By Andrés Muñoz

Call me old fashioned, but I love to hold and read physical books. Yes, you might be able to store hundreds or thousands of books in an e-reader, but, at the end of the day, you can only read a single book at a time. The turning of the pages, taking the old-book smell in once you crack one open, I love it. I also like visiting bookstores and browsing any titles that might catch my eye.

I’ve always wondered about the self-help section. It is usually a solitary one, with the historical fiction, romance, and best-seller shelves reeling most of the customers in. Those who actually stop by the section browse quickly, almost as if they wouldn’t like to be seen there. And yet as lonely as it may seem, self-help is one of the best-selling genres, both digitally and in hard copies. Why is this? Are these books really worth it?  

Opening Up

Many hate the feeling of vulnerability that comes with accepting that there is a problem. Throughout their lives, they project the idea that they know what they are doing and have got their act together, so when something goes wrong, there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear behind that exposure. Many hate leaving their weaknesses in the open for people to see, more so in a world where social media encourages a flawed mindset of showcasing our lives as perfect and free of doubt and suffering.

I would always recommend speaking with a professional about any issues or problems that one might have. That being said, as its name implies, self-help books can be a mechanism for someone to address a particular issue or situation on their own.

The Right Choice 

So we’ve swallowed our pride and taken those bold steps to the self-help section. We now face a wide assortment of books that promise happiness, wealth, and fortune if you just buy them and follow the steps written inside. How do we choose the right one? 

Lots of these books are a simple marketing tie-in for career coaches or motivational speakers, who use their written work as a calling card to promote their live events. This simply enhances the hype and feeds a machine of consumerism that might ultimately not be as helpful as one might think.  

Be truly selective about what book you pick. An author’s way of addressing issues might be extremely different from how you learn and live. A good example is a book I shared in a previous article titled Solve for Happy: Engineering your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat. This is an engineer’s blueprint of a self-help book. It includes an analysis of happiness and an actual formula to achieve it. If you are of a less analytical mind and prefer metaphors and stories, perhaps an old inspirational/self-help approach like Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist might be a better option. Between these two categories exist thousands of approaches that will cater to your specific style and tastes, so make sure to do some proper research first.

Beyond Books: Podcasts And Professionals 

My take is that self-help books can only take you to a certain point if you’re seriously committed to adjusting an element of your life. These books aren’t magical tomes that will immediately switch your mindset once you’re done reading them. They are usually accompanied by a series of actions and steps that you must take to change that said mindset.

While I have read and suggested self-help books in the past… personally, I see books as more of a gateway to stories and adventures and less a guide on how to address one’s plights. For this reason, self-help books might not be the best option for me. I would prefer to listen to people have real conversations about any given issue or share my concerns with a professional.

Podcasts are a good insight into other people’s lives. By listening to others discuss many different themes and topics, I like to extrapolate from those conversations and develop my own findings. If I have a more pressing or worrying concern, I would want to talk to therapists or people who are directly aware of my exact situation and can provide me with key insights. Most importantly, they’ll check up on me as time goes by, so I stick to the specified action plan.

Self-help books require a level of personal discipline that might be hard to stick with for some. When push comes to shove, most advice is autobiographical, and people love sharing what worked for them. While I wouldn’t be one to walk out of the bookstore with a self-help book, I do think that there are different solutions for each person. Has there been a specific book that has changed your life? Let us know in the comments section below!