I’ve mentioned previously my love of what are generally classed as ‘self-help’ books. They always make me feel inspired and hopeful and give me tools to be a little bit better out here in the world, as well as inside my own head. I don’t have a particular niche, either – I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to helping myself. Here are some of the topics I’ve read up on within the rather broad genre:
- The power of the present moment
- The murky world of the Law of Attraction (Or….Spacestar Ordering, perhaps?)
- How to listen to your intuition
- How to find your purpose
- The connection between food and health
- Vitamin therapy
- Quantum physics
- The principles of thought, mind and consciousness
- Near Death Experiences
- Emotional Freedom Techniques
- How to find a career doing what you love
Oh, God, the list goes on, honestly. Some topics really grabbed me, others didn’t resonate at all. I’ve used my connection with any particular topic to steer me through the maze of resources and find the things that could really make a difference to me. Sometimes a topic was utterly ridiculous in one author’s words, but totally made sense to me in another’s. I can say – without question – that on the whole, reading these books have made me a happier, calmer, more rational and less volatile human being. I’ve developed tools and techniques and knowledge that have enabled me to be a better partner, sister, daughter, friend and mother. More importantly, I’ve developed an incredibly positive relationship with myself.
But I’ve always treated my secret reading habits (neatly hidden away on my Kindle) as a bit of a guilty pleasure. Maybe thanks to Bridget Jones, or just my own preconceptions of the kind of person who read self-help books, I’ve always suspected that perhaps you had to be a bit of a messed up, unhappy soul to want other people to teach you how to live. That never rang true for me, as I’ve always been a pretty contented person, and would rate my general happiness level as a solid 9 out of 10. Still, I kept my books and what I’d learned hidden away. (Apart from when my terrible impulse to advise other people would break free and I’d start talking/lecturing/boring…..but anyway.)
Just now, however, I read a quote featured in a very lovely parenting book written by someone I know, which zinged through me, connecting all the dots. It was this:
“When a person feels that he is truly accepted by another, as he is, then he is freed to move from there and begin to think about how he wants to change, how he wants to grow, how he can be different, how he might become more of what he is capable of being.”
It’s apparently by Thomas Gordon, a pioneer in teaching communication skills. I’d never heard of him. But it allllllll clicked suddenly. The very first self help book I ever read was in about 2012. At the time, I’d been with my now husband for 2 years, was about to start the process of buying our first house, was settled in Cheltenham (and had got over the irrational urge to go and live in either Brighton or Australia (?!)) – in summary, life was peachy and I was loved and settled. And my secret affair with self help began.
Now I realise it wasn’t because deep down I was insecure or unhappy or lacking something – it was because I had all of my basic needs fulfilled and felt able to become more than what I was. I felt energised to grow, to learn more about myself and my beliefs and my role in the world. I wanted – in short – to be even better than I already felt I was.
And it worked. I’ve grown hugely as a person and I feel more positive about the past, present and future than I ever have before. Life runs more smoothly. I get things that I want. I live well.
So to anybody who thinks self help books are for losers, weirdos, complete suckers or hippies – you’re missing out on an awful lot of great opportunities to have a better life. And anybody who shares my secret ‘guilty pleasure’ – read on loud and proud!
Wanting to be better doesn’t mean there’s something inferior about you in the first place.