From time time, self-help books give me the kick-up-the-arse that I need whenever I have a lapse in judgment, or even get all mopey because I didn’t get the red velvet cake I wanted. Self-help books serve as handy reminders to live life to the fullest.
But as handy as they are at times, “self-help” books don’t really help me help myself. As great advice they offer, they also debilitate my ability to find solutions for myself, and constantly requiring someone else’s words to pump you up, motivate you, or help you appreciate life….I’d rather not have that crutch. I’d much rather be thrown into the deep end of the pool and learn to swim for myself. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
And the thing is, I never feel like anything that I read in self-help books sticks in my brain afterwards. Sure, there’s an initial moment of inspiration and motivation, but it doesn’t stick around for long. Why is that? I get inspired by novels. Harry Potter, The Once and Future King, The House of the Scorpion, A Monster Calls….So many books have changed my life, and shaped who I am as a person. That’s because the morals in these books stuck with me–but why isn’t that the case for self-help books too?
Again, it’s the problem of self-help books spelling everything out for you; it doesn’t challenge you to think for yourself. When we learn something new in life, it should take some work. Yet “self-help” books are paradoxically debilitating our ability to “help ourselves.” They are debilitating our ability to figure out the answers for ourselves. I mean, look at the layouts in self-help books; the takeaways and morals are neatly listed in short chapters or broad bulletpoints, and it’s almost too easy. Life is almost too easy to figure out. That’s not
However, when I watch a movie or read a novel, I like to figure out what that story means to me. In discovering what kind of things make me laugh and cry, what kind of things I notice, and what kind things make me passionate, I’m discovering the lessons in life that mean the most to me. I’m actively sorting through the lessons that I’ll choose to internalize. But self-help books? They don’t make me WORK for those lessons. The answers are just presented on a silver platter that I passively eat up without any sort of appreciation. Thus why they don’t stick around.
That’s why I prefer novels. Novels present you with the problem, not the answer. By relating to a certain character in a story and following his or her journey, their life lessons become your own. You’re actively digging for the morals when you read a novel, and that’s why it tends to stick around.
On the other hand, self-help books don’t provide that sort of self-fulfillment in the long run. They don’t make me work for the lessons that I learn.