You’ve got to be a caterpillar before you can be a butterfly.
Since my early twenties, I’ve been drawn to self-help books. I suppose that’s because for many years, I was dealing with episodes of illness, my life was in various states of disarray, and I was trying to figure out if I had any purpose on this earth. In my quest for health and happiness, I read a lot of self-help (in the range of 250 books) and spent a significant amount of money in the process.
Self-help books gave me hope. As I battled mental health issues, they provided welcome relief and the possibility of getting better.
At a time when I had no health coverage and couldn’t afford a therapist, self-help books were a cost-effective means of counselling. They took the place of group therapy (great for an introvert like me), protected my privacy, and preserved my anonymity.
Over the years, as I began to heal, I started to approach self-help as a topic of study. I love learning, and self-help books were a relatively cheap form of education even if they didn’t earn me a graduate degree in psychology.
Despite the benefits I reaped, I’ve come to realize there’s also a dark side to the self-help industry. It tends to encourage you to look outside yourself for answers. After all, this generates sales. And as a multi-billion-dollar industry, it has succeeded.
“Do what I say! Do what I do! Follow the plan, MY plan, and you’ll have a life beyond your wildest dreams.” The thing to keep in mind is that self-help gurus are human too, and many of them have less than perfect lives. Sometimes it’s a matter of “Do as I say, not as I do.” As always, it’s best to be a discerning consumer and not get sucked into inflated promises of health, wealth and happiness (especially if there’s a big price tag attached).
If you enjoy self-help, don’t let me discourage you from reading books and taking courses. You may find it helps you a lot, just like it helped me. However, if you’d like to save some money, I can give you a few tips for free:
- Eat decent food but not too much.
- Do some exercise.
- Get enough sleep.
- Spend time with people you care about.
- Heed the rule “Everything in moderation.”
- Help others when you can.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Treat people well.
- Do work you love even if it’s not your day job.
- Walk away from toxic people and situations.
- Practice gratitude.
I’m likely forgetting some things but you get the idea. Also, here’s a bonus tip: You are the expert when it comes to yourself, and usually, you have the answer if you simply take the time to be quiet, turn inward and listen.
I think one of the reasons I was so attracted to self-help was that at my core, I believed I was fundamentally flawed and that self-help could fix me. What I didn’t realize is that the power for healing and growth was in my own hands, and after many years, I finally realized I’m not “broken.” I don’t need to “get better,” “be better,” or “grow.” I AM good enough, and today, I choose to improve and transform. Geez, there IS a benefit to aging. Self-acceptance is one of them.
I don’t read much self-help nowadays with the exception of a book here and there. Now I prefer to read good fiction and memoir. A great novel or a captivating memoir teaches you a lot about the human condition.
I also think that working on my memoir is one of the reasons that I’m no longer as interested in self-help. By focusing on my story, I’ve been resolving my issues, forgiving myself and others, and healing old wounds. Add to that the fact I’m getting older and have amassed a certain amount of wisdom and life experience.
If you’re interested, here’s a list of one hundred self-help books I’ve read. The other 150 or so I’ve forgotten. Although most of them were interesting reads at the time, none of them truly changed my life. But many of them helped when I didn’t know where else to turn.
- The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
- Think and Grown Rich – Napoleon Hill
- There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem – Wayne Dyer
- Quantum Healing – Deepak Chopra
- The Road Less Traveled – M. Scott Peck
- The Power of Positive Thinking – Norman Vincent Peale
- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – Dale Carnegie
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
- Awaken the Giant Within – Anthony Robbins
- Codependent No More – Melody Beattie
- Unlimited Power – Anthony Robbins
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People – Harold S. Kushner
- Stop the Insanity – Susan Powter
- The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
- The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield
- The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision – James Redfield
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Richard Carlson
- The Dance of Anger – Harriet Lerner
- Ageless Body, Timeless Mind – Deepak Chopra
- The Seat of the Soul – Gary Zukav
- The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
- Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson
- Tuesday’s With Morrie – Mitch Albom
- Wisdom from the Road Less Traveled – M. Scott Peck
- The Power of Intention – Wayne Dyer
- The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Deepak Chopra
- A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose – Eckhart Tolle
- The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight – James Redfield
- Sacred Contracts – Caroline Myss
- Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Wayne Dyer
- Living the Wisdom of the Tao – Wayne Dyer
- Excuses Begone – Wayne Dyer
- Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul – Deepak Chopra
- You Can Heal Your Life – Louise Hay
- Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus – John Gray
- The Four Agreements: Don Miguel Ruiz
- The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown
- Calm Healing – Robert B. Newman &Ruth L. Miller
- How Can I Help? – Ram Dass & Paul Gorman
- Creative Visualization – Shakti Gawain
- Living in the Light – Shakti Gawain
- Awake at Work – Michael Carroll
- Real Happiness at Work – Sharon Salzberg
- In Case of Spiritual Emergency – Catherine G. Lucas
- Work – Thich Nhat Hanh
- Work as a Spiritual Practice – Lewis Richmond
- Personhood – Leo Buscaglia
- Aging as a Spiritual Practice – Lewis Richmond
- The Wonder of Aging – Michael Gurian
- Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma – Peter Levine
- Women’s Spirituality – Mary Faulkner
- How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies – Therese A. Rando
- Life After Life – Raymond A. Moody
- There Is Life After Death – Tom Harpur
- Proof of Heaven – Eben Alexander
- The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision – James Redfield
- The Shadow Effect – Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, Marianne Williamson
- The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor
- The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
- The Dark Side of the Light Chasers – Debbie Ford
- When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times – Pema Chödrön
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In – Roger Fisher & William Ury
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
- It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – Julia Cameron
- The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
- The Leader Who Had No Title – Robin Sharma
- Dying to Be Me – Anita Moorjani
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Sarah Knight
- Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
- You Do You – Sarah Knight
- Calm the F*ck Down – Sarah Knight
- What’s in the Way Is the Way – Mary O’Malley
- Unf*ck Yourself – Gary J. Bishop
- The Happiness Equation – Neil Pasricha
- The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t – Fabrice Midal
- 12 Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson
- What to Do When You Are Dead – Craig Hamilton-Parker
- The Ecstasy of Surrender – Judith Orloff
- Resilient – Rick Hanson
- F**k It Therapy – John C. Parkin
- Wherever You Go, There You Are – John Kabat-Zinn
- Who Switched Off My Brain? – Caroline Leaf
- Thrive – Arianna Huffington
- The Weekend Effect – Katrina Onstad
- Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – Martha Beck
- The Sweet Spot – Christine Carter
- Rising Strong – Brené Brown
- The Empath’s Survival Guide – Judith Orloff
- The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin Sharma
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Inner Battles – Steven Pressfield
- The Untethered Soul – Michael Alan Singer
- Loving What Is – Byron Katie
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert
- Anatomy of the Spirit – Carolyn Myss
- Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
- You Are the Universe – Deepak Chopra