Back when I was a child, self help books were just kind of becoming a thing. The 90s were the time for self help books. Self help for weight loss, for snoring, for depression…. As I reached my teenage years, there were more and more books available, and I’d flick through them in book stores out of sheer nosiness; what DID you do if your relationship needed saving? (Answer: talk to your partner and don’t read manuals from 20 years ago.)
But they all said the same thing. It was all phrased the same way. Sometimes it would even be the same author, who was apparently an expert on bloody everything, able to advise from stopping smoking to erectile dysfunction, and the book would almost be a copy and paste job. Self help books were the THING.
When my mental illness first became acknowledged as a major issue – it had been there for years but I think we all chose to deny it – I was given a self help book to read. I can remember the title even now. And, given the above, I was cynical. Rightly so, it turned out, it was a pile of shite. I was around fifteen at this point, so just over ten years ago. After that bloody book, I swore I wouldn’t pick up another one.
But since then something has really shifted. Now whether that shift has been motivated by the publishers, the authors themselves, the customers needs, or by society, I’m unsure. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those. But the self help books available now are actually helpful.
You’re always going to get the odd one that’s rubbish, just like in any book section. But recently I’ve read some amazing books that have genuinely changed the way I’m viewing myself and the world around me. I love myself that little bit more.
And it’s interested. I think what has changed is the narrative. It’s not that same bloke on every front page. It’s people with lived experiences, telling you what they know, sharing what they’ve seen. I’ve gone from adamantly avoiding this whole section of books, to wanting to let this group of women into my heart and mind, to let them help me change and grow. It’s mind blowing to me.
Over the last few months I’ve read several books that have changed my mindset, or at the very least enhanced what was already founded there. I’ve been taught about myself, but more importantly taught how to learn from myself; a whole new age of the self help book.
Just some of the books I highly recommend:
- Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe
- The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
- How To Come Alive Again by Beth McColl
- Mindfulness For Worriers by Padraig O’Morain
- Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly
- Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
- How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen & Marshall Goldsmith
- I’m Absolutely Fine! by Annabel Rivkin & Emilie McMeekan
- The Self-Care Project by Jayne Hardy
- The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
Yes there are a lot of “women focused” books here, but you know what, everyone can gain from them. Women, they’re aimed at you. Men, you’ll see the world from our perspective. I make no apology for being a feminist or for wanting to dismantle the patriarchy with a sledgehammer. And a smile, of course.
Self help books don’t need to scream at you or order you around. They can be just a hand to hold, a fall back comfort. There are some things that should definitely stay in the 90s.