Self-help books or self-improvement books are a genre of literature that motivates and inspires one to live a life they always wanted to but failed due to the different challenges they had to face. It guides one theoretically to overcome their challenges in life -economic, emotional, or often on a psychological basis.
Under the self-help book genre, many different groupings exist and each has its own focus, techniques, associated beliefs, proponents, and in some cases, leaders.
The self-help book industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and this ensures its popularity among the masses. As a society, we are more focused on the entire idea of being an optimist and having a positive outlook on life.
Some people believe that self-help books provide you with a step by step lesson on how to gain positivity in life, thus making the content of self-improvement skyrocket. According to the Harvard Business Review, experts predict an average yearly gain until 2022, at which point the market should be worth $13.2 billion.
However, the entire concept of how to gain a positive outlook on life by following a book of theories with step by step instructions is vague. Positivity is a feeling that is to be felt from within and not by following rigid steps. The utmost benefit that one can achieve from self-help books is insight, or rather get influenced by real-life stories.
Self-help book has been around as a genre for thousands of years and it has been loved and criticized for just as long.
The earliest form of self-help books was an Ancient Egyptian genre called “Sebayt.” Written around 2800 B.C, “Sebayt” was instructional literature on life. It was a letter of advice from father to son, The Maxims of Ptahotep, which advocated moral behavior and self-control.
During the middle ages and the period of Renaissance, Mirror-of-Princes books were written which told stories of kings whose behavior should be imitated or avoided. These were similar to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series which we have today.
The self-help genre is not a new genre of this modern generation. It has been there since ages, as a source of motivation for people who need help but cannot reach out to others or fail to achieve their goals in life.
But the question lies in if this genre helps the people as it claims to?
Self-help literature often tends to show a warped form of reality. It compares performance across people, ignoring our range and, which is in turn is impacted by a bunch of factors. Personal development should never be compared with others. Development is something that must come from within and not just by questioning our self-worth and productivity and this is what the self-help genre fails to acknowledge.
When we inevitably find ourselves not measuring up, it makes us feel more inadequate and we start giving more attention to shallow things in life that we hardly cared about before.
What may work for one might not work for others. You cannot achieve success in life by following a guide book. You can get inspired by people you really look up to but you cannot expect to win over on life by following an instruction book. Self-help writers fail to understand this and thus name their books as a set by step guide to a happy life.
Intelligence and efficiency depends from one person to another. One might take a little longer time to achieve the success he wants, than others. This does not essentially mean that he is a failure or is supremely unhappy in life. Self-help books fail to acknowledge this. The reader often starts thinking himself as one, thus making him feel insecure and then ends up judging himself and the worth of his life.
For starters, stop comparing yourself to others, for the simple fact that everyone is unique in their ways. There will always be someone who can read faster than you, sing better than you, or work more efficiently than you. Social media also tends to amplify those results and make you question your life a little more.
The entire idea of perfection is a myth. Everyone has their flaws. You can try and improve yourself by comparing yourself to the past”you” but comparing yourself to someone you barely know should never be an option.
Embrace yourself and be Kind to yourself. Nobody knows your journey better than you. Thus following a self-help book, that claims to tell you how to achieve success by following a list of rules can never help you.
There is a fine line between getting inspired by others and comparing yourself to them. Make sure that you do not fall prey to these toxic barriers of competition and instead choose to gain wisdom by getting influenced by them.
Focus on your own journey including both success and failure. Whether you are reading a self-help book or scanning your Instagram feed, use other’s stories to gain knowledge and inspiration, and not to compare yourself. Do not question yourself and instead focus on growth, keeping it in mind that you are good but you can be better.
Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it. Success does not come overnight. These self-improvement books often have a title that focuses on how you can gain success within ten days. Let us be realistic this time, you cannot just gain success overnight. You need to strive for it and that is how it works.
Think about it. Do you really need a self-improvement book that tells you not to eat enough calories a day, or that you should pursue doing what you love? No right! Do it just for the sake of yourself.
But does that mean you should stop reading self-improvement books if you enjoy this genre? If you find content of self-help books effective enough, do read it. Nobody can choose your priorities better than yourself. In case you feel you cannot do it alone, or suffer from impulsive behavior, do reach out to your loved ones and ask for help, it is worth it!