I’ve read just about any and all types of books. And, when trying to navigate my teens and early 20s, I took to self-help books while dealing with sexuality confusion, breakups and other typical issues of that age. I’m almost 30 now and here’s what I’ve learned. They just don’t work. And that’s not to say they don’t help anyone since they get published everyday but it’s the self-help books that promise to expose whatever innermost damaging issue you have and giving you the fix right then and there. And you know what books those are, you figure it out pretty quickly even just a chapter or two in. And more importantly, it seems it’s the same authors writing self-help books, churning out new books, new topics. How could they have all the answers? Or is the success of the last book just too great to stay away?
When I got divorced, I was given books or suggestions on things to read or watch. I knew I had to navigate that journey with the love and support of family and friends, and mainly my own courage but a book telling me to be my “authentic true self” or “you’ll get through this and here’s how” just didn’t work for me. They work for the moment you’re reading them but they can sometimes be marketed as the solution, the cure, the fix.
I was in a toxic marriage where I was used and abused and no book was going to “fix” the trauma I dealt with, and still deal with over a year later. Life’s messy and I’ve totally screwed up several times trying to navigate my new life. When I was a teen, I was confused by my sexuality. I thought I was gay and no book was going to tell me if I was gay or not, I had to sleep with a woman to find that out (and, ya, so gay by the way, guys).
I’d rather spend my time reading fiction-romance, fantasy, horror, historical fiction, sci-fi, erotica, literally all fiction is my jam. Or writing and journaling, seeing my therapist or talking with friends and family. Everyone has problems. Everyone seeks answers and clarity. That’s why the self-help industry was born. And I would totally root for an author who went through a traumatic event and wants to write a book to share his/her journey in the hopes of helping others along the way. It’s the authors that have a resume full of self-help books. It’s the people that get sucked into that industry, spending all their time and money on self-help books, articles, tapes, DVDs, whatever.
People will always look for their next fix. It will eat away at you, it’s a cannibalistic effect and it can be damaging to the most vulnerable people. Fictional books can offer just as much help as self-help books. They’re creative, engaging and I’ve had plenty of fictional books change my life. But I’m all for the motivational quotes and memes that give you a little pep in your step for the day. This may be an unpopular opinion to say I don’t like to read self-help books and if it works for you, you should go for it. I just have been there, done it, and it doesn’t work.
Do you need a book to tell you that you should cut out sugar to lose weight? Or you should cut out negative people in your life? Self-help books are great for outlining your plan of attack if trying to lose weight, leave a relationship, etc. But you gotta just do it. And trust me, I am the QUEEN of planning and studying to PREPARE to do something. Ignoring something or hiding behind something else is the perfect way to not have to confront your demons.
Wait, was this a self-help article?