Emily Foster
June 08, 2013 4:00 pm

Many of my books are kept in a ‘closed to the public’ cabinet so that no one has to see just how much I truly love the self-help genre. I wouldn’t say I’m ashamed, necessarily, but a casual acquaintance might look at you differently after seeing the spine of Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever. But that said, I’m not into making excuses like, “Oh, my dad got that for me” when someone finds my copy of Make Him Beg To Be Your Boyfriend in 6 Simple Steps. I’m gonna come out loud and proud. I buy them, I read them and I recommend them.

Reading is important. And, while It’s lovely to lose yourself in a good work of fiction, it’s even more inspiring to find yourself in a pithy, redundant and oversimplified book about how to be a better version of yourself, and other clichés. Whenever we hit a wall and wonder what’s wrong with ourselves, we can just stroll on over to the self-help section of any bookstore where we’ll find a plethora of answers. There are so many things to find out about you! You probably can’t love freely because of your parents divorce, and you can’t find any available nice guys because of your father’s indifference. Not to mention you definitely always pick the wrong ones when you do because of your sister’s over-achievement. And of course it always comes down to how you just really need to love yourself more. “Stop Self-Loathing and Start Self-Loving” is hands down the most common chapter header in this aisle.

I eat this s**t up. And the more new age, the better. This might be because my mother had introduced me to Louise Hay as a child, diagnosing my headaches with ‘self-criticism’ and ‘fear’ through her You Can Heal Your Life book. Such a simple diagnosis and yet, such an impossible cure for a 13-year-old. But don’t worry – looking back I realize that not only was my headache from an inner dialogue of constant self-critique, but also because I needed glasses, had TMJ, and probably some hormones. And let’s get real – the ’90s were a time of Delia’s catalogues and bodysuits, Daisy Dukes and Fly Girls. Being raised in that era has left us all with a few too many sleepless nights. Don’t worry and grab a copy of something like Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll probably stop feeling self-conscious about wearing your mouth guard, too.

We are lucky to have had such pioneering icons like Oprah to help us figure out exactly how we’re flawed. She sifted through the self-help information and told us exactly what to read, how to dig deep and really get to the root of our souls. We read, we dug, but ironically, our souls are rootless. And in her daily absence, we have to forge forward, culling the messages ourselves. Don’t worry, Ted Talks help. Anyone who gives an inspiring talk probably also has written a quasi-inspiring book.

The best part about self-help is that you can read the books over and over and still never change a thing about yourself. Also, you will get so annoyed with thinking about yourself all the time that the book will actually cause you to just live your own life, and accept that (despite what the book is telling you), you probably can’t change. And then you keep on existing. Really, at the end of the day, what do any of us have? A life fully lived is chock full of happiness and pain. And for every one of those feelings, there is a great self-help book about it. So before you go thinking you’re perfect, check out every book on delusion, denial and narcissism. And take a deep breath! ‘Cause you’re finally free.

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