Is Your Business Suffering From Self-Help Syndrome?

Aug 05

Running your own creative business will stir up every neurotic impulse you’ve ever had, and then it will invent a few new ones just for fun.

My New Self-Help Book: 30 Days To Overcome Self Help Syndrome

You’re not alone in this; even the most experienced, qualified, and talented entrepreneurs struggle with doubt, fears, crippling and crippled egos, performance anxieties, over/under confidence, gambling too big, risking too little, yadda yadda into infinity and beyond.

Left untended, those neurotic quirks can cause big problems for your business.  A minor anxiety about finances can lead to avoiding record keeping which leads to tax nightmares.  Feeling less-than-confident about your writing can mean you avoid answering emails and miss sales.  Your over-compensating ego can mean you won’t even consider advice from experts and are forever re-inventing the wheel.

Letting your psyche run roughshod over your business? It’s just bad for business.

You already know all of this, I’m sure.

I know that you’re an astoundingly self-aware bunch who regularly takes a non-judgmental (if informal) inventory of personal strengths and weaknesses. You’ve thought hard about how your shortcomings might impact your business, and you’ve decided that you’re just not going to let that happen.

And your plan for not-letting-that-happen is…. ?

Yes, a plan would be good, ducklings.  And by plan, I don’t mean that you’re just going to get over it.

What’s that? Oh, you’ve made up your mind that you can overcome these weaknesses of yours with sheer determination and force of will? Oh, Honeybear!

Leaping Over Tall (imaginary) Buildings In Single Bounds! Yay! Do you also think you can leap over tall buildings in a single bound? If so, please see the previous mention of “over-confidence” because there’s a good chance things just won’t work out this way.

In the real world (as opposed to on the Dr. Phil show) very few of our personal weaknesses will vanish into thin air if we just apply enough determination. In fact, trying to force our way past our quirky little neuroses can put them under such pressure that they spill out of the seams, making a big ol’ mess at the worst possible time, right in front of our biggest clients.

Mind you, yes, there are some circumstances and some people where the “push through it” approach will work.  So if you want to try? Go for it!

Just promise me that if the problem isn’t resolved in 1 week (that means fully* resolved, with no no left-over twinges, nervous ticks or neurotic residue) you’ll come back and read the rest of this post. Deal?

“But Tori, I *do* know this!”

“That’s why I’m signing up for Dr. Janet’s brand new cure-your-neurosis-in-3-months-or-else program! Oh, and her energy healing program, too. I’ve got this licked!”

I get it, duckling. I do.

And it makes total sense to put important aspects of your business on hold while you try out self-improvement and soul-development programs, right?


This is what I call Self-Help Syndrome

It’s when our first problem-solving impulse is to delve into our own psyche, and try to find or fix whatever personal issues might be holding us back.

It’s when our first problem-solving instinct isn’t to check the business management bookshelf, but the self-help section.

It’s when we confuse our business development with our personal development.

It’s when we hide from the skeery unknown business stuff that we might measurably fail at, reverting back to the comfort zone of our own self-improvement, where there is no “failure”, only stages of growth and discovery.

Now, I can hear some of you objecting wildly at this point.  So  before you torch me as a heretic, read a tiny bit further, ok?

There is nothing inherently wrong with
personal development and self-help programs.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a better person, or to overcome your weaknesses.  Me? I’m a big fan of advanced personal-development stuff, which is why I know what a trap it can be, business-wise.

So the question isn’t whether self-help is good, or bad.  The question is this:

Do you really want to put your business on hold every time you discover a new area of your psyche that needs developing?

It’s time to make a decision.

Is your primary business goal to make a sustainable profit, to change the world, or to become a better person?

No, they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Owning a successful business does not mean you need to become a dishonest parody of a car-salesman-turned-internet-marketer.  And becoming a better person doesn’t require you to toss aside all material things and turn your business into a charity, either.

But when it comes to getting past your business-breaking quirks, you need to have your priorities firmly in mind. (And honestly, there are easier ways to become a better person than owning your own business)

"The E in Email stands for EVIL!" <-- irrational fear that might be a problem for your online business Want an example? Ok!

Let’s say you have an irrational hatred of opening your email. so you procrastinate, and it’s causing you problems.  You’re missing time-sensitive messages from clients and potential clients, and you know you’re losing business and the faith of your customers because of it.

You’ve got a couple of choices:

1. You can take the self-improvement approach, and spend the next 3 months working through a series of “Stop Procrastinating!” workbooks, audios and therapy sessions.  You’ll end up a more self-aware person (which is good) and maybe you’ll even stop procrastinating about your emails (which is better). Meanwhile, you’ve had three more months of lost emails and opportunities (totally not good).

2.Or you can treat your business like a business, and look for the simplest, most cost-effective and likely-to-work solution –- one that doesn’t rely on rearranging your psyche to succeed. And you can still do the stop procrastinating course, as a backup.

This is one of the few times I find it helpful to approach things like a Big Business.

If I were managing a team, and an otherwise valuable member was struggling to answer emails, I’d look at the options:

  • Do they understand that this is part of the job?
  • Do they need some sort of process training?
  • Can I assign them a part time assistant?
  • Can I outsource emails to a service?
  • Can the email tasks themselves be reassigned?
  • Is there an alternate, email-free way of handling these tasks?

And if I were a really good manager? I’d do a couple of these things, just to make sure the problem stayed solved.

What I wouldn’t do? Suggest my employee seek therapy for their irrational fear of emails. Because that would be a Human Resources nightmare & potential lawsuit.


Why are so many of us treating ourselves in ways that would get a big business manager sued, reprimanded or fired?

You have options.

Instead of butting your head against the roadblocks of your weaknesses and beating yourself up for them, find a creative way to work with and around those weaknesses. Shore them up. Hire someone to sort your email. Ask a friend to help, or offer an exchange of services. Set up a system that doesn’t rely on email as your primary contact with clients – maybe support-ticket software,  or you could make a forum or Facebook your primary customer service portal.

There are options like this for every conceivable weakness.

Really. There are!

Even if you’re a solopreneur, you have options.

There’s no reason to delay your success

And no need to put your business on hold while you struggle through your quirks, shortcomings and weaknesses.  You *can* work around them.

That doesn’t mean that overcoming your weaknesses is a pointless, or hopeless task. Doing that self-work is still worth doing.  But if your priority for your business is to have it be profitable, don’t *wait* on the business tasks – find a way to make sure they get done now.

Don’t make your business succeed or fail on the strength of your self-improvement program.

P.S. If reading this made you hyperventilate? Go here and listen. It’s ok, really. Promise!

It's Another Flourish!


  1. Self-help has never really helped me anyways…but please don’t send me to the giraffe-atarium for crazy people. Maybe I can just make my neurotic quirks a selling feature. Hmm…any ideas? I could be my own freak show? Er, um, sell tickets so people could watch me freak out. Oh, wait! I’m supposed to be the action-adventure hero now. Let’s see? I swing across a deep chasm on my whip and then rescue the…oh, who am I fooling? Look at the title of the last post I wrote. It’s a dead giveaway that I’m hopelessly neurotic. Big action adventure hero I am…saving myself from my own shadow!

  2. What?! You mean I CANT jump over a building in a single leap?! You mean I’m not Supergirl? That’s just preposterous!

    I do see what your saying here, there are always ways to work around a difficulty or obstacle, something I am hoping my little stories over at my site will help people see too.

  3. Okay, being more serious…

    I’ve thought about this post over the weekend and, while there can sometimes be a tendency to set aside business to deal with personal issues, there can also be a tendency to throw oneself into work to avoid dealing with one’s problems. I was a workaholic for years because I didn’t want to leave time to think, feel, or deal with personal issues.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. 🙂

  4. Tori Deaux /

    @Emily, good observation… this is definitely applicable to Spoonies and others with various limitations!

    @Christy, yepp,it works both ways. We get our intents all tangled up! And no giraffe-atarium or strait jackets for you. You’re as sane as I am. (whatever that may mean)

  5. Among the mental issues business people periodically grapple with, there’s also writer’s block, if you’re a blogger or author. Sometimes inspiration is lacking, and the ideas are just not forthcoming…

    • Tori Deaux /

      @Sonny – Ohhh, writer’s block makes a great example of what I was trying to get at here!

      Sometimes, we sit at the keyboard, staring, frustrated, fussing at ourselves and trying to cure our block… when what may be needed is a different approach. Or *gasp* to hire a writer, editor or writing coach for that particular project.