Why I Am Doing a Self-Help Book Ban

I love a self-help book. I’ve even written about some of my favourites before.

I could inhale one after another, exploring every part of the human psyche to try and understand how and why we or, more specifically, I behave the way I do and how I can change that.

However, after diving into Help Me! By Marianne Power, I started to question the efficiency of reading quite so many self-help books. As Marianne suggests, self-help books are just like the products of other industries that are trying to sell us what we want: a quick fix to achieve happiness.

Although other industries (such as fashion, beauty and other forms of wellness) are demonised for trying to sell us an ‘easy’ route to an idealised version of ourselves, the self-help genre is often overlooked. We can tell ourselves that it is a practical, introspective and worthwhile thing to read a self-help book and try to better ourselves – and I think it is! But, some perspective is crucial.

Whilst self-help books can be a great tool for improving our mental and physical health, alongside our general feelings of wellbeing, I’m starting to think that there may come a point where self-help starts to meander into self-indulgence and self-obsession, doing more harm than good.

Does self help actually… help?

Reading Help Me!, I began questioning whether all these self-help books were actually helping me or just encouraging me to poke and prod at my mind without the tools or capacity to be able to deal with what I found. It’s a dangerous game, to play with your head without allowing yourself the time and space to carefully implement changes and learn from your own experiences.

If, like me, you are constantly hopping from one book to another, there is no breather to digest what you’ve learnt or process what this means for you and your life. It is an information overload.

So, that’s why I’ve decided to go on a 6 month self-help book ban. Until mid-July, there’ll be no reading or listening to books that provide advice or tips on how to improve yourself, in any capacity.

I want to understand whether regularly reading self-help books is helping me to make positive changes, or just encouraging me to burrow so deep into my own mind that I get lost and feel even more confused than before.

I hope it will encourage me to step out of my head, and instead bring me into the real world. I want to focus on reading books that inspire me to be creative, to learn about real world things, and allow me to really enjoy a story. I also hope that it will help me, in the future, to be much more selective about the self-help books that I do choose to read. I want to pick books that have actionable advice that I can try out and feel tangible benefits from, such as (in my experience) Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning.

In 2020, I want to get out of my head and into the real world, to be more present. That’s why I am saying farewell to self-help books for the next 6 months.

It won’t necessarily be easy – I find self-help books both interesting and relaxing to read, but I want to break the habit, expand the books I am reading and see what life without self-help books might look like.

How do you feel about self-help books?

Would you benefit from taking a breather from reading them? Let me know your thoughts on my ban – I’d be interested to hear what you think!

7 Comments

  1. I don’t like self-help books much; they often seem shallow, and I get the feeling that many of the authors are just trying to sell something. For self-improvement, I really like biographies and memoirs. I learn from the author’s mistakes, learn more about people, and get inspired by them. By the way, you’ve encouraged me to read more this year, and I’m on my second good book now.

    1. I totally understand that – I really enjoy reading people’s accounts of things too. I love hearing from people with different stories and learning from their experiences.

      That’s great to hear that you’re reading more too. A couple of people have said the same thing and it genuinely makes me so happy, so thank you!

  2. It’s actually been a while since I have read a self-help book. I used to read them the way you mentioned. I will say however, they had a huge impact on my life back in my twenties. To summarize their impact, I would say they mainly changed the way I thought about life. I respect your decision to step away for a while though. After all, if you feel pressed to do that then its probably a great reason to do so. I read books from different genres now and not nearly as many. As you also mentioned, if you are only reading and not applying, then that could be a problem. According to my beliefs, it is said that faith without works is dead. It makes sense to me – I can talk about changing my life for the better but until I step out in faith and do something about it, change isn’t likely to come. While you take a trip away from self-help books, it will be hard to escape the subject because self-help always exists outside the genre. Its weaved into the fabric of life and there is no getting away from it altogether. For me, a better version of myself is always in front of me and I always intend to chase that guy! Anyway, good luck in your journey. Happy Reading!

    1. Thank you for the great response! I completely understand what you mean about self help being out there in life in so many different ways. Even though the books I’m currently reading are not ‘self help’, I’m learning so much from them and they’re helping me to think about the person that I want to be.

      I do think self help books can be great and, if used in the right way, can change your life – but I think I was overloading myself to the point that it would be impossible to implement everything I am learning. I am looking forward to returning to them with a more tailored approach and a plan to more thoroughly implement changes.

      Thanks for reading the blog!

  3. Thank you for sharing this because I feel what you have said. I delved very deep and thing is that you go so deep it can give you anxiety. However I still persist to read them but I found the best one for me and it was on Audio so I listen to it daily and I’ve now listened for 62 days straight. It’s the repetitive information of a good book that changes your subconscious mind. I realised that because of reading all these books I started to feel like I knew what I needed to do but had no idea how to do them so it gave me anxiety. After listening to my audio book daily for 62 days straight it’s changed my mindset. Now rather than thinking I can’t do it. I’ve realised that you can do it. Make a decision on one thing and tell yourself daily you will do it and just take that first step. This is actually what I’m doing here. I’ve never blogged in my life and have no idea what I’m doing but just taking that first step. I hope what I’ve said makes any sense. Goodluck with your 6 month band on yourself. You just need a bit of breathing space and that’s ok. We are who we are. But thank you for sharing your experience because I get the same way at one point.

    1. Thank you for your comment! That definitely makes sense. When you’re reading the book it can feel very empowering and you start to make changes but then as soon as you finish the book it can be easy to forget so having daily reminders of the things you want to change is a great idea. The ban is going quite well at the moment as it’s encouraging me to read a wider variety of books which I am really enjoying!

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