I am far from a self-hate book hater. My shelf is stacked with them, and I defend them feverishly. From the anecdotal, the scientific and the inspiring, I have read them all. There is however a pitfall we fall into when we content ourselves to reading them that I’d like to explore.
Take writing for instance. I’m currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and two different screen writing books. No doubt they are helpful and motivating, but in the meantime I could have drafted a few of my ideas. Once I get the general gist, I could have reached out to friends for feedback, send completed works off to competitions, or rewritten them. It’s like I get caught up in the whimsical drafting stages where dreams haven’t been crushed yet, instead of working on making them a reality.
Name a mind-body or trauma book: I’ve got it. Learning more about childhood abuse and CPTSD has been a blessing, but I’m afraid I’ve become a bit of a know it all. Speaking to other survivors, I am quick to label and explain symptoms instead of active listening. Now that I understand my body, I am so eager to help share my knowledge that I forget to ask for consent. Healing is a journey and incredibly unique, and I found that we tend to generalise our own answers to others.
You might think this is abundant on my list, but try counting how much money you spend on self-help books if you’re like me. On my last book spree alone I spend over £100! Would have been better spend on accountancy books one might think. I’m far from denying myself spending money on books, but maybe I could wait until I finish one before I buy another. Once I discover another recommendations the sense of urgency and excitement gets me buying when my wish-list would do perfectly.
When learning more about ourselves there’s a great sense of relief. Knowledge and insight however is not enough to change. Many of us are perfectionist, and get caught up in cycles of shame instead of change. Reading self-help books can feel like we are growing when in reality, we just dream of it. Conjuring up an image of who we would like to be or where our lives have gone wrong can keep us stuck in complacency.
So are self-help books bad? Of course not. Should we limit reading them and spend more time applying what we learned from them in our personal lives? Definitely.
Let me know if you have a self-help problem too and how you’ve tackled it!