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Self-help books are probably the largest selling category of books. But how much do they really help us in dealing with the problems in our lives?
As a Psychologist I am often asked this question. “Which self-help book is the best?”
Being a question of concern, I am often caught off-guard. The trick with self-help books is that they are written keeping a certain population and problem in mind, and if you do not fall under that population or the problem you might not be able to connect. Therefore, one many never be able to answer this question of concern with absolute sureness.
I won’t lie to you, self-help books do claim to help and guarantee a blissful life, so I can imagine how you would find yourself eagerly looking for one. But in reality, can anyone provide our pursuit of happiness on a nice silver platter just easy enough for us to grab and taste? This question may haunt most of us for eternity, while some of us might say, HEY! Self-help books did help me in my life!
So now the pool of questions expands, how do we know which among the myriad self-help books available suits our needs? How much of it should we apply in our daily lives? How often should we read it? Does it really diagnose my problem?
So, my first question to you is, “Do you really think self-help books can diagnose you and set you on a course of treatment?” Probably and mostly no! A self-help book does not claim to diagnose you in any way. It might bring to your awareness the symptoms that you may be going through.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-help is a process to help oneself become better without any professional aid. Self-help books, therefore do not claim to give you any professional aid. They simply state to a more generalized population about what could be done during certain events or situations.
There are various things to keep in mind before going ahead with buying a self-help book.
First thing’s first, not all self-help books are made for you. Anxiety and feeling depressed or upset, is quite a commonly ‘assumed’ symptom by most of us, therefore anytime we see a self-help book which claims to help anxiety or depression we go ahead and buy it!
Here is a question, what if you are not an anxious person? Probably the current situation is all jumbled up and is making you nervous and restless and in fact the stress of it all is making you upset?
Secondly, a self-help book cannot solve your problems or provide you with a treatment plan. I am an audience of the self-help books. I have read many self-help books and while I, being a student of Psychology, can relate to most of what is written, but, I realized I could not ‘treat’ myself. Nevertheless, I resonated with the examples, the case studies and to an extent I felt relieved to learn that my problems are not severe, and most people go through them.
Another thing to keep in mind with a self-help book is that, you do not really have to abide by everything that the author has written. Please bear in mind when you buy a self-help book, that it is just to help you provide some kind of first aid toward the healing of your problem. It is not the ‘perfect’ treatment. Each self-help book author is influenced by his/her own culture and the problems they face. This may very well become a barrier for some readers in order to connect with the book and its context. Do not try to pressurize yourself in order to connect with the book.
Most people make the mistake of picking up a self-help book just because it is ‘trending’ or off the charts or written by a famous person. Sometimes we buy a book just by looking at the reputation and forget about the quality of writing. The writing needs to be simple and easily comprehensible. It should be simple and well-written. If it is too technical, unless you have the background the book will not appeal to you. The writing of the book should motivate you and encourage you, regardless of who authored it.
To conclude a self-help book is a lovely source of help. However, is one of the many methods of helping yourself or getting clarity in a crisis. When reading or buying a self-help book keep an open mind and do not be afraid to view the book or advice critically!
Image source: Amazon