I started to think this post wasn’t going to be about books at all, but it turns out it is. The idea came to me while I was browsing through my bookcase looking for something I read recently. I realized that I have several shelves of what are labeled “self-help” books. These books are my version of therapy, books that have brought me closer to discovering myself and finding what happiness means to me.
Why do I get the feeling that in many circles these kinds of books are looked down on? Why the wise cracks in movies, tv, and radio shows about the people that read them?
What’s so wrong about attempting to help yourself through difficult times? Why do I feel the compulsion to hide and downplay how many of these books I read?
Hold the phone! Aren’t all books “self-help” books?
When I want to learn more about something, I usually go find a book (or five) to read about the subject. History, economics, religion, science, any book opens a whole new way of thinking, or dives deep into a subject I only had an inkling about. I’m helping myself to learning.
If you scroll through my Autobibilography page, you’ll find many titles labeled “self-help” and I am proud that I read them. I put them there so that someone else might find them, explore my thoughts, and decide whether or not that book might help them.
And it’s not just books that lead us to discovery of the world around us, and ourselves. Movies, documentaries, websites, and articles, all help us keep learning and growing, even when they are fiction.
Instagram has been a wealth of self-discovery for me the past few years. I’ve found writers, mental health professionals, quilters, and even comedians that have changed my life for the better. They inspire me with their posts about what they are reading, writing, and learning. They make me laugh with their observations about the world around us. They give me ideas about what I can create right here in my own home.
Three posts I saw this morning sum up what I’m currently working on in my mind.
Balanced between “I’m scared of change.” And “I’m scared of staying the same.”
Who else feels this way? Years ago, my sons pointed out that I am a special kind of crazy because I really don’t like change AND I get bored quickly. I’ve always struggled with that, but then again, doesn’t everyone? I want to stay where I’m comfortable and capable, the tried and true. I want a challenge too, but that’s scary.
And this one: “Self-Care for Highly Sensitive People Means”
Many of these suggestions sound like a nightmare, especially “spend time alone.” Being alone is something I actively avoid, the reason I keep reading, posting, and asking for input. I call people, attempt to set up dates, send texts in the hopes of starting a conversation, all in order to end the “spending time alone” part of self-care.
My fear is that if I get used to that time alone, everyone will be gone, off on their own adventures, when I finally decide that I’ve had enough and want company again.
I think I’ll print this one out and put it out where I can see it. If these things are hard for me to do, maybe that means I need to practice them. Maybe that’s what will make me feel better.
And then I see this, “What if you told yourself you are worthy just the way you are and you believed it?”
I don’t believe it. Just this morning I found myself journalling negativity to myself. “If you would just…” “If you could only…” “You’re just asking too much.” “Then you’d be happy because you would deserve to be happy.”
Where the hell does THAT come from?
I have one more…a bonus!
A visual representation I would do very well to remember. Somewhere along the line, I’ve learned to believe that self-criticism will make me work harder to be a better person and self-compassion will make me lazy and stuck.
Neither are true.
Every time I’ve practiced self-compassion lately, in the form of some kind words to myself or one of those self-care actions described above, I feel better about myself and I’m happy and content. Happy and content are the better goals in life, the ones you lay on your deathbed smiling and reminiscing about.
When I practice self-criticism, I feel worse and get less done. I’m unhappy and spread that unhappiness to everyone around me. In response, the very people I want so badly to feel connected to begin to pull away from me. The very thing I fear is being caused by the action I have believed would keep it at bay.
See?! Self-help! The critics are right, probably the worst thing in the world for people to do is to attempt to solve their own problems with self-discovery and discussion with others instead of relying on the professionals to coach one on one and charge you obscene amounts of money to do so, making us say things like, “Hey government! I can’t afford what I NEED, so take something from someone else and give it to me so I can!”
But that’s a whole other topic of discussion!
Thanks for reading today. You really helped me out by being here to listen. I hope you found something useful as well. How do you feel about the self-help genre in general? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.