Self- Help vs Personal Development

Leena S
3 min readJun 5, 2020


Is There Really A Difference?

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Are self-help and personal-development the same?

Some might think I have been living under a rock but I have always thought self-help and personal development were one and the same… until recently.

As I dug more and more into the topics it became quite evident that they definitely were not the same. Regardless of their fundamental differences, both showed the same book titles when googles.


According to Webster’s Dictionary, ‘The action or process of bettering oneself or overcoming one’s problems without the aid of others.’

You can see I have highlighted the word problem or problems here. The fundamental concept of self-help is that you identify a problem in your life.

Now the next section of the meaning scares me a bit…

Especially: coping with one’s personal or emotional problems without professional help.

Personal or emotional problems have many faces. Many times these problems lead to anxiety and depression, which may take ugly turns like self-harm and even suicide.

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I am sure there are some gifted people out there who in spite of dealing with stress, anxiety and other mental illnesses can figure out what they need to do in order to bounce back. They may have friends and families who help them through but if not then professional help is what they need and not some random book telling them what to do to and how to live.

Personal Development

Cambridge dictionary describes personal development as the process of improving your skills.

You can only develop or improve something that you have at least basic knowledge of or something that you are already good at.

If you can write and have no problem putting words together, you can work on improving your skills by practicing regularly to become a better writer. There are many courses, tools and social media groups to help you out. You can even go for the paid courses if you are seeking professional help to improve even more. You can join other people who are working on the same skills as you and help each other to move ahead.

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Let's take baking or instance. I have done baking all my life but hardly ever bread making. Since we were kind of in short supply of bread during lock-down due to COVID19, I have nearly mastered the skill of bread making at home. Now, this was not a problem by any means because I knew how to bake, I just had to upskill to be able to bake bread. The easiest way was to join Facebook groups where people shared what worked for them and were happy to share with the world. Also, there are many face-to-face workshops and other baking classes offered around the city if I wanted to take another step ahead.

Having said that I do think personal development in a way is helping yourself (self-help) to betterment… you are helping yourself to be a better version of you and for some even an extraordinary version of you. This I believe is only true if you already have things figured out. Even if you don’t have your whole life figured out or mapped out in front of you, at least you are in a better headspace than the ones suffering from personal or emotional problems, to judge what you need to up your game.

It’s your road , and yours alone, others may walk with you, but no one can walk it for you. — Rumi

No matter how many books or articles you read on self-help or how many interviews or TED talks you listen to no one can teach you to be happy in life… no one can help you figure out what your true calling is, only you yourself can do that job for you.



Leena S

Read I Write I Share I Repeat I Passionate about comprehensive health and well-being