Wow! Lot’s of people sure do hate self-help books. One of my former coworkers had a mini-tirade when she saw a self-help book on top of the New York Times Bestsellers List. According to her, those kinds of books don’t deserve national attention. And another friend of mine never hesitates to tell me how useless self-help books are. According to him, self-help books are only beneficial to the people who get rich writing them.
What’s wrong with helping someone solve a problem that’s obviously causing emotional or physical pain? Everyone needs help every once in awhile, and it’s not always possible to speak with a person. And even if there is someone to talk to, that doesn’t mean they can help. When you’re surrounded by negativity and people who can’t even begin to give you advice, then self-help books are useful.
I’m not ashamed to admit that self-help books have helped me tremendously. The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, encouraged me to venture away from small town life to explore life in New York City. Beauty for Ashes, by Joyce Meyer, taught me to overcome emotional baggage collected from years of verbal abuse. These are only two examples out of many. These books provided the guidance and information I needed to make positive changes in my life.
People who say self-help books don’t work miss one very important fact: No one can help a person who refuses to be helped. A person can read hundreds of books on overcoming child abuse, but that doesn’t mean anything will change. The books aren’t junk just because the reader doesn’t change overnight. Adjusting thought and behavior patterns takes time. It’s not as easy as switching to a different television show.
I’m not naïve. A number of self-help books are junk. It’s true that you can’t believe everything you read. The advice may be useless, unrealistic, or just plain bad. There’s good and bad in any industry. And there’s always someone waiting to cash in on a trend. However, that’s no reason to trash an entire industry because of a few con artists.
Another criticism I hear often is that self-help books are for stupid people who need common sense in a book. That’s ridiculous. There are things that require much more than common-sense knowledge. If you’re an alcoholic who wants to quite drinking, common sense says just stop drinking. But does anyone honestly believe it’s that easy? A self-help book could be the first step towards sobriety.
I think the world would be a better place if more people read self-help books. I’m not suggesting we become self-help book addicts, and spend more time reading than living our lives. What I’m saying is that personal-growth is beautiful, and can make life better for everyone. No one is harmed if a self-help book provides the help a person needs. And if you would laugh at a person for trying to better themselves, then maybe you need to read a few a self-help books as well.