Maybe It’s You is one of the best titles to a self-improvement book I’ve ever seen. Those three words encapsulate so much of what I try to get across in my work. It’s simple, clear, and to the point that you need to look in the mirror and realize the jackass staring back at you is the real problem in your life.
Maybe It’s You is written by Lauren Handel Zander, a big time life coach who guest lectures at universities and whose methods have been repeated around the world.
So naturally, I was skeptical.
After all, a lot of terrible bullshit has worldwide popularity. Plenty of awful self-help is really popular (particularly when you get into life coaching), scientology has members everywhere, and 2 Broke Girls lasted 137 episodes. The world is garbage enough to where at times, garbage becomes popular
I’m also particularly skeptical of people at the tip of the spear of modern self-help. There’s inevitably a lot of feel-good bullshit mixed in to the few decent, overpriced lessons constantly, right? For every dynamic, profound piece of advice Tony Robbins gives, he tells a woman to dump her husband because she’s tired right now, or he leaves you wondering why you just paid $80 a minute to clap for the last ten minutes.
So surely this would be no exception, right?
Well, kinda wrong.
Maybe Its You can best be described as conventional self-help, but without quite so much flowery horseshit involved (for instance it never once mentions The Secret). There are a few key ideas in particular that are profound in nature, and essential in practice that the book really hones in on.
1. Punishment Over Rewards
Many will tell you that in order to create change in your life, you should reward yourself whenever you do something good. This is more popular than punishing yourself for doing something wrong for obvious reasons.
I’d much rather have a milkshake as a reward for working out than I would have to whack myself in the dick every time I don’t work out as a punishment. The milkshake sounds way more fun. Let’s go with the milkshake reward!
Maybe Its You doesn’t let you get away with that shit. The book heavily emphasizes punishments for screw-ups instead of rewards for good behavior for a very simple reason: I’m already living without a milkshake right this second. If I don’t do what I need to do and I don’t get a milkshake, that’s okay. I was already accustomed to a milkshake-free existence. Rewards like this are nice, but not vital, and so they don’t work very well as motivation.
But if I don’t do what I am supposed to do, I really don’t want to punch myself in the dick. My life has for the most part consisted of a painless dick, and damn it, I’d really prefer to keep it that way. So I will do what I need to do to avoid a self-dick-punch no matter what.
Thus avoiding the punishment is the more effective motivation.
(Note: She doesn’t actually advocate punching yourself in the dick ‘n balls. I’m just saying.)
2. Changing Your Thoughts
Another point of emphasis the book illustrates perfectly is the idea of changing your thoughts, in order to lead a more fulfilling, productive life. If you're thinking you totally suck ass, change your perspective so that you can see a better way forward.
I used to think changing your thoughts like this was a bunch of bullshit. After all, you’re having that thought for a reason. It’s purely who you are in the moment. Changing your frame of reference, or choosing to focus on something more positive is stupid and fake, right?
Or wait, does that actually make no fucking sense at all? I was kind of an annoying dipshit for having that opinion, wasn’t I? I should probably go sit in a corner and hate myself a little, shouldn’t I?
Maybe Its You finally broke me on this point, because Zander argues so well for why this isn’t bullshit. Let’s look at an example for why altering your thoughts towards positive is actually a useful process.
Say you’re constantly telling yourself, “I’m a loser, I’m a loser, I’m a loser.”
This statement may be true. For many of you, it probably is. I mean look at you.
But being a loser is always a potentially temporary thing. So if you spend your whole life just saying “I’m a loser” to yourself over and over again like it’s an inevitable fact, what chance do you have of becoming not so losery? You’re telling yourself something as if it’s inevitable when it’s not. That’s actual dishonesty.
Changing your thoughts to something more positive and hopeful is not about denying facts. It’s about simply choosing to focus on something else, like “How can I move out of my parents basement, get a job that doesn’t make me hate myself and at least cut my masturbating-to-anime time in half?”
If, starting right now, you don’t accept the reality you masturbate to anime too much and resign to change that, then that’s an honest thing to tell yourself. Which brings me to this:
3. Honesty: Kind of Important
Self-improvement doesn’t typically focus on honesty with yourself, because most of these shitty books aren’t really about self-improvement. They’re about feeling warm, fuzzy, and like you—as the time-wasting, HGTV watching, Dorito-eating nothing you are now—are perfect and “enough” in your current form (hint: You’re totally not.).
Acknowledging that you’re filled to the brim with awful flaws and behaviors isn’t super fun, so we try to avoid that as much as possible.
Maybe It’s You doesn’t let you get away with that, and the argument for why this is so important is simple.
If you live your life trying to juggle lies and pretend to be something you’re not, you’re a fraud. You can’t really move forward in your life in a meaningful way if it’s not really you moving forward. That’s some bullshit version of you getting a promotion, trying to maintain a relationship, and sitting that gold-plated Jacuzzi.
Trying to lead a life that is fulfilling without honesty is like trying to walk without feet, or go on The Bachelor with all mental faculties in place. It’s not happening, man. You will always feel an emptiness, you will always eventually get caught, and your house of cards won't stand forever.
4. Stop Carrying Your Parents' Baggage
One of the key portions of the book demands that you look into where you take after your parents—most notably in the worst ways—and how you can take control of these aspects and change them.
This is a microcosm of why this book is better than others. Other books do not dig this deep and do not demand that you know yourself this well. Knowing how you guilt people like your mom, or yell at the TV like your dad the dumbass, can be a necessary tool in trying to stop that weird shit on your end. You are your two parents, so finding what they left in you can help you to remove that behavior like the malignant tumor that it is.
Maybe Its You goes the extra mile into who you really are so that you can move forward with your mother’s eyes, and not her dogshit personality.
Throughout the book, you’re required to do exercises that help you to “design a new life,” which is the book’s way of saying, “Get your shit together, and become the person you’d like to think you are, and not the asshole piece of shit you currently are,” (again, my words).
Because I connected to the book, I did something new: I tried to actually do things. I gave the exercises a shot.
Now, did they accomplish everything they’re meant to? Well not yet, but that’s because the book isn’t there with you, making sure you actually go through with everything—which is an unfortunate weakness of books that are meant to change your lives. They’re…books. They’re not your mother nagging you to take the garbage out until you do. When you finish a chapter, you can just put it on a shelf and go scratch your butt and forget about it.
With that said, there were writing/thought based exercises I did execute that changed the way I saw myself and pointed me in what appears to be some right directions. My view of myself has changed, and that is really the best you can hope for from a book like this.
My point in mentioning how I haven't done everything the book asks for is that Jesus, it asks you to do a lot. Piling on exercises like this just makes a group of losers already prone to giving up (the people who read self-help books….except you. I’m sure you’re swell) even more likely to give up, read the book, think "There are some nice ideas," and change nothing about their stupid, losery lives.
Along with this, Maybe Its You does fall into the trap of the trademark arrogance we often see in self-improvement of thinking the my-size-fits-all approach works for everyone reading it.
Beyond even illnesses and disorders, a lot of us are just irreparably fucked up in certain ways, and as we learned from Fuck Feelings, the best thing many of us can hope for is to manage the degree to which we’re fucked up and get by in life.
In a perfect world, Maybe Its You would cop to the fact that none of this is for everyone, and provide methods to work around and manage that.
So go and read Maybe Its You, because it probably is you that’s the annoying problem in your life, and this book could really help you with that. But read it with the same skepticism that you would anything else, because there are always elements that won’t work for you.
Someone who doesn’t know you can have good ideas that can be useful, but remember that they don’t know you, and can’t be sure about what’s best for you. So read, take it in, realize all of the shit wrong with you, change your thoughts to believe that you can have a better life, and remain skeptical.
Unless you’re reading this site. Everything here of course rules and is perfect for you, and if you’re skeptical of any of it, you’re a terrible human being.