Self-Help Books: I Ain’t Buyin’ It

The very name “self-help” can construe two meanings. One? Empowerment. A vision of you, donning a cape billowing in the glorious winds, triumphantly standing upon a mountain beaming out at this world you’ve so thoroughly conquered. Or two – a rather sorry sight of you cowering underneath a table of books, each one screaming out, “No, I can help you!” “No, me!” “Pick me, I was on Oprah!” Now quite frankly, the second may be a little more accurate, even if you don’t necessarily hide underneath the table because if so, yes, you really do need help. Now some people swear by them, others scoff at the idea alone. So where do you stand? Do self-help books really work? Do they really have the miraculous power to change your life in just a few hours of reading?
As a whole, self-help books are an empire that have sold millions, if not billions, to those who are struggling with insecurities, and it is this very quality that the authors are able to capitalize on. Any person who has wandered into the self-help aisle will inevitably be feeling a little lost, a little insecure, and what better customer should be in this aisle anyway? The more lost and insecure they are, the easier it can be for other problems that they hadn’t even considered to suddenly become a life or death situation that they need immediate help on. Now there isn’t simply one book to dutifully rest on your bedside table, but a pile of five others! All with different problems that you never even realized you had! Silly you!
Self-help books don’t necessarily ensure ultimate privacy either, which they are so often hailed for. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want “Am I Secretly Bipolar?” or “I Don’t Want to Admit I’m a Cat Lady” or “I’m A Narcissist, Love Me for Who I Am!” casually lounging on my coffee table for any stray eyes of the house guests perusing through my house. Suddenly the casual gathering has turned into the, “Watch out, don’t comment on the burnt peas, she’s bipolar, and could FLIP OUT!” event.

And it seems obvious, but anyone who is stressed out enough to pick up a book on self-therapy isn’t the type of person who should be prescribing themselves with disorders anyway. Somehow I doubt brain surgeons and jet setting entrepreneurs are picking up self-help books on their days off. It’s more as if they have walked half way down the path to legitimate help, and stopped to pick up the brochure by the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man instead, who just looked so damn convincing in his abilities. Cue the author nonchalantly leaning against a wall, perhaps a beret atop his balding head, and that smile that just announces to the world, “Me? Having it all together? Oh you.”

Now even though I have often said that Google knows more about me than anyone else, and I’m sure this sad realization can resonate with anyone who has discovered the sheer capability of Google to answer literally any question that pops into your head, typing a confession into this robotic search engine certainly isn’t the same as allowing your insecurity to escape the confines of your own mind and into the hands of another who can help instead. When it comes down to it, Google doesn’t have a heartbeat, and nor does a book. If you’ve spent hours crying into its pages, I’m sorry to tell you, it simply doesn’t care. Cruel when I put it that way, eh? But a phone call, email, quick note, or a private conversation between you and a therapist or trusted friend will release insurmountable amounts of satisfaction that the words on a page don’t necessarily ensure. Essentially, one must embrace vulnerability and accept that what makes you truly stronger is acting on what’s eating you inside, and allowing another in to help you.

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