New Year and the Self-Help Book


Many of us find ourselves approaching the New Year with a renewed commitment to improving our lives. Fitness, weight loss, finances, parenting, beauty, the list goes on and on.  Mental health can be added to that list with our pursuit of improved happiness, relationships, assertiveness, etc.  One of the ways we do this is turn to self-help books. 

 And that’s not a bad thing, but it’s tricky given the culture we live in. We are exposed to so many cultural norms regarding how we “should” be.  As such, there is a massive market for self-help books, and we buy them up with a ferocious appetite. Sadly at the same time, our sense of failure has never been higher.  Many clients I work with struggle with never feeling good enough. And I get it as I can feel it too. How could we not when we live in a culture of comparison, and we are only ever one click away from not feeling good enough. Somehow all of us are meant to be extraordinary, and no one can be ordinary any more. It makes sense to me in a world where this is going on people are becoming highly self-focused. Is it narcissism or is it survival? I’ll leave that for another blog post!

 The abundance of self-help books can contribute to these feelings. We pick them up with hope, committed to following the list of steps or rules that will lead to happiness and an Instagram account that will impress. We are determined to get it right, get it perfect.  Just do what they say, and then life will be better.Then when the day comes that we can’t keep this up…we feel like a failure. 

 So below are several books that I feel step away from the pursuit of extraordinary perfection and embrace healthy striving and compassion. Instead of contributing to my sense of failure, they helped me and several of my clients step away from it. As you read them, however, watch for perfection and embrace the notion we ebb and flow with our relationship to self. We can’t be happy, emotionally stable, balanced, etc. etc. all the time. We are beautifully messy humans full of strength and struggle and no self-help book can, will or should make you perfect.  Enjoy!


1.   Self-Compassion: Kristin Neff

2.   Broken Open: Elizabeth Lesser  

3.   Gifts of Imperfection: Brene Brown 

4.   The Highly Sensitive Child/Person: Elaine Aron

5.   Motherless Daughters: Hope Edelman

6.   A Return to Love: Marianne Williamson

7.   Unspeakable Things: Laurie Penny

8.   Biting the Hand That Starves You: David Epston, Ali Borden, Richard Maisel 

9.   Quiet: Susan Cain

10.  The Crafting of Grief: Lorraine Hedtke and John Winslade

11.  Rewriting the Rules, an Integrative Guide to Love, Sex, and Relationships: Meg Barker