I love self-help books. Maybe a little too much. I’m sort of an addict if you want to know the truth.
I don’t know if they’re really called “self-help” books these days. I think they prefer to be called “personal development” books now. Whatever you call them, I’m a big fan.
I buy them all the time. I buy new ones when I haven’t even finished old ones. Sometimes I buy ones I’ve bought before because I forget that I already bought them! I have them piled up on my bedside table and my poor little Amazon cart is overflowing with them.
However, as much as I love a good self-help book, I do sometimes wonder if they’re as helpful as I might believe them to be.
The true irony of “self-help” is that it’s all about looking outside of your self for help.
Surely, if we know anything it’s that living a fulfilling life is an inside job. And yes, learning is fantastic and self-help books can teach us new tools and give us new insights, but at some point are we buying the books because it’s easier to order another package from Amazon than it is do actually do the work that we already know we need to do?
And it makes perfect sense.
Buying a new book feels great. You get that little dopamine hit in your brain and you feel like you’re really on the path to clarity and enlightenment, and that’s before you even leave the bookstore!
What’s hard and what doesn’t feel so good is sitting with and exploring uncomfortable feelings, or putting yourself out there and trying new things, or having difficult and honest conversations with people, or accepting that yes, life really just is this messy and confusing a lot of the time.
And the hardest thing of all? Trusting that you already know what you need to do more than any book could tell you. Why? Because that requires you to respect and have faith and trust in yourself.
And that’s really hard.
So, we turn to the books as a crutch. We start looking outside of ourselves for the answers and we confuse learning about something with actually doing it, and that’s where the book tower beside my bed can become dangerous.
We feel like we’re not enough, like we couldn’t possibly have the answers. We don’t trust ourselves, so we turn to yet another book or podcast or guru to show us the way.
Because we trust them…more than we trust ourselves.
Am I going to stop buying self-help books? No way! I still do learn some great tools from those books. But the next time I find my finger hovering over the “add to cart” button, I’m going to stop and honestly consider whether I might in fact be the very best person on the planet to teach myself the lesson I’m looking for.