The Self-Help Industry [2021 Impact Statement Speech]

Have YOU ever heard of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” written by Steven Covey? Or ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ written by Robert Greene? Or “How to Win Friends and Influence People” written by Dale Carnegie? And what about ‘The Power of Habits’ written by Charles Duhigg? Well, these are a few infamous titles written by a few notable figures in the self-help bookshelves, and a few examples of self-help books I have accumulated so far into the quarantine. I know, it’s quite a rigorous reading these past few months considering I would never have turned a page in a few months if I were to be reading “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s stone”. These self-help books were EXTREMELY tempting to me, and I believe they would be the same for you. For instance, these books help you to see through your incompetence and lack of talents, and magnify the number of struggles and pains you have gone through to get to where you are right now. See how much you desire those things, and how much you have gone through to get them. And if I were to approach you, ‘This is a secret to the most successful businessman to ever trod the earth, and the only thing you need to be as successful is five simple and easy steps. Invest in this book for $45, and you will be taking home a hundred million dollars in the next five years’.

I believe you would totally buy it because it sounds especially promising with the circumstances you are in right now; a pandemic world where we are prone to poverty, injustice, and discrimination. And if you are not tempted to read, self-help comes in many ways from video platforms to audio podcasts to online remote learning courses, and interestingly, they also come with social media such as Instagram and Facebook. On a side note, for all we know about social media is the fact that despite it’s being utilized for good, its negative feedback on our society overwhelmed its benefits; by polarizing people, by propagating lies, by misleading people into buying a product, by spreading fear and exploiting people’s mental illnesses and insecurities…etc.

For the record, the self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with the diverse markets of books, CDs/DVDs, audiobooks, infomercials, motivational speakers, public seminars, workshops, retreats, webinars, holistic institutes, personal coaching, apps, Internet courses, training organizations and many more. This fact only describes how we are willing to spend for improvement in our professional and personal life, but also particularly, how much our vulnerability has been taken advantage of. 

Ouch but that’s the truth, and I have to break to you, that includes some TEDTalks as well. 

Thesis: Not a single cent is needed for you to acquire productivity and your path toward success. It only demands time. There are no universally accepted laws that fit you and the situation you are in. The key is within you, cut through all the arbitrary steps, and experience the painful path toward success. 

AND I believed you could have possibly walked into the same pit, it’s because I did the same mistake. I sold myself to the book. I remembered being described as ‘very conceptual and not very grounded with the reality which I took personally. Well it was nice of him to not put it blatantly, ‘on normal days I am delusional and at my best days, I am confused’. But the perquisite of the so-called ‘delusional’ human being that I am is that I get to be doubtful and needlessly cautious when it comes to approaching a problem in life. 

And here is my story with the self-help industry. 

  Ever since the start of this academic year, I was experiencing the all-time high of my career as a student. A new year, a new me. At the start of August, the time before school started, I was recommended to embark on the path to success by preparing my mentality for clearance, resolution, and commitment. I did all I could to ensure that I have a clear value, approachable goals toward success, and especially, thorough and well-thought-out plans about the future. At the time, I was able to micro-manage each second of my life; waking up at 4 AM in the morning to exercise and read books; after a light breakfast, I would continue to practice a little mindfulness by listening to podcasts about self-improvement; as for lunch, it’s my biggest meal of the day, and so I could eat to full; at 3 PM I would start to fit into a pair of jogging pants or sport wears, and I would start jogging and lifting weights. 

 

For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of accomplishment and complete control. I have been able to lose weight which also shed my insecurity. I have been able to make friends with people I never have the courage to engage in conversation with, additionally, I have been able to have proper teamwork with people I never wanted to confront. I remembered all the blissful moments I had at our dormitory at school. Life felt so perfect. Until…

 

The February break was supposedly a little moment away from the Liger family, a moment to recover our relationship with our individual family. But due to the March outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the break has been extended far past comfort. You see, as a person, I am also described as ‘energetic and optimistic…but quite reliant on the energy of people around me’, which I also took personally, they are just saying I am hypocritical. But the perquisite of being quite extroverted is that I will be best productive when I am around people. Due to the current situation, the government and the Ministry of Education had put a pause on schools across the country. Although there seems to be a conflicting atmosphere among Cambodian students about the current situation regarding closing school, Liger students know that remote learning will only get harder as day pass by because we are on the brink of ending grade 10, and in case you might not be familiar with Liger, our credit systems demand the most of the last 3 academic years, slacking off is detrimental to my credits thereby it’s not an option for me if I want to reach somewhere desirable. 

A month into the quarantine of the March outbreak, the class has already been running back onto its track, we were doing a remote online class of course. I was starting to notice an intrinsic reaction with the incoming works that were toppling on my desk into an array of mountains. But why would I be giving up? I will look weak. FYI(For your information) In the program here at Liger, while doing our essential classes(Math, Physics, English  Literacy, Khmer Literacy), we are also assigned to a variety of school projects that encourages to create impact or change Cambodia in a certain aspect, we called these seven-weeks projects —Exploration. Additionally, to go above and beyond the norms, you could also sign up for remote independent learning or extracurricular activities for elective credits. 

And I was having multiple of those extracurricular activities as well a particularly HUGE and time-consuming exploration to topple it up. As time progressed my situation had gotten worse, physically and mentally I was starting to get exhausted from telling myself to keep on going with my routines while having to manage that many workloads. Although the situation was progressively grim day by day, I was not willing to give up. Reminding myself to be aware of all the muscle and strength I have gained, as well as the productivity and the improvement in my ability to focus; I was in a dilemma. A book, or multiple books actually,  told me to be happy when I am doing something, so I could be productive. BUT same the book also told me to spend time wisely and get ahead of the herd. In fact, you can see this contradiction everywhere nowadays, from the popular YouTube channels to great advice given from online programs, and most importantly, even the books under the same author have contradictions in their advice. However puzzled I was, I continued on with my works while maintaining the self-help improvements. 

On one eventful evening, my mom received a call from the school about an ambiguous online program under the topic of psychology, which she later inform me saying that the course will need an additional fee as a part of it is already under the Liger budget. My reaction was unsurprisingly excited about this online program which is also another window of opportunity to earn credits, additionally, they had ensured me to give advice on productivity as well as insights into the intrinsic human behaviors that will forever change my habits. And so, I happily accepted the opportunity and signed up for the program. 

After subscribing to the program, it turned out to be a self-paced online course called EmpowerU where the assigned instructor only reminds us to do the lessons that are up to date. At first, I was optimistic about the situation even though there was tons of work already, but as the course progressed I started to get bugged by the content of the lessons. The contents seem to be treating the matter of the situation I am in right now as if it was a 2+2 arithmetics, additionally, the questions they have conducted seem a little too dull-witted which I choose to summarize in this picture.

 

 And this has kick-started my search to unearth the truth about self-help.  

Now have you realized a pattern that I used in my speech above? Did you notice I have intentionally portrayed myself as a sensitive and self-absorbed who refuse to take the words as it is?  If you are nodding right now, that’s the miracle of our brains. What about your assumption about how I have grown to be the person depicted in this speech? 

As you can probably tell by now, human loves to be in order. Of course the order I am talking about is the pattern in life. When facing problems in the world, the human brain has the tendency to be on the lookout for patterns that we could make sense of, because we are greatly unease by the sense of losing control and incompatibility. As you were listening to my speech, you might have begun to note down my words unconsciously, and eventually, you have concluded a pattern about my behavior. And then you might even begin to questions all the unspeakable things I have grown up from. In just a few minutes, you might have already sketched out a plan on how to interact with me, which you might or might not have perceived as a threat, all the way from the past behavior to the future steps. 

But what does that have anything to do with the self-help industry? Why am I spending so much time on this nonsense? 

Well, thank you for holding on to the speech for this long. For more than a year of listening to advice from the self-help media(i.e. Books and online courses), and I too, had begun to notice a particular pattern. Whether they be a book or an online course, they would start off the contents of their products with either COMPLETELY SCIENTIFIC psychological facts or a piece of a philosophical concept. WHY? It’s attractive. When you began to empathize with the person in the book, you noticed all the emotions that were reflected back, and basically, you started to BELIEVE. All the pains, all the blissful moments, and all other moments. They do not have to be accurate. They just have to be realistic, and by selling these depictions of realistic moments that could be in contradiction or arbitrary to the subject matter, they have sowed a seed of belief and hope for success in you. You started to see a pattern, a sense of control over the painful life. THAT is also where the problems lie. After getting hooked up to the perfect illusion of self-control and discipline, they could start to put in NONSENSE for the volume so they could be selling their products to earn grands. And that concludes my story with the self-help industry; losing a hundred buck on a scam self-help online course and spent an unretrievable amount of time reading books and sufferings from the negative aftermaths. Throughout this process, I have been heavily impacted by the failures and came out of them with a renewed mindset and view of the world. 

I realized that to be productive and be set on a path toward success, demands time on learning the meaning and concepts by having an actual experience on the subject matter. It doesn’t necessarily require any cost to acquire self-improvement, it only requires an adventurous view of the world. Be doubtful about what is being taught, and be comfortable with losing control. There is a ‘self’ in the ‘self-help’, so why are you admitting to OTHER’s works? It has to come from within.

Overridden by Thoughts[Personal Narrative Essay]

 

‘Wah’ the voice echoed through the tunnel of his mind. 

In the mesmerizing moonlight, through the window, as the cloudless sky of early April spotlighted the lunar, there was a dimly lit hall-way of the traditional wooden Khmer house that was unusually silent with no creaking nor is the wind whispering through the narrow gap of the wooden flooring; the hallway stood completely in stark contrast to the whirlwind of emotions that had awakened in him. Bandeth was smearing his eyes to gain momentary clarity from the abundance of debris and dust gathered during the daytime, as well as binding all his chaotic thoughts together after awakening from the illusions his brain had conjured. In the quiet night, reality seems unimaginably surreal due to the nature of things when isolated. He was well aware of human nature and its norms, yet his psyches’ understanding was in contrast to his logical thoughts. As the minutes passed by, the stillness of reality remained unchanging and so did his thoughts, perpetually spinning itself confused, until a particular signal was brought to light, and had him reminiscing moments of the past. In the light of those thoughts, he was wondering how he had fared in this so-called reality of the world, for he had never felt so unfamiliar with the reality that we all humans had agreed upon. 

His bloodstream flooded with questions as the timeless night had been halted with insurmountable confusions as his brain had been pressurized and his heart had been tightened questioning images of the past calling upon the crisis of existential level. The main question that had him thinking was: What am I? The simple-sounding question had him bewildered; its confounding essence is inapplicable for any word to describe it. The moment of confusion at 2 AM was forsaken of his logical thoughts, most importantly his inner monologue was shut off. Yet that question that surmounted all five senses had been hanging imminently. 

In one of the images his mind had conjured, it has vaguely shown the shortness of breath of a half-naked boy, along with his aunt trotting early in the morning. “Exercising will do you good, my lovely son” expressed his aunt. Unfortunately, he did not take it to heart, or rather he was not able to, as his mind was too free to wander the sophistication of good and advantageous. He looked his aunt in the eyes and smiled, I could do it was all he was thinking about with his gleaming eyes. What he was, at the time, was not the matter that had come into his mind, with little to no inkling toward what reality was, doing all that was expected of him was what occupied his little brain. 

His mind was not much to talk about at that moment, as it was too naive and too short-lived to condense into a message to be remembered. Although he was stimulated with ambitions, he was able to cope with everything other than being reprimanded for his study. His name was ‘Bandeth’, which had gone through numerous iterations and his aunt felt satisfied with the last one, so ‘Bandeth’ it was since then. Bandeth is particularly a Cambodian name, yet it was a presumptuous one as it implies the child was meant to accomplish the ten de-facto rights, or modernized term for when a person achieved a doctorate degree in his profession, hence the name was rarely heard of. And his instinctive reaction that represented fear at the time was the saltiness of the feelings of incompetence, accordingly, it was within his ability to fulfill all that was expected. Yet it has never occurred to him that there will be a time when situations do not allow for such tenderness to pass its grip. Trepidation was not in place, or rather, it was ignored for the moment. 

 

A plate was raised with a chubby hand into the air, ‘May I have another plate of rice, please’ followed the now 10 years old boy, asking his aunt for another plate of rice he had just finished. With her worn-out fingers, she accepted the plate that was passed to her slender hand, and shifted her body to the nearby rice pot, and shifted back to put more meat without the assurance from the boy, and she did so happily. And seemingly obtuse to the daggering eyes, he ignored the vinegar smell in the air of the dinner circle. Bandeth had been living with his aunt in Phnom Penh for more than 2 years, and at that moment he was well aware that even an ordinary rock painted gold was a target of envy. 

Abruptly, his third cousin swallowed the white rice he was about to side with the meats, finishing the last bits on the plate, raised his head up, and proceeded to leave the dinner circle. ‘Oh ah Rey, you are filled?’ his aunt inquired. ‘Yes, I am full and I will have to finish my assignments’, replied Rey in his usual indifferent tone, as well as not forgetting to look at Bandeth in the eyes to only find his ever-smiling face. Yet it was not returned, the smile still hung on his face turned into a grin. ‘Aunt, I think the garage downstairs have gathered quite the dust since everyone are busy at work, and no one was to take care of the house during the daytime, it is not so pleasing to the eyes, some work would definitely help!’ said Bandeth, hinting at the people responsible for the task, and sure enough, he was satisfied with the ringing red ears of his cousin. 

Finishing the meals took quite a while, and the mind games continue to never cease. On the surface, Bandeth’s situation was looking completely normal, however seemingly sound, his head was entirely occupied with calculated steps and strategies to come out on top at home. Additionally, his life in school was quite a complicated hustle. Although he was not doing badly academically, he was facing an entire class of silver spoons whose money could literally suppress his voice. They have seen his encouraging and positive attitude to be provocative and challenging their status, and his effort in reconciliation was in vain, only adding fuel to the fire. 

Repeatedly, he had remained standing atop the mountains of challenges of the two worlds he was living in. In fact, he was aloof in his actions, facing the moments of hardship, and remained numb in each of those moments. Judging on face values, he looks fine. Good job of him keeping it in the dark, at least the surface does not seem unsightly! 

Ding dong!!! Fast-forwarding two years later, another image appeared in the present-time sleepless boy, who had wrapped himself with the blanket that had once been on a corpse, seemingly scared but by no means was he scared of his lovely grandma who had unfortunately passed away. 

Another image of an even chubbier hand pressing against the dark fence of an unfamiliar balcony, dressed in the student’s usual white top coupled with the wide-waist black pants, Bandeth had just encountered another adventure, not long after the disarray of educations in both Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham, the capital of Cambodia and his hometown respectively. Falling short after his return from Phnom Penh, he was fortunate enough to become a student at Liger, it was then, Liger Learning Center. Specifically, ‘center’ had been the element of surprise at the time, but I am gonna come out on top was all he was thinking about, neglecting another aspect of a boarding school. 

After taking the tour guided by the two senior members of the first cohort, he was told to unpack his packages of clothes and necessities for the boarding school, and students’ parents were ready to leave their promising children at a place they will be calling home for the next 7 years.  ‘Ah Oun! Mak is leaving Okay? Be sure to call us after you have your dinner!’ uttered his mom, as she was waving her hand in front of his face, had Bandeth awaken from the momentary daze. 

Wait, what?!!! You are leaving? He was thinking with widened eyes, seeming completely clueless and unprepared. Yes! He was not prepared in this new world that is completely out of character with what he had been dealing with. And to simply put, it was a rough journey to get accustomed to getting used to Liger. Situations he had been dealing with were filled with familiar variables and advantageous grounds he could exploit, but that does not seem to be the case at Liger, the characters have equal powers, additionally, each is unfamiliar, leaving many unknown variables. Faced with such a situation, Bandeth was left crying his way to sleep every night during his first few months at Liger. I do not want to be here! These people are weird. The first day I came, everyone was dancing and singing as monkeys had just been released from their restricting cage. Awful! What are these children doing? He thought as if he was not a child himself, instead was stressed by how he could not figure out everyone’s weaknesses, and therefore was greatly uneased. 

One early morning, he had his observant eyes on the lookout for his peers’ mistakes in housekeeping, and hopefully, he was thinking of unraveling the mistakes during the weekly house meeting with the house mom. Somewhat accidental for him, his house mom was eyeing his action from the side. At the first moment, she was unsure of what he was thinking but she answered when the house was in the meeting. ‘I think the floor was quite sticky this morning…’ leaving the latter part, ‘I think I should not say anything,’ in the mumble behind his breath, seemingly uncomfortable in insinuating that someone did not do their work. And it does miracles, as she made sure to tell someone twice to broom the whole floor. But it was not left untouched;  the moment he grinned in bliss, the mom’s head shifted sharply to his direction, she reprimanded ‘You, on the other hand, shouldn’t be so scheming,’ she paused and smiled, ‘you got much more problems than he does. Look at your housework, how has Bandeth’s work been, can anyone tell me? ‘ Frozen speechless, his grin turned into a grimace. As if the whole room had raised their hands to answer the mom’s question, countless thoughts ran through his mind. And these thoughts continue to torment him relentlessly in their effort. Slowly, powerlessness seeps into him, wrecking his confidence bit by bit as each incident at the eccentric school unraveled his views of the world, and ultimately, had stolen his egotistic sense of control. 

Since then, the sleepless nights are common occurrences like an ancient sage preaching over his failures, and teaching him success. Lessons learned, new problems arise. When old wounds had soothed, new wounds would gnaw at his very bones; it had become a perpetual cycle that started with countless problematic thoughts and always ended the round with countless lessons that never ceased to implicate another cycle. 

P.S. The first few sentences of this narrative essay are not meant to be understood by the senses of words and literacy, but to be felt by unique interpretations of each individual’s psyche. In the turmoil of humanly indulging of possessions, whether they be physical or mental, they will continue to shroud you in a reality unbeknown to yourself but a reality accepted by all. I, myself, am still a slave to humane possessions but my life goes on, so does understanding of the world continues to deconstruct itself, unsure of what it will become. But the experiences that were written carefully in the first few sentences were meant to construct an image beyond the senses of reality by using the five senses. It does not concern the so-called rules that we had made up, instead only read what is felt beyond the understandings of words. Live, come back and read again. If you get nothing, you might have not lived enough. And whether you feel happy, or sad, or even thinking the author had fallen into insanity, after reading this narrative; you shall proceed to do so as you desire, and I will continue to smile vacantly. 

 

Want a challenge?

Petal Encryption

Here is a riddle that I have made, hinting at the encryption in this picture. Comments the answer down below!!!

Empowerment

I am a very different person in different environments but what really defines me is my curiosity yet very impatiently passionate with my work. Mentally, I take on anxiety as a challenge. When you are anxious you tend to panic, to finish in a rush, or to be overly cautious; it is what puts me into a state of awareness, a type of energy that springs from anxiety.  

Of course, happiness is counted on this list. What makes you happiest is what you have gained through sweat and tears,  not what you have taken for granted. So by thinking of happiness as the process continues, I have built-up my determination and learned to savor the process. Therefore, many times I am happy that I am sad, many moments that I am happy that I am hurt; because I know I will be happy. 

My life is not for me to own, 

It’s a dedication that none have ownership, It starts from me but rooted from my love ones; my sacred aunts Sitha comes first with her love and devotion to see this sprout arise, then my dear mom and dad who no matters what supports me, my aunt Danny who is a second mother to me. They gave me life and I shall live it to its fullest. 

I believe they won’t care about my sexuality as long as I live my life to the fullest. What they concern about is that I will be laughed upon, that I will feel ashamed about in the future; thus wanting to prevent me from social pressure. ‘My family empowers me the most’.And that’s a phrase that will forever be embedded in my soul.

During one of the classes, I was introduced to a philosophy that drastically changed my life.  I found myself very energized by the aesthetic of continuous improvement ideology; Kaizen.  This ideology forces me into an ever-changing, open state of mind that every positive change on every little aspect of life will eventually create a better, but not perfect, self. Music is my last resort toward empowerment in life. The art itself is very diverse, there are many interpretations that can be used to empower life. Either sad settling classical music or positive beating hip-hop-modern music, they serve the purpose of setting down the ambiance and bringing all the juice of the moment.

You can be empowered by everything that YOU can take advantage of, what matters is how grateful you are.

Traces of Smoke

The murmur of drums cascading through the front door, gods griefing silently. The little green man who was awakened by such a sudden phenomenon, with a blissful smile he hugged himself warmth. The diamond suddenly paled when the emerald illuminated its rhombus. The mousy powder pureed with little sprinkles of lightning, frigid whisper, and serene dimming light but the cockerel has yet to rise. The little fellow and his kind sways in the soothing air, emitting the aura when the big old Reddie is not around; the morning air of serenity. 

Promptly, a trace of smoke blossomed out of the far away Neverland, the green little man started getting premonitions. His hand started to sweat, abruptly his heart started to beat, his breath quickened, his head feeling heavier and heavier like twenty rubber bands were coiled around his head each second. He then started yelling, screaming, and furiously whacking his body toward his friends, who had no idea what caused their friend to commit this outrageous act, anger is contagious. He was then beaten into a pulp; his beautiful big emerald hair that extended upward like blades pointing toward the sky was torn beyond recognition, his smooth and yellow babies were taken, his body fluid spilled sticky everywhere.

 ‘When smokes of negativity have trailed into my life, I know I can’t stop this anxiety attack from taking my life; if not my life, my future,’-the green little man. 

There is a story in every life but when the story ends, life doesn’t. Unfortunately, this story ended when life ended since we expected no hell for us to spring from.

Traditional healer/Witch

It’s a tragedy,

“It is sad, but not uncommon,

It’s a story of an elderly healer”.

 

A story of a generous Eighty-three years old traditional healer,

Who knows how to stop children who cry, 

Who knows good medicine for women after giving birth,

Who would gladly heal any patients who wish to be cured.

 

At the funeral of a seventeen years old girl,

By just touching the deceased’s foot,

Rumors had it on,

 

Hem Ty the traditional healer,

The sorcerer,

Might be a black magic caster,

Who murdered the girl. 

 

Touching the foot,

Because he felt insecure,

He has to make sure,

The girl is dead.

 

Nobody had considered the possibility,

If it’s a reality or just a fantasy,

All they know is revenge,

Chain of acts of sabotage, 

Was set off against Ty’s family.

 

The healer’s innocent dog was poisoned,

A stockpile of wood is on fire,

Not just any ordinary wood,

But wood for a new HOME SWEET HOME.

 

Knowing it’s your last day,

Running in fear is what you would do,

It’s the same for Hem Ty too,

Do anything just to be out of sight. 

 

Two hours passed,

A gruesome discovery had discovered,

People fish and see fish,

But now they fished and hooked onto a shirt, 

Not just a shirt,

But with a body,

Of a traditional healer,

With a head chopped and murdered with an ax.


https://www.vice.com/en_asia/article/bnpb3z/rural-cambodians-are-hunting-and-killing-suspected-witches