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Why self-help books isn’t helping you

Why self-help books isn’t helping you

We read self-help books to help us overcome personal, mental, and emotional problems without getting professional help such as therapists or counsellors. It is cheaper than going to therapy or consulting professionals, but a bit better than confiding and asking for advice from our friends. But if there are times when you’ve read the books, followed the advice as closely as you can, but still nothing improved? What might be the reasons why self-help books aren’t helping you?

The dilemma with self-help

According to BBC UK, the first self-help book is written by Samuel Smiles and published in 1859, titled “Self Help”. The book is just like any other self-help books there is now, it discusses the “never give up” ideology and that anyone can achieve greatness through hard work. It became such a hit that it even outsold The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. According to some histories, even Charles Darwin became a fan of the book.

With social media highlighting and bombarding everyone with each other’s successes, it is hard to not feel like you aren’t doing enough. Hence, everyone wanted to help themselves and this resulted in the sudden and massive demand for self-help books and even social media content.

The self-help book industry easily became a multi-billion dollar industry.

One of the dilemmas with the industry is, most self-help books are written by men, while the main consumers of the industry are women! Kind of a mismatch, right? But more than that…

Here are some reasons why self-help books isn’t helping you:

1. You’re JUST reading the books.

This is the same as signing up for gym memberships and not actually going to the place to work out. You have to put in the hard work! Reading all the concepts is one thing; you learn new ideas, but application is the key! You can’t go reading books about controlling your temper and not actually try to control your temper.

2. You’re reading the wrong books.

Do you really need the self-help kind of books or should you be reading self-improvement books? Self-help books are for those who consider themselves to be under the baseline or being “okay”, while self-improvement books are for people who may just be on the baseline or above it. If you just want to improve certain aspects of your life, then go for self-improvement books e.g. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, and etc. But if you feel like you’re under the “okay” baseline, why not try reading the self-help books first e.g. Celeste Headlee’s Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, and etc.

Do not bite off more than what you can chew. You don’t have to and it will just stress you out even more. Take steps not leaps.

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3. Different problems require different solutions.

You want to learn how to save money for a secured future so you read books that give tips on how to budget. You follow it but ended up suffering even more? It’s maybe because you and the author are in different circumstances! He may be able to do the 50/30/20 budget because he earns enough to do so. But if you earn just enough for your needs, it would be very hard to follow the same 50/30/20 rule!

4. The self-help books you’re reading aren’t written by professionals.

It matters that the books you’re reading is written by experts, especially if it tackles the topics about mental health i.e. anxiety, depression, and etc. Reading books not written by professionals that tackles the aforementioned topics, can be more destructive to you than it being helpful.

5. It gives you a false sense of hope.

After reading the books, you expect to know better. So you feel okay and that you have everything under control. But sometimes, you just don’t. And it’s fine! You can’t figure everything out at once.

6. You need a different kind of help.

Sometimes it’s just that. You need professional help. You aren’t crazy or some sort of failure for seeking help from the professionals. But books can only do so much, YOU can only do so much to help yourself. Instead of beating yourself up over something you can’t solve on your own, try asking for help.

Self-help books can’t solve your problems, they can only help you understand the problem. But according to Samuel Smiles, “Heaven helps those who help themselves.” There are so many ways to help yourself, not just by reading self-help books. You help yourself even just by taking a rest. 

“For over a century, self-help has meant self-improvement. Perhaps this time around, self-help should mean self-acceptance,” says Marshall Sinclair.

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