Do Personal Development Blogs Make You Feel Uneasy? I May Know Why

I have always been uneasy about the personal development industry. Something about it seemed unbalanced. I was never sure why, except to say that I couldn’t see myself consistently writing some of the content I see standard on personal development blogs. The content interests me, but something seems missing. Something seems wrong. Now I think I’ve discovered why I felt this sense of unease.

The Problem

In July I wrote 11 Ways to Build an Extraordinary Life and it did well in social media. I couple of days later I was working with a marketing group showing how list posts are constructed and the amount of traffic they can generate when executed correctly. Then someone asked, “Do you live an extraordinary life?”

I answered, “yes I do. Well… I try.”

I could tell he was skeptical. He’s right, I might think I live an extraordinary life, but to the outsider my life appears ordinary. However, I did point out that few of us live the ’11 Ways’ I listed in my post, and if you did, you certainly would live an extraordinary life.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits touched on this subject in a recent post:

Recently I read an old post about why another blogger doesn’t like
Zen Habits, and it centered around the idea that she thought I was
preaching to readers as if I’m perfect. And I thought to myself, “Boy,
I hope people don’t think I’m perfect!”

Because the truth is, I’m far from it. I have problems like everyone
else. I struggle with productivity and procrastination and losing
weight and losing my patience and everything else, just like you do.

I wrote a post about learning not to fear the economic crisis and got a
similar response. Posting positive news while others are suffering can cause ill will. You can appear to be a boasting know-it-all.

Sometimes when I read personal development blogs I feel the same way. How can this guy live such a perfect and productive life? I struggle with making money, being productive, staying focused, blogging, being a good father and husband.


I don’t want my readers to think I’m some perfectionist pollyanna, I’m not, so I purposely try to let my imperfections show. To me, it is the only way to be authentic and transparent. That’s why I’ve made this blog the way it is, this is a human story, and like me, it is imperfect.

Writing for the Reader

But I know why Leo at Zen Habits writes the way he does. He isn’t perfect, but he is a great writer who writes for you. You don’t want to read about my problems, or Leo’s problems. You need answers to your problems. You don’t want to read complaints. There are plenty of other people telling you how rotten the world is. Leo is an oasis in a desert of negative news and I love and respect him for what he’s done.

Negativity is the way most people’s minds work by default. No one needs to practice negative thinking, it comes natural. We all need to practice re-framing our situation in the most positive light possible, especially when times are tough. Feeling sorry for yourself gets you nowhere, and most of you know that in your hearts. But we all need to be reminded sometimes.

What its Really About

Productivity/personal development writers aren’t saying they are perfect. They are trying to inspire positive change in the world by showing others what is possible. They are trying to inspire people to reach their potential in spite of imperfections.

This isn’t about perfection, it is about improvement.

10 thoughts on “Do Personal Development Blogs Make You Feel Uneasy? I May Know Why”

  1. I know exactly what you mean! In fact, when Neale Donald Walsh wrote Conversations with God, people really had a difficult time with a homeless, oft married person, preaching to them at all!

    The way I see it now, it’s our challenges that have us learn how to overcome them … necessity is the mother of invention or something like that. And when I overcome something and I see someone having a similar difficulty well … my natural tendency is to offer something to make it better. Yet, do I like it when I get advice from others? Sometimes. Then again, why would I read an article on personal development in the first place if I only wanted to criticize the source.

    So, my question to you is, what if you did live an extraordinary life by all accounts? Would you be embarrassed to say, “Yes! I live an extraordinary life!” because, you do.

    Don’t dim your light.

    Betsy Jordan

  2. Hi Steve,

    I’ve read and continue to read widely in the “productivity” field. I’ve never seen any productivity author – book or blog – as the model of perfection.

    My view of “personal productivity” is that the journey is just as important as the destination – the journey will be full of mistakes. The key question is whether one allows the mistakes to provide fuel for one’s inner critic and sink into the pit of negativity or one sees mistakes as a learning opportunity and that there are always brighter days ahead.

    My life’s journey recently entered my fifth decade and it took me just over two of them to be a positive person.

    No-one has all of the answers that one needs – the answers ultimately come from within – others can only make suggestions.

    I totally agree that reframing one’s situation is an essential skill that is vastly underused and not taught often enough.

    Keeping being a beacon of positivity.

  3. I really appreciate this article! I am new on the blogging scene and devouring everything I can. With regards to positive development blogging in particular (as my blog is), I too have found something missing. I was intrigued to hear your take on the matter.

    Here’s a real life example. I’m a Psychotherapist and most of my friends are therapists too. Sometimes we have some TOTAL MELTDOWNS with each other, blubbering and carrying on because our lives have momentarily become difficult. And we say aloud, “Man, if our clients could see us now…” The truth is, I am VERY open and forthcoming with all of my clients, in session and on my blog, about my own hardships and imperfections.

    The truth is, we are all trying to just get along in the world as best we can, becoming happier and living the lives we know we have in us to live. By saying, “Man, my baby just would NOT get to sleep last night and I’m so tired today and feel overwhelmed,” that offers up MY truth, which I think connects me to my clients and my blogging audience.

    I appreciate your candor in this post and will look forward to reading more in your blog. Thanks!


  4. I’ve just started writing in the personal development area, even though it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I came online 10 years ago. But I was afraid to for the very reason you talk about … I didn’t want to come across as preaching about something that I wasn’t perfect or an expert at. Now I write more tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at my own flaws and doing my posts from a perspective of ‘here’s what helps me get through this, maybe you can get some use out of it too.’ So far it seems to be working, and it sure feels better to me than trying to come across as a someone I’m not.

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. Hey Steve,

    As a writer and blogger in the field of personal growth and self-awareness I really appreciate this article. I feel a special affinity with my readers because, in the bigger picture, we are all just people doing the best we can. For me, staying with a practical approach to life’s challenges makes it feel like we are all on the same playing field. I can only hope that my readers feel the same way. In the end, genuine honesty and humility come through, yours certainly does and I thank you.

  6. I think the reason people tend to assume that is because that’s how it works in most every other field. If you want to become a great basketball player, who do you look to for advice? Naturally, someone who is or was a great basketball player. Taking it a step further, if you’re not able to implement the things you recommend in your own life, why should we trust your advice? How can we be sure you’re leading us in the right direction? I’m not saying there’s no value to blogs like this, just that its natural for people to feel a little deceived if you appear hypocritical to them.

  7. hi there

    I find myself looking at other peoples lives some times that seem more developed than mine and I get a bit jealous but When I really think about it I would’nt really want their lives-

    I think the life we are living and what is happening is right for us right now and contains everthing we need

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