Sunday, May 10, 2015

On motivational speakers and weight loss scams

Uninteresting rambling that I just had to get off my chest, proceed at your own risk.

So, I watched a motivational talk on YouTube that someone recommended to me. An hour later I couldn't help but noticing the parallels between this talk and the kind of weight loss ads you used to see on daytime TV. You know the kind, with a "Before" photo of someone weighing as much as a pregnant elephant, and after buying this product they miraculously transform into a supermodel.

And it was the same with this motivational talk. "Before I was a 30 year old virgin loser like you. Then I discovered a secret, and now, After, I'm a superstud who has threesomes with foreign exotic supermodels." Sound familiar?

Let's just divert for a few seconds. What are the secrets to weight loss? Not the "Top 10 secrets your doctor doesn't want you to know that will transform you and make you rich!" secrets. What are the keys to losing weight? Stop eating junk food, eat less, exercise more. Everyone knows that. Even morbidly obese people know that. So why don't they just lose weight because it's that easy? Willpower? Motivation? The fact that the way they're eating makes them more hungry instead of less? Or that they are addicted to food?

Just telling a fat person to eat less doesn't work, and it doesn't help, and it shows a distinct lack of understanding and a gross oversimplification of that person's struggle. If it were as easy as that, they'd have done it before. If stopping crime was as easy as just telling criminals not to do bad things, there wouldn't be crime.

So, motivational speakers. They tell people with low esteem and poor self confidence that all they need to do is practice more, and by failing they'll learn. Now, while this is true, just like the weight loss analogy, it oversimplifies the entire issue, and misses a crucial detail.

Not everyone reacts to failure the same way. The less you have, the more you have to lose. It's easy to bounce up again from a failure and get back on your feet when you have tonnes of self-confidence. But when you don't have any in the first place, and you can barely stumble onto your feet on a good day, how will that person react to failure?

Failure is not a zero cost action. Human nature is to make choices with the interest of self-preservation in mind. It's not so much dwelling in your comfort zone as avoiding inhospitable zones non-conducive to sustaining human life. People with low self-esteem tend to avoid failure because they cannot handle failure as well as other people can.

You tell the average person to go out and practice and make mistakes. They'll fail, and they'll eventually recover from it because humans are resilient. But you tell someone with depression, or anxiety, or some other mental problem, and once they make they go out and fail, they'll be remembering that failure for years to come, and their mind will be autonomically be reminding them of it every night for the 10 or 20 years, because that is what happens to people with those issues.

You can't expect someone with depression to just fail their way to success anymore than you can expect a quadraplegic to run a marathon. Depression isn't just "Oh, you're feeling sad again today? Just get over it."

Just ignoring the underlying problems, or glossing them over, is like locking an alcoholic up in a liquor store and tell them "All you need to do to overcome alcoholism is stop drinking."

That's enough rambling for now, I guess.