3 lies and 1 truth about self-improvement, from Danielle LaPorte’s Australian tour
Danielle LaPorte is a writer and speaker who has deeply inspired me over the past few years.
For those unfamiliar with her, Danielle says the essence of all her work can be distilled into “encouraging someone to be courageous. Which usually just means being themselves, which ironically is the hardest thing ever.”
She invites you to create a life on your own terms and define success based on how you want to feel instead of looking outward for validation from external benchmarks and needing approval and acceptance from society, your parents or your peers. It’s about enjoying the journey before you get to the destination, rather than defaulting to ‘Achievement Autopilot’.
Though Danielle’s not the only one spreading this message, I especially enjoy a lot of her writing: it’s sincere, expressive and expansive. Her words and her writing voice are heartfelt and poetic, but she’s not afraid to be fierce either.
Last Thursday I discovered that Danielle doesn’t just write that way. Visiting from her home town of Vancouver, Canada, on the last date of her Australian tour Danielle spoke in Melbourne. In person she was luminous, warm, funny and full of feminine power, completely owning the stage with ease. She said she gets a word every morning before a speaking gig, and her word that day was ‘magic’, which perfectly described her presence that evening.
Danielle spoke about her lifelong journey of self-improvement and spirituality, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Here are some of the powerful perspectives Danielle shared on the night:
Our addiction to self-help
Rattling off a ‘laundry list of self-help’, Danielle asked for a show of hands from the audience if they’d tried various paths to self-betterment:
Therapy. (This seemed to be almost everyone...!)
Past life regressions.
Reading Louise Hay’s book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’.
Vegetarian. Vegan. Sugar free.
“I think we’re replacing addictions with New Age addictions.
It’s really insidious and subtle, hard to see. Because when you’re improving yourself and you’re trying to be a socially responsible citizen…these are all good things, culturally positive things, things that get you a lot of points with a lot of different factions.
But it’s not about how we’re seeking to be better or how we’re devoted, it’s about why.
The how can be anything you want...But why are you doing it? You gotta do it in your own way from a place of deepest compassion.”
As Danielle elaborated in an article she wrote on the same topic: “What’s driving your habit to improve? Are you fixing your flaws, or are you exploring your potential? Are you inviting the real you to emerge, or are you trying to cure your so-called shortcomings?”
The best self-help is self-compassion
After many years of self-improvement and spiritual striving - juicing, colonics, meditation, always trying to get points from the ‘cosmic council’ - Danielle was tired.
“I realised that all the things that I was doing to become more free, to become more well, weren’t making me any more free.
Self-improvement was just another thing on my to-do list. Meditation was getting written on my day planner next to yoga and it was stressing me out. I’m pretty sure the point of meditation is not to stress me out.
And I realised that the best self-help is self-compassion.”
Three lies of self-improvement
The reason we’ve gotten so off track and so addicted to positive habits is because we buy into some big lies, suggested Danielle.
1. The lie of inadequacy: You were born flawed or defective.
Danielle observed that people often become hooked on a journey of self-improvement and self-love, but underneath that they also hate themselves, just a little bit.
She described a conversation between meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg and the Dalai Lama in the 1990s. Salzberg asked, “What do you think about self-hatred?” to which the Dalai Lama, confused, initially responded, “What’s that?” The concept wasn’t part of his worldview.
According to Danielle, the Dalai Lama said, “How can you think of yourselves this way? You are the Buddha nature. You are god. You are the stuff of the stars. We are made of stars. The allness of all is you. How can you hate yourself?”
2. The lie of authority: Someone outside of yourself knows what is best for you.
“The whole self-help industry is based on this,” asserted Danielle. “Most religions and organised faiths are based on this lie that someone has an answer that you do not have. And so we go looking outside of ourselves.”
In the past Danielle would do at least one ‘woo-woo’ thing every month. A psychic reading, a channelling, etc.
Now she has gone on an ‘input fast’, reducing the number of healers and teachers she works with. And as much as she would love them to predict the future for her, now “it’s always just about clearing the debris so I can hear what’s there for myself.”
“The idea here is to reframe your relationship with teachers.
So that instead of saying, ‘He had the answer for me’, it’s ‘I really resonated with what he was saying.’
Instead of saying, ‘She had the right seven steps’, it’s ‘I showed up at just the right time, I’d done my work and I was ready to hear it.’
You’re giving reverence to the teacher who deserves it and owning your own power at the same time.”
3. The lie of affiliation: Also known as the lie of groupthink or the lie of being cool.
Danielle believes that coercion and manipulation can occur when sharing is forced at personal development workshops or group sessions. Sometimes it’s less about healing, and more about making the leader or facilitator look good.
“Some things are meant to be told to your friend or a qualified professional who’s going to go on the journey with you…Sometimes the most liberated, spiritual, open thing you can do is say, ‘Not up for this.’ And bow out.”
“Spirituality is so personal. It has to work for you – body, mind and soul.”
Be your own guru
As Danielle summed up, “This is really about being your own guru. You have the answers. Look to yourself first. We’re still gonna have teachers and we’re still gonna have our girlfriends on speed-dial but you can take all that input and it’s gonna stop with you. The decision is all about you.”
“There’s no room for comparison on your own spiritual path... I can never go without sugar. I’m never gonna be a vegan. It’s about creating a spirituality that works for you.”
“It’s about the heart of friendliness... After all these years, and all the colonics, and all the mantras, I’m just really happy to be here. It’s not about ascending, it’s about befriending the present.”
Thank you, Danielle. I really resonated with what you said. It’s wonderful to be reminded that there are many paths to fulfillment. Even if you’re not a daily meditator, yoga devotee or green juice fanatic!
Danielle followed her talk with an hour riffing on prompts from the audience. See the #truthbombs she shared on feelings, joy, boundaries, courage, worthiness, divine feminine and more in this post.
Update: Danielle elaborates more on these themes in her latest book White Hot Truth, released 16 May 2017. Find out more on her website here.