Are these self-help tactics hurting you?

Claire Heginbotham
4 min readAug 2, 2021
Photo by Djordje Petrovic from Pexels

One of my first memories from childhood is running around the schoolyard, ‘patching up’ relationships between other kids. Here’s the weird part — I didn’t have any friends.

At 7 or 8, I had two choices. Sit in the playground by myself and read my book, or help two factions make peace. It wasn’t quite as good as having a friend… but at least people needed me. And hey, I was pretty good at resolving arguments.

I grew up in an environment governed by an unstable mother who was at war with herself and the world around her.

And that turned me into a people pleaser. I put my own reactions and feelings aside so as to not ‘upset’ anyone. I do what I think is necessary to get affection.

You can’t fool your subconscious into thinking everything is fine

I always start my therapy sessions the same way. I compliment something about my therapist or her office, ask her how she is, make small talk about some current event. I do this because, despite everything, I still want her to like me and this is how I usually get people to like me.

And then she asks:

“How do you feel?”

Last week I dragged myself through work, vaguely suicidal thoughts, overwhelming loneliness, and was starting to think the whole thing was pointless.

“I’m sad, really really sad” I answer, smiling.

See the problem? My inside emotions don’t get displayed on the outside. I’ve literally been trained to act a certain way without thinking.

But my subconscious wasn’t having it.

Incongruence: Where your exterior body language & actions don’t match you interior feelings.

That day I learned that if you run from your feelings, your subconscious works even harder to get you to pay attention. Small annoyances become devastating blows because nothing ever gets resolved.

There’s clearly a lot to work on, but one sickly realization came to mind. All those self-help articles I’ve read have been enabling my desire to be incongruent.

Claire Heginbotham

Tech and travel copywriter who writes content, kickass websites, and emails that convert. Low key Star Trek fan.