I wish to make a confession; I think I am addicted – to self-help books. The latest incarnation is in the form of a small manual on my bedside table on how to live by the principles of Ikigai, a Japanese concept focused on finding your life’s purpose and adhering to it daily. This follows a long line of well-thumbed books promising to help me:
- live more authentically
- push past fear
- be more assertive and confident
- embrace uncertainty
- connect with others
- pause and live mindfully.
And on a more practical level I am guided on how to:
- start a business
- be an effective leader/manager
- be a good feminist and a strong woman
- take control of my emotional eating.
These are just some of the titles I see when in my bedroom, and I feel them seeping into my subconscious not as an inspiring call to arms but rather an unrelenting tide of pressure exacerbated by my inability to actually do anything the books tell me to. And yet I keep buying them again and again, each time I have a new idea or set a new goal. Perhaps once I’ve discovered my Ikigai I’ll know exactly what books to pick up to help me fulfil my true life’s purpose.
Pursuit of The One
I’ve definitely not yet found it, the one self-help book which will elevate me to the dizzy heights of my imagination wherein I am bursting with confidence, unafraid to tackle anything, full to bursting with energy and passion, and unrelenting in the pursuit of my one ultimate goal. I think those of us who turn to self-help books will be familiar with that persistent search for The One to end them all, the one in which the secret we have been waiting for lies just waiting to be discovered.
The truth, though, is that I have no bloody clue what I’m actually searching for. I know I am always trying to start over, every day trying to be better; better than what I’m not quite sure. However, it has dawned on me lately that perhaps, instead of searching for something, I am actually running from something; running from myself, from the parts of me I don’t like (which are plentiful). I know when I read these books that I won’t do any of the practical tasks that end each section, but I kid myself that the theory my brain absorbs will be enough to magically transform my life despite my lack of action and willpower.
The best self-help book
I’ve had sneaking suspicion lately that these self-help books might not be doing us women any favours. Who decided that we need to be more confident/assertive/fearless, and who determined what these things actually mean anyway? Are we really just blubbering, jittery messes of women waiting to be rescued by courage or taught to lean in adequately? I think these types of books might actually be making us feel more inadequate than we need or deserve to.
I will finish reading about Ikigai, and then place the book on the dusty shelf with its forlorn counterparts. However, I have had an idea (another one) – I have decided to write my own self-help book, directed at myself, here in this blog. I hope to be able to laugh upon finding that the wisdom I’ve been desperately seeking has been within me all along. Who’s with me?