How Helpful Are Self-Help Books?

Although having been around for ages, the self-help genre has recently become more popular. Nowadays, these books are advertised as life-changing. But are they really worth the hype?

There is this ritual that we do every New Year. In anticipation of that countdown, we scroll through social media, watching ‘here’s to a new me’ videos where friends, family, and influencers alike prepare themselves for a reinvention. And where does this reinvention come from? Reading self-help books to grow of course.

However, recently it seems that no matter the time of year, there are always those who will tell you it’s time to be the new you. It could be the beginning of spring or the end of summer; either way, they’d say there’s no better moment than to become the person your future self will be proud of. And instead of mainly appearing during one to two months of the year, self-help books have cemented their presence permanently all year long.

While these books seem beneficial, are they really the key to growth? Before you hit the nearest bookstore, let’s save some of your bank account’s tears and debunk some of the most common reasons why people love this genre.

 

Self-Help Books Make You Feel Better

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It’s been a long day, so you decide to stuff your face with any junk food you can get your hands on. And for a while, you feel like you’re on the top of the world… until you come crashing down, all that processed food finally catching up with you. This is exactly what happens to many when reading self-help books.

Yes, reading self-help can make you feel better. But they can also make you feel worse. Like junk food, this genre can become an addiction, pulling you in every time you want to think that your problems are quite small in perspective. You’ll get high in endorphins while reading, feeling like everything you wanted is at your fingertips.

Furthermore, like any industry, for these books to thrive, they need to make you feel like you need them. How do they do that? Constantly make you feel like you are missing something, and reading their words will make everything alright. This can be incredibly harmful as people can start to believe that they are not good enough, something is wrong, something can be made better.

 

All You Have to Do Is Read

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Steaming coffee mug in hand, fresh air filling your space, highlighter in hand, book open to a new chapter. This image would undoubtedly be the perfect aesthetically pleasing morning most dream of recreating. But underlining sentences that you like is just not enough for you to actually benefit from the book.

Many suggest that to gain anything from this experience, one must read, then reread, then reread once more, always taking the time to let words sink in. By doing so, you’ll be able to link what you’re reading to what you already know. Consequently, you can internalize the text resulting in real change in perspective and even behavior.

Moreover, some have criticized the effectiveness of the self-help genre, suggesting that we keep reading, essentially studying these books to avoid actually putting in the work to achieve the results we desire.

 

You Are in Charge of The Change

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Who wouldn’t love anything more than to grow at their own pace? You can force yourself out of your comfort zone when you feel ready or sit back and relax in your own little bubble when you feel it is necessary. Unlike working with a therapist, you can call all the shots.

But the issue that arises here is that some people just don’t. Some will buy a self-help book, read it regularly in the days afterward and then start finding other purposes for it. Perhaps utilize it as a coaster or a coffee table book. Until eventually, it just gets stuck in a dark corner of the house that no one visits, with other unwanted objects who’ve met the same fate.

Some people just lack the self-discipline required to actually benefit from these books. They fail to continuously show up for themselves and need someone to hold them accountable.

 

Final Thoughts

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The debate on the usefulness of self-help books is a never-ending one. But I’ll leave you with this: self-help books can be useful only if you decide to make them.

For starters, always research before making a purchase. While this process can be pretty dull, it will certainly save you not just money but, more importantly, time. Identify the specific area where you want to develop and search for the relevant books. Read reviews on the books. Read reviews on the author. Most books of this genre are autobiographical, in the sense that the writers usually use their own personal experiences for analysis and reflection. Make sure that you’ll be able to internalize the lessons they aim to teach you.

Furthermore, understand that you’re just reading the words of other human beings, who definitely made mistakes and are not perfect in any way. They cannot live a perfect life because perfection simply does not exist. Therefore, be mindful when reading. Take what is useful to you, learn from it, apply it to your own life, and leave what doesn’t serve you.

Only then will you be able to use the self-help genre as a tool to make real change in your life.

 

Photo: Shift Drive/shutterstock

 


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