not make one Skinny. In fact, my obsession with consumption and not creation only supplied more evidence that I’d always struggle. When I committed to making peace with food and my body and started taking action, I lost the weight and have kept it off for years.

I had a deep desire to take women on International retreats.

Long before I heard of life coaches hosting international retreats, it was a dream of mine. I had no formula or step-by-step on how to do it. I didn’t even know I could hire an event planner. But, I set the date, advertised and filled up the program where one of our destinations was Monaco. I planned the whole thing myself. Was it the most spectacular retreat ever? Lord, no! In fact, compared to the caliber of my retreats that I host today, it was very amateur. But, I created an international retreat.

I did the work.

I created something from my consumption.

The 3 rules I follow to turn personal development into personal freedom

I bet you and me are a lot alike.

We love learning, growing and evolving.

And, I don’t want you to get me wrong.

It’s important that we learn new things because we don’t know what we don’t know. Right?

Yet, we must be mindful of our intentions and honest with our results.

Here are a few rules I use in my own life that really help me turn all that I’m learning into my own creation,

#1. I commit to following through on every program I invest in.

By following through, I mean scheduling classes and calls into my calendar (just like a college class) and doing the homework.

I do not allow myself to buy program after program, just like I no longer allow myself to binge eat.

I know that the thrill of investing only to be followed by the disappointment of not showing up for myself.

When I think about all the things I want to feel about myself, disappointment is not one of them.

#2. I only allow a small and selective crew into my head at any given time.

We can start consuming so much information from so many people that our mind starts to sound like a self-help choir.

For this reason, I carefully consider who I let into my mind space. My personal development crew is a lot like my close friend circle: small and mighty. I decide who these people will be based on the next evolution of myself and my goals. This approach allows me to dig deep into their wisdom and really create momentum versus jumping from one “expert” to another only touching the surface of their brilliance (and often leaving me “confused”).

#3. I diversify my consumption

While I love Tony Robbins, if that’s all I ever consumed, I’d probably go batshit crazy.

Equally, the same could be said about me, Suze Orman or anyone.

When it comes to who I focus on, I often switch up industries.

Some seasons, it’s about health/wellness.

Other seasons are all about style or finances.

Without spilling the beans I just enrolled in a college program that I am SO excited for that has nothing to do with my current industry and yet, it will complement my work at French Kiss Life immensely.

As women, our soul needs the diversity to keep us inspired and French Kissing Life.

If you’ve been binging in the personal development world for a long time and aren’t seeing any results, it tells me one thing:

You’re consuming, not creating.

Here’s what the BIG LIE of “doing the work” looks like:

  • Reading a book is not the work.
  • Watching a video is not the work.
  • Listening to a call is not the work.
  • Listening to podcasts is not the work
  • Reading this post is not the work.
  • Perusing Facebook for hours is not the work.
  • Joining the gym is not the work
  • Paying for a program is not the work

Here’s what the work REALLY looks like:

  • Refusing to eat the second cookie after a hard day and feeling immense discomfort.
  • Handing out your resume to ten companies even though you’re feeling doubt.
  • Booking the ticket even though your mind is telling you that you shouldn’t take time away from your family.
  • Getting up an hour earlier to work on your business even when you’re tempted to hit the snooze button.
  • Showing up for your yoga class even though you’d rather go home and binge on Big Little Lies.
  • Wearing that gorgeous dress that’s been hanging in your closet to an upcoming event even though you feel terrified of what people will think.
  • Leaving a relationship that has an expiration date.
  • Being honest with yourself with how you gained the weight and committing to addressing the real issues.
  • Actually forgiving after reading the chapter on forgiveness and understanding it “intellectually.”
  • And, the moment you finish reading this post, taking a small action towards something you desire.

Want to self-help yourself? Create something from what you’re learning.

Information, in general, can be the catalyst to miracles when you take what you’re learning and apply it to your life.

In a nutshell, taking action towards what you say you want and feeling every ounce of discomfort that comes with living your dreams is the work of the creative process.

My clients get results because we have this frank discussion. I dish out some “T.L. Tough Love” (Tonya Leigh Tough Love) and help them see that I’m not their miracle nor are my programs.

The miracle is within them and my programs and myself are simply their guides and support to keep them moving in the direction of their dreams.

Here are some things my clients have created:

  • More confidence
  • A published book
  • Forgiveness of family members
  • A size 6 body
  • A new home
  • Better relationships
  • More travel
  • A successful business
  • Finishing their degree
  • New life after divorce

Basically, my clients are creating new futures by doing the work.

As for Kate…

She lost the weight and went on to work with me for another year to help her find the man of her dreams.

That was three years ago and she is now married with an 18-month little girl.

She stopped consuming and started creating.

She did the hard work of . . .

. . . refusing to stuff down her feelings.

. . . going on a walk when her brain was telling her to wait until tomorrow.

. . . getting out of the house and going to events.

. . . having a few bad dates in order to have her dream one.

. . . dressing up every day even though her mind was telling her how “silly” it was.

Are you ready for more inspiration?

Stay tuned because…

I am about to release some very unique blog posts/podcasts that are a series of interviews with some fabulous women in our community (just like you) who have created amazing results in their lives by committing to the practice and creating their lives on purpose.

Their stories will inspire you to continue to create, especially on days when you don’t feel like it.

So, if you are not yet a French Kiss Life subscriber (GO HERE TO SUBSCRIBE) so you can be notified when each interview goes live

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JOIN THE CHIC CONVERSATION: Let’s cultivate a flurry of creation! What’s one thing you commit to creating this week?

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10 Responses to Does Self-Help Do More Harm Than Good?
(Only if you fail to do this)

  1. This is so good!!! A couple of days ago, I was out with a girlfriend (and newbie to the FKL programs through CTR) and I shared with her how I was not taking inspired action in a couple areas of my life and how it was time out for laziness and stagnancy. One area was in my spirituali life. So, today I took action which also took me outside my comfort zone, I attended a new church that is affiliated with a different denomination – ALONE. It was a wonderful experience! I came home and discovered the new podcast in my email. How affirming is that! Thanks for the TL love ❤️.

    • I’ve invested in three of your programs and I work the heck out of them. That makes them priceless to me! Blowing my own mind is a pretty exciting thing and it surely happens now. I am extremely grateful for the wisdom you have brought to my life Tonya! I can never fully explain what an extraordinary gift YOU are to me!

      • Marcia, this is what I admire and respect about you! You DO THE WORK, which is why you are creating results. Thank you for being such a great example! And, you know I adore you :).

  2. Thank you for this blog post, as it was exactly what I needed to hear! I especially appreciated the specific examples you included because sometimes you just need some tough love, something concrete to hold on to, and a reminder that showing up for yourself isn’t always comfortable…and that other people feel that way, too!

    “And, the moment you finish reading this post, taking a small action towards something you desire.”

    After reading this post yesterday, I took this last example to heart by spending the rest of the day soaking in sunshine, sand, and roaring surf at the beach. Then, I took it a step further by facing my fear (terror!) of the dark to sit under a breathtakingly starry sky in the pitch black, which culminated in me seeing the milky way AND bio-luminescence in the ocean for the very first time. It was magic! It was awe! It was wonder! I was ALIVE! It wasn’t comfortable to be so scared and cold, but I hope I never forget what that moment felt like.

  3. Dear Tonya, I loved this episode, it really, really applies to me (more than I’d like to admit!) I have a question for you. How do you stay focused? I wake up every day with a plan and a list and the best of intentions, yet I often get derailed and distracted. Please help!

  4. Tonya, this REALLY spoke to me this morning! I missed hearing your voice every day after SCS and the modern day icon programs, so listening to this was just a blessing! So much gratitude that you are my mentor!!!

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