Self-Help Books Are Not Just For Desperate Twits

Illustration for article titled Self-Help Books Are Not Just For Desperate Twits

Jessica Simpson is self-help book enthusiast. "I am the first person to go to Barnes & Noble and buy the new self-help book," she says. You're shocked, we're sure, that J. Simp perpetuates the concept of self-help reader as sad sack single girl desperate for a man/learning the meaning of life through shoe purchasing. But, not all self-help books are for mindless simpletons. It's more about the attitude you take towards the advice of these books that makes all the difference.

If you're a desperate person reading these books as a panacea, as Book Slut's Jessa Crispin points out in the Smart Set, these tomes can be quite dangerous. She reviews two self-help books β€”The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Destiny by Janet and Chris Attwood, and Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On by Anneli Rufus β€” and finds them potentially devastating. "The first thing I recommend to someone shaking in the wake of a tragedy, or feeling stuck in their lives, is throw out these self-help books," Crispin writes. "They fill your head with lies and make it harder to move on. Recovery, however, is different for everyone, and unfortunately, the next step is up to you."

Ultimately yes, the onus is on an individual to help his or herself deal with any situation. But honestly, even after major traumas, many people have a strong enough sense of self to read advice from strangers and not fall for every piece of it hook, line, and sinker. It's a pretty pessimistic view of the intelligence of self-help readers to assume that they believe every bit of crap they're sold.


Many commenters at Jezebel have admitted sheepishly to being helped by He's Just Not That Into You, and as a teenager I took solace in Reviving Ophelia: Helping You to Understand and Cope with Your Teenage Daughter. Though it's geared towards the parents of teenagers, reading the anecdotal experiences of other teenage girls and methods of coping definitely helped me feel less alone. And if you're still embarrassed about it remember this: in When Harry Met Sally, Harry and Sally become bffs and then get married and have ten thousand babies after reuniting in the self-help aisle of a book store. If Nora Ephron says it's ok, that's good enough for us.

Jessica Simpson Confesses Her Love of Self-Help Books [People]
Help Wanted [The Smart Set]

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My therapist turned me on to SARK's books, which were full of self-help messages about seeing beauty and art in the world and being in touch with your creativity. At times Sark (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) seemed like she had her head in the clouds, but had good advice about being positive and artistic. I also read Geneen Roth's books about eating disorders and depression, and books about growing up with Asperger's Syndrome and mild autism, to get answers on my own childhood experiences.

I liked Reviving Ophelia, and just remembered it last week, particuraly the teen girl obsessed with Prince, only wearing purple and listening to his music, and living in a Prince-only world.