Self-help books fire out all the time, and are especially popular for people wanting to improve themselves in the new year - meaning there’s usually a rush of the “be a better you” genre around Christmas.
On Amazon, Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, released last month, is the current bestseller in the self-help topic. I haven’t read it, but I have read two others in the top twenty: Let that Sh*t Go, and the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
I don’t think I actually need a book to tell me not to give a damn, but it’s good to be reassured sometimes.
I am in truth something of a self-help reader, though I have yet to achieve my perfect weight, household clutter management, deal with procrastination, or perfect work organisation. But each book carries the promise that this one will actually work.
The books I’ve learned the most from are Gretchen Rubin’s, particularly her theory of the four tendencies. Knowing that I am an OBLIGER answered many of my questions, and stopped me being so hard on myself. I will hit a deadline if someone else sets it for me, but I just can’t motivate myself alone. Rubin’s work showed that most people fit into one of these tendencies, and it seems to be immutable. So rather than beating myself up for lack of self-control, it’s better to work with it.
This self-knowledge has been particularly useful over the last few years, but less helpful during covid. And I wonder if that explains the current bestsellers in self-help. The top seller is a book about emotions, not how to be a ninja in the boardroom, or how to get rich in 30 days.
We’ve all been thrown for such a loop, our old certainties no longer hold. So we look for connection, not competition. (Or just say “f*ck it”).
The first & only 'self-help' book I tried actually *was* I'm OK, You're OK & I ended up doing 4 years in a TA group. Not much changed, apart from kicking a nightly weed habit & a toxic relationship into touch.
Some years later I hit the depression & anxiety buffers and did some 1 on 1 talking therapy. It's hard to describe the resulting transformation. But the nugget of value that I *can* share is that there's no alternative to just getting the f**k on with doing good stuff (which includes the dull-but-important life maintenance bits).
I'll occasionally glance at self-help ideas now and think that the business model hangs on just complicating that idea. It also helps to become really *bored* with being anxious & depressed before trying to fix it 🤓