Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze
March 2017, Polity
The pace of modern life is accelerating. To keep up, we must keep on moving and adapting – constantly striving for greater happiness and success. Or so we are told. But the demands of life in the fast lane come at a price: stress, fatigue and depression are at an all-time high, while our social interactions have become increasingly self-serving and opportunistic.
How can we resist today's obsession with introspection and self-improvement? In this witty and bestselling book, Danish philosopher and psychologist Svend Brinkmann argues that we must not be afraid to reject the self-help mantra and 'stand firm'. The secret to a happier life lies not in finding your inner self but in coming to terms with yourself in order to coexist peacefully with others. By encouraging us to stand firm and get a foothold in life, this vibrant anti-self-help guide offers a compelling alternative to life coaching, positive thinking and the need always to say 'yes!'
1. Cut out the navel-gazing
2. Focus on the negative in your life
3. Put on the No hat
4. Suppress your feelings
5. Sack your coach
6. Read a novel not a self-help book or biography
7. Dwell on the past
"So rather than urging you to “think positive”, “listen to your feelings”, “trust your inner voice”, and other refrains of the self-help industry, Brinkmann advocates their opposite in seven steps, which include “Cut out the navel-gazing”; “Focus on the negative in your life”; “Suppress your feelings”; “Dwell on the past”; and “Sack your coach”. I must say, they work for me."
Carol Midgely, The Times
"In Stand Firm, Danish philosopher Svend Brinkmann projects a little blast of fresh air into the crowded pressure room of 'self-improvement'. With wit and perceptiveness he takes a swipe at the modern craze to do more, be more, be happier, be more productive. Paradoxically, this anti-self-help guide actually helps us to resist the mania."
"Stand firm is a brilliant, funny, liberating and significant critique of the dominant and individualizing hamster wheel culture that we live in... Brinkmann's book is for the people - that is all, for all of us."
"A satirical, but also very deep alternative to the current compulsion for self-developement."
"Every once in a while a book comes along that is both ironic and serious, both funny and challenging, both timely and wise. Stand Firm, with its seven steps toward living against our accelerated culture of neoliberal 'self-realization', is such a book. It should be on the bookshelf of every person concerned with the state of the world – or with the state of themselves"
Todd May, Clemson University
"Stand Firm is an exhilarating broadside against the intense modern pressure to do more, be more, to become happier and more productive, and to 'find yourself'. In championing Stoicism over the relentless and exhausting wild-goose chase of self-help, Svend Brinkmann - though he might not like the fact - has written a book that truly helps."
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian
"This wonderfully funny and intelligent book not only exposes the foolishness of the self-help cult, but also offers a concrete and appealing alternative, reminding us that philosophy is as relevant for living our lives today as it has ever been."
Carl Cederstrom, Stockholm Business School
"As designs for life go, it may just be brilliantly outlandish enough to work."
"With anti-self-help such as this, small wonder Denmark is the world's happiest county."
"Provocative and entertaining"
"Stand Firm by Svend Brinkmann is a welcome antidote to the therapeutic consensus which has dictated that we should strive for happiness and 'find ourselves', and insists that anything is possible if we put our minds to it."
Patrick West, The Tablet