If you only knew the half of it, if the right combination of self-help literature (esp. some tied with 'new age spirituality') meets the right mind, you may be saying hello to Wonderland in the not so distant future, Alice...I know Halloween is tomorrow and not out to scare anybody, but I personally know of 4 people that I've known from my teenage years (85-90) that I just found out within the past year, are going through some kind of 'out of the blue' mental issues, but the one thing they all had in common was that every single one of them had read and followed 1 type of self-help title or another for no other reason than to try and perhaps better themselves. These self-help titles do purport to change one's life, but the degree of change is the problem; 2 are currently unable to function normally and are permanently at home under constant care and meds, 1 is in a mental health facility and 1 killed himself. Now, I couldn't even fathom how self-help books could harm, that was until I went online and started researching some of these titles AND boy was I ever surprised AND confounded by what I discovered! I was sitting there, in front of my laptop, looking at, of all places, a website for cult awareness; AND the discussion and debates regarding these self-help titles goes back years. Now that was the first thing that alarmed me (actually 2nd thing, because finding about what happened to my old friends was the 1st) was that I'm coming across in my research, these self help titles that are hawked and endorsed by celebrities are being discussed on a CULT AWARENESS WEBSITE! Now when I think of cults, I think mind control, and if all my friends were having trouble with their minds, that kind of coincides, right? Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg because it seems that there is like some subliminal hypnosis going on that basically puts you into a kind of positive trance that over time desensitizes you because you are constantly acting one way, which then gives way to psyche schisms (more commonly known as ego-splits) and then the detachment from reality (now your life becomes a real sci-fi movie), a Neo without a Morpheus...What do you do, what do you do??? Jeckyll and Hyde it, Hulk wanna try it, Dracula gonna bite it, Wolves howl at moonlight it, witches want to ride it, zombies wanna riot, AND masons keep it quiet... >~~<
Taking a skills survey for work recently, I came to one question that gave me pause. I was to rank how this statement fit me, on a scale from 1 to 10: “I am constantly reading self-help books, learning from high achievers, and working at increasing my professionalism and appearance.”
I immediately felt exhausted. Maybe it was the imperative that word “constant” conveyed to my overachiever mind. On a scale like that, 10 is always better than 1, right? Which would make “as constantly as possible” the “correct” response.
Don’t get me wrong—of course I’m committed to personal and professional development, and I have big aspirations for my life. But I know I’m not the only woman who feels overextended. Between our jobs and commutes and trying to achieve that elusive “work-life balance” by squeezing in a workout and making time for friends, when do we have time to devote ourselves to every self-help book on Amazon’s best-seller list? Besides, is “constantly” subjecting ourselves to the scrutiny and self-help trends we find in those books really even the way to a better career and life?
Steve Salerno, author of Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, says no. (“Sham,” interestingly enough, stands for the “Self-Help and Actualization Movement.”) While working as editor of the books program associated with Men’s Health, he found that “the most likely customer for a book on any given [self-help] topic was someone who had bought a similar tome within the past 18 months.” If these books really worked, you wouldn’t expect people to consistently need more advice on the same topic, now would you?
But my frustration with these “helpful” books isn’t just that they don’t work—it’s that they’re degrading to their readers. The title of a Christian Science Monitor article does a nice job summing up the way these books often make us feel: “New Popular Self-Help Books Share One Message: You’re an Idiot.” The high sales of books like Skinny Bitch and He’s Just Not That Into You, with their sharp appraisals of our personal shortcomings, supposedly reflect a demand from young female readers for “in-your-face entertainment mixed with advice.” But how good is that advice they’re giving?
Take this example: One book in this new genre, Sherry Argov’s Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl – A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship, advises readers that the secret to a successful relationship is being “dumb like a fox” by simpering guilelessly all the while strategically manipulating her man. Is this really the smart advice women need? It’s certainly not going to build trust in a relationship—something most of us consider key to a happy partnership. Quick, game-like fixes might bring us a little instant gratification, but they’re unlikely to lead to long-term success.
What self-help books sell us is hope—the hope that we can be skinnier, prettier, more successful girlfriends, wives, employees, or just versions of ourselves. The message may be packaged in self-deprecating snarkiness or in “you go girl!” style encouragement, but the message always proves the same: “You are not all that you could be and this advice will turn your life around.”
Now I’m not saying that we should to give up on growing ourselves or our businesses, but—to get back to where I began—10 is not always better than 1. You don’t have to “constantly” read up on tricks to be happier or more successful in order to be happier or more successful.
If a book on the shelf piques your interest, by all means, check it out. But remember that perfection won’t be found in those pages, and don’t forget the power of things that can’t be packaged between two hardback covers: your friends and family, your passions, and your own self-discovery of what really makes you happy.