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Toxic Self-Help Books

Self-help books can be beneficial for people who are looking for advice on how to overcome emotional and mental issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and the like. Self-help books about personal growth are great for people who are focused on pursuing happiness, inner peace, healthy relationships, career growth or financial freedom. On the other hand, the self-help industry can be toxic. If you are just beginning your self-improvement journey, proceed with caution. Some books provide tips and strategies which will actually make your quality of life much worse. These self-help books are more harmful than helpful so avoid them at all costs.

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

While the idea of an “anti-self-help-book” is appealing, every helpful piece of advice Manson provides in this book is immediately disqualified by his own sarcasm and bad jokes that never land. Reviews of the book call it “repetitive bro philosophy for twenty-something year-olds.” 

  1. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Byrne in this law of attraction book advises people to repeat positive affirmations about their desires and then “let them go.” Byrne claims that anyone who follows these simple steps will be rewarded with the fulfillment of their desires. If you are interested in manifestation and have used the law of attraction unsuccessfully, do some research on the law of assumption instead. 

  1. Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen

This book enforces toxic positivity. Osteen advises readers to be content no matter what weaknesses, diseases, insults, or difficulties we may face. Osteen also writes on financial success and material gain, assuring reader’s that God wants to assist us in obtaining these things. So, which is it then? Should we be content no matter what, or should we pursue material gains? Does God really care about how much money we have, or is he busy lifting up the sun for another day?

  1. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

The advice in this book is contradictory. Greene advises readers to “Make [their] Accomplishments Seem Effortless” but also to “Never Appear Too Perfect.” Greene also tells readers they need to “Learn When to Stop” but also need to “Crush [their] Enemy Totally.” These laws seem to be based on Greene’s own ideas about the behaviors of powerful people in history with no research or reasoning. 

  1. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma 

This book is just the boring story of someone who became unsatisfied with corporate life and decided to live a simpler life as a half-dedicated monk. The overarching spiritual message never really lands, and the point isn’t really clear.  

People tend to get stuck in a self-improvement loop by committing to rigorous, unsustainable routines, only to fall into a deeper depression upon an inevitable failure. There are plenty of ways you can improve your life without subjecting yourself to a toxic self-development culture. You can eat nourishing food. You can make an effort to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. You can surround yourself with kind people. You can exercise regularly. You can meditate. You can journal. You can do something meaningful each day. The key is not to beat yourself up on days that you fall short of your goals or mess up your diet. The road to the best version of yourself is paved with successes and failures — and both are equally important stepping stones. Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is to be conscious of the media you are consuming. Remember, the self-help industry is a business. Businesses are interested in making money off you — they are not interested in making you better.

Jacqui Donaldson is an American writer and teacher. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.

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