I’m a total self-help junkie–books, workshops, you name it. A few years ago, I started feeling a tug o’ war between my never-ending self-improvement project and the idea that we are inherently divine and possess something that can never be wounded or defiled, something that doesn’t need fixing.

So, which is it? Do we need some serious help or are we already good to go?

A lot of popular spirituality writers take the approach that it’s a matter of paradox: Yes, we’re already perfect, and yes, we could use some work.

I totally agree with this…and yet there was still something nagging at me. Something about that answer didn’t quite scratch my inner itch, so I kept digging. And then, in meditation I had an experience that tied it all together for me. But first, a bit of backstory.

Last fall I was out walking and I stopped at one of my favorite spots that I’ve named Mink Hollow (yes, I’ve seen mink there, and yes, they’re incredibly cute). I crouched down next to the stream, looking for crawdads and hoping for mink, and I had a moment where everything seemed to just stop.

I saw the bottom of the stream with the smooth pebbles and algae-slick rocks, and when my perspective shifted, just slightly, I could see the surface of the water. Another slight shift, and I could see the reflection of the sycamore trees and the blue, cloudless skies. Without moving, merely by changing my perspective a smidge, I could see three distinct layers of the world around me.

It might sound banal, but it was precisely what I needed to experience that morning on a day when I was searching for a way to approach a complicated situation. By slightly shifting my perspective (in this case that meant not simply looking at things based on what I wanted to have happen), I was able to see many different layers and creative solutions.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when I was sitting in meditation, working with my guides and the beings with whom I have been communicating ever since my automatic writing experiment who identify themselves as The Council.

Their work with me seems to be focused on healing–healing myself, and eventually, learning how to help others heal as well.

I asked for insights on a question I was wrestling with, and here’s where the watery perspective shift popped up again. A fountain appeared, and as I bent to look in the water, all I saw was my reflection. But then the surface of the water stilled, and I saw that the bottom of the pool was covered in gold coins.

Now, there are many layers of meaning to this, but one that was particularly significant for me was what do I choose to focus on? Do I simply stare at myself, seeing the entire world as a reflection of what I already think, changing things to fit what I already “know” to be true, or do I look deeper, and in doing so, uncover a treasure trove of wonders? (And energy flows where attention goes, so what I choose to focus on dictates the energy flow in my life–not a trivial thing.)

So, what does all of this have to do with self-help? Well, another meditative experience and a conversation with a friend tied it all together for me. My friend paraphrased author Jeff Stone who said that when we do our inner work, the things we did not receive from our parents/family as children become our gifts to the world. Just writing that gives me chills.

That night, in meditation with The Council, they told me that my task right now is to receive and participate in self-healing, and as I continue to heal myself, my ability to be a mirror for others will increase.

What does that mean? Well, they explained it using the reflective waters I’ve been seeing repeatedly. The more I learn to work through my own stuff, calming the waters of my emotions and subconscious, that stillness and clarity will create a calm, watery mirror into which others can look and see themselves for who they truly are: beings of infinite potential and perfect love.

So to bring it back to self-help, yes, we absolutely are beings of perfection and love who don’t need to be “fixed.” Through life, we add layers of schtuff over this truth until it becomes harder to see this perfect love, but it never goes away. Self-help is one tool that can remove these layers, gradually revealing who we truly are, which is a being who already is and always will be divine.

I’m reminded of a quote by Howard Ikemoto:

When my daughter was about 7 years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at a college–that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”

We are already perfect. Self-help and other inner work helps us to remember this beautiful truth.