26 Jun 2012

help yourself

from Design For Mankind

Do you read self-help books? Once upon a time I wouldn't so much as glance in their direction whilst in Waterstones in case someone thought I was a loser, instead I'd march straight on towards Fiction, trying not to attract the attention of the crazy person leafing through 'Nobody Likes Me: Why That's Not My Problem' as I past. But then I had a baby and suddenly I was a crazy person too. I was hungry for help, desperate to feel like myself again and so I was lured into the world of the self-help book where a world of possibilities blossomed out in front of me. I could be happier, calmer, richer, thinner, braver, make friends (whilst dumping the toxic ones), get organised, forget all the bad stuff, manipulate others into doing what I damn well wanted them to and, ultimately, I could have anything I wanted and do anything I wanted just by wanting it hard enough. 

There, job done and now my life is perfect. 

I'm British and us Brits don't get down with the touchy feely stuff of therapy and self-help quite as easily as the Yanks do. Not so much because we're unable to share or admit we have problems, but because we like to think we can sort it all out ourselves and if we ask or look for help then we've admitted defeat. 

From My Little Buffalo

I'm certainly not adverse to telling people if I'm struggling, in fact I'm a chronic over-sharer (after I had Edie I told anyone I could get my hands on that I 'wasn't very well'. The lady behind the make-up counter at Boots only had to open her mouth to ask if I was having a good day and I'd be regaling her with tales of my hormones, my irrational fears and how I wanted to tie my leg to the bed at night in case I sleep-walked out the window). But then to admit that I had 'post natal depression'? No way. Take anti-depressants? Never! It's nothing! I'll be fine in no time. 
It wasn't nothing. It was a very  big something that took me many months to fight my way out of.

Anyway, back then I read several self help books, I read them in the hope that one of them would hold the key to my recovery. Some of them were awful, some a bit silly or boring and one was a work of genius that helped me enormously. You've just got to cut the wheat from the chafe and be selective. Quality, not quantity, that old adage. These days I'm only a little bit self conscious when I browse the aisles of self-help in Waterstones. Well, OK, I'm still mortified but to hell with it. 

I'd love to hear about any self-help books you guys have read that you'd recommend. I might write about a few that I rate highly. The gems. And maybe I should write about the really shit ones too. To give the big picture.


  1. Lovely post, I can really relate to the maternal madness; though I often felt quite mad before having kids, and actually feel a lot saner now they're older and I've settled into parenthood!
    Any book that claims to know better than the reader makes me instantly suspicious, I prefer books that encourage me to access my own wisdom and trust my instincts.

    My favourite book to recommend to new Mums is 'What Mothers Do (especially when it looks like nothing)' - by Naomi Stadlen, who's a psychotherapist. The book is mainly about the value of offering comfort to children, and how the language that we have to describe mothering is really inadequate. Is this the work of genius that you refer to? I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was, and if it's not I'd love to know the name of that book!

    For help with parenting I love 'How to talk so your kids will listen, and listen so your kids will talk'. It's American, which is fine though I think British readers may find the tone occasionally a bit cheesy, and it is full of useful tips on how to engage co-operation and avoid causing feelings of shame in our kids. There's also books about learning and teenagers by the same authors, I've found the former useful and I'm hoping the latter will see me through that phase when the time comes!

    I'd love to hear your take on which books are good and which are shit! xx

    1. Thank you for your comment, I love it when people take the time to leave nice long ones! I'll look up those books later, thanks so much for the suggestions. Very much appreciated. X

  2. I'm a fan of 'What Mothers Do' too - I probably read it a bit too late, but it's definitely one for the crazy newborn days.

    I also love 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway' for a general 'Yay, you can do it!' type boost.


  3. Never read a self help book... glad you found a few gems away all the crap our there..