Our Crack Tongue & Groove
What self-help books get wrong
Imagine you, but a better you, a richer you, a you in which the universe has most definitely got your back. It’s a world promised by countless self-help books and online gurus, but it’s a world that is almost completely illusory.
I bet some clever type could draw up a graph mapping a direct correlation between the erosion of ‘real’ jobs and the rise of self-help manuals. As more of us move into the so-called gig economy - where we are all encouraged to become CEOs of our own company (ie haring around the streets on a bike to deliver massive profits for the likes of Deliveroo) - so our bookshelves groan under an ever increasing amount of volumes with titles such as ‘You Are A Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life’ and ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A counterintuitive approach to living a good life’.
These books promise that they can change your life in all manner of good ways (“Create a life you totally love, and create it NOW”; “Make some damn money already – the kind you’ve never made before”; “Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviours that stop you from getting you what you want”) but they do so by dishing out advice that is about as subtle and trite as a Nike slogan (“Just do it!”).
More egregiously, they continue to propagate the idea that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the world the way it is now. (How can there be when the authors of these books are sitting in happy valley raking in tonnes of cash?) What they are saying is that it’s not the world that is at fault, but you, although that can almost certainly be fixed if you punt 10 quid in their direction, pronto.
Now I’m not saying that all self-help books are the works of knaves and charlatans who are intent on making a quick buck. Indeed, there are many books around that have undoubtedly helped people quit smoking or declutter their wardrobes or other such things. It’s the ones that claim they’re going to “rewire your brain for success” or how “the universe is going to help you succeed in business” that irk me. Because – and answering the question that is posed in the headline above – what all of these books are getting wrong is the relentless focus on me me me. It isa tough world, especially on the jobs front, but our lives only change for the better when we concentrate on us us us. We live in communities, not on islands with a population of one.