I have a deep dark confession to make, I read self-help books.
I bet there is a generally mixed reaction to this out there. Some are gasping in horror. Some are tearing up in joy that someone else like them is out there. Some are probably laughing that I am weak. Some are slightly uncomfortable with the fact that they know me, and possibly respected me up to this point.
For most of you, though, the reaction is maybe just a shrug. And you continue to read…I hope.
I think the first self-help book I ever read was a book by Jillian Michaels. I honestly don’t remember the name of it, and no I’m not going to look it up. It was something about how the cravings you have can reveal what nutrients you’re missing and help you somehow magically turn your metabolism into the well-oiled machine you always hoped it would be. The book was confusing, and unclear, and I’m pretty sure had me eating less than 1000 calories a day for three months. I blame myself more than the book. Though the book put the ideas in my head.
The next self-help book I read was The Happiness Project. I’ve talked to my friends about this book several times. I read this right out of college. I was then, and have since been, in serious pursuit of my happiness. I don’t know that the book helped much. Though I can say that I still use one thing from it to this day. My passwords, especially the ones I have to change every so often for work, are always based around a goal I have at that specific time. I do put in the password at work at least 10 times a day, and that’s 10 times I’m repeating a goal to myself. Not bad Ms. Rubin, not bad at all.
I took a hiatus from self-help books for a while. Mostly because for a sad time there, between work, grad school, and adjusting to adult life, I took a hiatus from books all together. That was a sad dark time in my life. I love books! Anyway, in my pursuit of 56 books in 56 weeks (I will publish this list I swear), I looked back and am pretty shocked to say I only read two self help books: The Gifts of Imperfections and 10% Happier.
I would recommend them both. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll read them both again. They are vastly different books. The first is about facing our shame and being authentic. The second is about a man facing his shame, being authentic, and accepting himself through the power of mindfulness and meditation. The former feels much more self-help-y, hokey, warm and fuzzy. The latter feels much more honest, coming from a man who was once skeptical about what he was sharing, but now saw its amazing transformative power.
Both books changed my life and will help me continue changing my life.
The first helped me face so many of my fears last year. The first helped me stop hiding those things that shamed me: that I wasn’t happy at work, that all I wanted was to come home. The first helped me write to you, my readers, this way. Every Friday, the first reminds me the power of being true and authentic and of not letting shame run me.
The second will help me overcome some of my current issue. It’ll help me deal with my continuing battle with depression, it’ll help me fight my current and future anxieties, it’ll help me concretely in learning to live in the now instead of focusing on the unchangeable past or the unpredictable future.
Why do self-help books have so much stigma? I often wonder that. I know when I read The Gifts of Imperfections, I only read it at home when I was alone. But guys, I like highlighted it and stuff. It really spoke to me. 10% Happier was so much easier. I’ve actually recommended that book to many people. I was hoping my whole family would read it. I’m pretty sure only my mom has. And there’s a very strong chance that she only just started it. Self-help books have this stigma. They’re hokey. They’re scams. They’re just authors praying on the weak and broken, trying to make money, without anyone’s best intentions in mind.
Well, I’ve always been naive. I’ve always believed and hoped that people are not at their very core like this. I’ve always hoped people truly want to help others. Self-help books help reveal things to me. They make practices and ideas and thoughts attainable for me. Sure, I could, in pursuit of greater intellect and education, read the research and all the source books that these authors refer to and reach my own conclusions. But sheesh, I do not have that kind of time. And to be totally honest, I don’t think my intellect has that kind of capacity or depth.
I’m currently reading another self-help book that I already love. I’ve picked up my phone about twenty times so far to recommend it to my friends. Friends that I know are going through some of the same problems I’m going through. But I haven’t yet, and I’m not gonna tell you what it is yet, because I haven’t finished it yet. I refuse to recommend a book I haven’t finished. What if by the end of it I hate it?! I can’t unrecommend something! So when I’m done, and hopefully I still love this book as much as I do right now, I’ll tell you guys about it. It’s directyl aimed for a very specific audience, but I honestly can’t think of a single person that wouldn’t benefit from reading it.
Oh and by the way, I finally finished my first book of 2016. It only took six weeks. It was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The book has been on my list for almost half a decade so I’m happy I’ve finally finished it. There were parts of it I loved, and parts I couldn’t get through. There are parts I can point to and say “This is why boy loves this book so much.” But by the end, my incapable and shallow intellect was overwhelmed by much of the book. So now it’s back to self-help, YA, and science fiction books. I’ll sprinkle in some more philosophical intellectual stuff, because I like to challenge myself, but I suspect my core loves will never go away.
Til nex time, dear readers! And go read a self-help book!