Self-Help: an Improvement or Just a Sham?

In the past, reading self-help books was often seen as an acceptance of defeat. Nowadays, self-help books are viewed as a badge of honour for being willing to admit one’s faults and working on improving yourself. No matter how you view self-help books, there is no doubt that their popularity has risen in recent years. With the increased understanding of the importance of mental health, many people are turning to celebrities, psychologists and even internet personalities for advice on how to begin their journey to self improvement. Publishing Perspectives has suggested that 2020 has started off the decade for personal exploration as journals and self help books have begun to fly off of store shelves. 

Self-help advice can be found in most mediums now: books, podcasts, retreats, and seminars. Those who cannot get enough self-help advice can consume it in all forms and often spend copious amounts of money on meeting their self-help heroes and gaining more personalised lessons through workshops. The Observer has highlighted the rise in popularity in podcasts as the main way most people consume self-help. Audiobooks have also allowed the genre to become more accessible to those who do not enjoy reading or buying physical books. 

One of the most intriguing ideas that has arisen from self-help has been the ‘Law of Attraction’. The ‘Law of Attraction’ became popularised in the 1920s, with people holding the belief that positive thoughts attract positive experiences and vice versa. This has stood the test of time, as many young people nowadays repeat affirmations in order to give rise to a good mindset. Those who follow this theory believe that every thought interacts with the energy in the universe in order to make it a reality. Others use these mantras in order to settle their thoughts, which in turn should propel one forward to act on the tasks that are ahead of them.

However, it is one thing to read or listen to self-help books and lectures, but it is another to actually implement the ideas into your own life. A study by Forbes shows that 94% of millennials are committed to self-help and spend around $300 a month on self-help materials. But how many of them physically apply the actions that they have learnt through consuming this type of media? Many gravitate towards self-help as a quick fix for their issues. In reality, self-help is described by many authors as a stepping stone, with the advice needing to be integrated into your daily routine. Otherwise, the time spent on self-help books would be rendered useless. 

In line with the rise in love for self-help books, there has been an increase in interest in anti self-help books. This new subsection that has grown from the idea of living your best life is all about accepting mediocrity. Anti self-help promotes enduring sadness and the inescapable negativity that naturally comes with life. For many, this idea seems much more realistic than the overly positive self-help advice. Embracing sadness allows us to understand happiness, this seems to be the overarching message of anti self-help. 

Whether you follow self-help or anti self-help trends, there is no doubt that an interest in this area has begun to rise drastically. As we continue to search for a quick fix to all of our problems, self-help experts will carry on creating guides on how to conquer your own obstacles. Will the 2020s become the decade for self improvement and implementing the ideas of self-help into our daily lives?

Image courtesy of Shiromani Kant

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