The consumption of self-help books has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as like myself, many have felt trapped with the fear of the future being stripped away from us and want to read something inspiring in order to gain a real insight into the here and now. The self-help book has the intention to instruct its readers to solve personal problems, and they take their name from ‘Self-Help’, an 1859 novel by Samuel Smiles. I have become much more drawn to the readings and rituals of brilliant minds, who have dissected the process behind self-criticism and mental health in ways that nobody else could do within the pages of a book. As a Literature student, I find reading extremely comforting, but especially when I read the pages of a book that I feel a deep connection for.
Mait Haig’s ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ really deeply touched my heart the moment I delved into its pages. Matt puts himself in the vulnerable position, discussing moments of his life that made him realise he suffered from depression. I feel like books that are written in this memoir format really ingrain into my brain, as it feels a lot more personal, and it isn’t just a book that is bombarding you with statements like ‘Everything happens for a reason’. As much as I like reading positive affirmations from time to time, the more successful self-help book needs to show the reader the genuine struggles, and what really drove them out of that mindset. This for Matt was a whole host of things from literature, love, running, travel and time.
From my experience, time is the biggest healer. You need to allow yourself to feel down or unhappy, in order for you to feel completely content in the future. I say this as some of my experiences from my past have led me to feel completely miserable, but that is so needed for the future you to embrace, and move from. Time also gives you perspective to not rush, as there is so much time to achieve what you want to, as long as you allow it.
I read ‘You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life’’ by Jen Sincero on a holiday a number of years ago, but the impact of the advice it gave me, I still use to this day. Jen is a successful life-coach, and she picks apart elements of day to day living, with anecdotes, daily exercises to help you to free your mind from the self-sabotaging behaviours that make you doubt how you can achieve success. If you need a fun way of transforming your life, I highly recommend this book. Even at 16 years old, I found this immediately shifted my mindset. Growing up self-conscious and fearing the judgement of others, ensured reality that every person experiences these similar feelings, and it is about combating it so you can still be the person you want, even if you don’t believe it in the moment.
Another book that I loved was Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon. Being a successful journalist, I was instantly drawn to her as this was a person I was aspiring to be like. She explores through her charismatic and warming humour, her relationship with depression and OCD with this honesty that I only wish more people could be like. Her self-help novel is far more than just stating her illnesses, and more so delving into the depths of her inner psyche and seeing what it is really like to live a particular way. Her attention to detail is brilliant, and I resonated with this book like no other, as her wisdom is down to accepting and learning from her mistakes from the past, and embracing them with full force. That is something that is hard to do, and I admire her putting her vulnerabilities out for the world to see. She is truly inspirational, and I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who wants to see an account that shows the trials and tribulations of living.
I’m sure a lot have heard of ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given and ‘What a Time to Be Alone’ by Chidera Eggerue. Both of these books are what a lot of young women are reading, which are empowering accounts to not only challenge outdated views that have been supplied through the patriarchy, but show you how to really invest time within yourself, in order to become a better person.
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty hones in on the toxicity that revolves around toxic beauty standards, misogyny, and sexism that still exists in the world, and turning insecurities into a weapon of empowerment. What a Time to Be Alone focuses on the most important and vocal point we fear the most: being alone. I find the thought of being alone the most terrifying thing in the world, but actually, she unpicks and transcends this importance of having time to develop a healthy relationship with yourself, which is inevitable, the most important thing we can all do.
At only 22 years old, Eggerue develops practical advice to teach you that the things we fear are the reasons we are not progressing. Her philosophy preaches the importance of ‘security in solitude’ and setting out how easy it is to slip on how you want to be treated. You need boundaries and people you allow in it, you need to refuse mistreatment from others that are giving you negativity, and time to process feelings alone.
Lastly, a book that I read that genuinely inspired me to write this column, was ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’ by Vex King. He admits that he is not always the most positive, but through the use of the Law of Attraction and gaining positive vibrations when bad things happen, you can reaffirm what path your life takes. He has also interwoven details of his life and how he managed to be fulfilled which is all down the mindset. I have come to terms with the fact that you can genuinely be happy with your life, and the path that you take as long as you assert positivity wherever possible, and accept flaws and errors.
I am still aware that the self-help book isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I’m very happy to have discovered them, to help me navigate the changing world, and aid my anxiety.