In Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bridget wonders why her parents and their generation seem to have it all together. She wonders why they don’t seem to suffer the angst and worry of herself and her friends. Maybe, she ponders, maybe this happens because they didn’t and don’t read self-help books. Indeed, she questions whether the fact the she and her friends constant reading of self-help books is a “sort of, arrogant individualism which imagines each new generation can somehow create the world afresh.”
Bridget (book Bridget, lesser so movie Bridget) spends copious amounts of time referencing self-help books. Especially when dealing with her own love life, or in helping her friends dissect their own romantic entanglements.
Are self-help books the problem, as Bridget questions in whatever current angst she is found? Or do self-help books actually, er, help?
There is no definitive research to show that these books help or hinder. Indeed, as Oran Canfield, son of Jack Canfield (the Chicken Soup for…author) notes, there is often an alarmingly big difference between the public and private lives of self help gurus. They tell us how to get it all together, when they themselves don’t have it all together.
“I never had any faith in any of that self-help shit,” Oran has been reported as saying.
But what about personal experience? Have self help books improved your life – or mine, for that matter?
I cringe when I say it (in case admitting to reading self help books is akin to sneaking chocolate from a child) but, yes, self help books have been my aide and guide throughout my life. Yes, so many of them say the same things in repetition. Yes, so many of the advice seems superficial. Yes, few of the authors have credentials or even experience enough to write the self-help, self-improvement book.
But sifting through some self help manuals has allowed me to pinpoint what it is exactly that is good in my life. Sorting through visualisations and mantras has given me a sixth sense for bullshit – and a sixth sense about when something, however outlandish, might work. (Who knew that Cheryl Stayed changing the script given to her as a woman, her “I am brave, I am safe, I am strong” affirmation, would remind me of my courage and power and allay my fears?).
Self-help books led me to philosophy. To Aristotle’s idea of the science of happiness
To the mean between two excesses – you know, that balance that we all talk about.
Self- help, it seems, stretches back to ancient times.
We become reflexive people. We are inspired to make better choices. We take positive action. We think about the big questions in life.
And we learn more about ourselves and others.
What self-help books have helped you?