Have you ever felt self-concious while purusing the “self-improvement” section at Hastings or Barnes and Noble? Well, I have, sort of. I mean, I don’t think my life is awful and needs serious help or that I’m completely mental… so, what on earth am I doing in this aisle?
I’m not going to lie, I’ve read my share of self-help books. In fact, a few of them I believe to have really impacted my life for the better (crazy, I know!). So, to me, it can be frustrating that there is a stigma with buying self-help books (especially when I like to call them inspirational… well, just some of them, others are definitely the typically 10 steps to success….not my cup of tea…). Isn’t trying to improve your life a good thing? Yes and no. I think it really depends on your expectations. It is a fact of life that everyone, in some way or another, is pursuing some sort of happiness (and if you already found it, kudos to you! No. Seriously. Kudos!). This could be through monetary success, popularity, enlightenment, or just overall better moods and less stress in a crazy chaotic world. I just feel like we are all constantly wanting to move forward. I like to imagine myself being a flower trying to grow really big and bright (because I would definitely be a sunflower) and that reading some of these books is like adding fertilizer.
In fact, when you think about it, people who write these books are pretty genius. Sometimes I can’t help but think they are milking the fact of how insanely unhappy the majority of Western society is. Another thing I have found in all my reading is that there is, like in all types of writing, nothing new under the sun. Whenever we really connect with a sentence, a quote or an idea, it is because we see its truth and we KNOW its truth. On the other hand, when we read something we have not thought of before, it is good exposure to different ideas. I’ve read and greatly liked The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. But then again, everything he says, connects to me and where I am. I agree with him. Therefore, I think what he says is true and legitimate to me and who I am. As Walt Whitman says, “Re-examine all that you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.” Ruiz speaks to my soul, and therefore I am better for it. There are many self- improvement books that would definitely “insult my soul” either because I am not at the right point for it or because they just have no relevance to the way I want to live my life (or because they promise success in as little as one year… because I love infomercials…).
Self-improvement books have always been an interesting subject for me because I know that I can’t just read something and expect it to make my life hunky-dory (especially when I’m pretty sure my life is already pretty darn hunky-dory!). I certainly do not think anyone can tell me the secret of success either. Mainly because most of the time my idea of success is very different from theirs. Ironically, my new favorite quote on success is a quote from Ekhart Tolle’s book A New Earth when he says:
Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment.
I absolutely love that (maybe I’m a self-help addict in denial). Like any work, I think this genre has its faults, and some authors can be downright hokey, but I cannot deny the fact that my life has improved from the wisdom of others. I would not have known a lot of advice and wisdom without them taking the time to jot it down and distribute it to the world (of course we can’t NOT acknowledge Oprah in all this :)). I think it is easy to tell the difference between those that legitimately want to share their wisdom to better the planet and those who just want to bring themselves more value (and moo-lah). I’m definitely one of those persons that gets turned off immediately when someone tells me I should do something, or live my life a certain way, so I believe those who truly want to help just share their own knowledge are the best kind because they are not necessarily forcing it. It just kind of flows.
This all being said, these are my top inspiring/self-improvement category reads (I tend to read self-help books as inspiration rather than rules on how to go about life anyway, and I also find regular books inspiring and self-improving along the way. Therefore, I have favorites from all of the bookstores book sections) :
*Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
* The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
* The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle
* The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo
*Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
So, what is your opinion on self-improvement books? Yay, nay? Hogwash? Eh?
Many of you that know me personally are probably quite aware of the person who helped me find some of these books (you don’t know what you are missing out on!), and I thank that person to the moon and back! Hopefully, I will be able to internalize some of it! I know my life is great, but my perspective could ALWAYS be better. But that is just where I am right now.