Pros and Cons of Self-Help Books

A lot of self-help books circulate on and off the market. Reaching over 2,000 new titles a year, it seems that self-help books are becoming quite a trend and the figure shows no signs of stopping. These books have been known to cover a lot of topics which include, but not limited to:

  • Personal growth – focus mainly on improving oneself in different aspects
  • Relationships – improving your relationships through your communication skills and other methods
  • Coping – gives advice on dealing with stressful situations and events. An example is the stress you experience at work or the loss of a loved one
  • Identity – a bit similar to personal growth, this area talks about your personal issues and your identity

With the wide area it covers, it seems that there’s sure to be a self-help book for your needs. The marketability of self-help books also prove that people are gobbling these up like crazy (already $1 billion in total sales). Therein lays the problem: are people becoming too dependent on this type of help and is it really effective as they claim to be? We read up about it and here’s what we have to say regarding their positive and negative effects.

Positive Effects

For the positive side, self-help books provide a lot of good information or advice regarding the topic they cover. They help people appreciate the things around them, resulting in a happier outlook. Many self-help books point out the importance of friendships, families, love lives, and intimacy. What people normally overlook, self-help books redirect their attention and make them value these factors.

Self-help books that help the reader go through a life transition have also been found to be particularly helpful. These life transitions may include pregnancy, parenthood or divorce. It provides a road map of sorts to assist people in anticipating problems in the future. Knowing what lies ahead from people who have already experienced it (and thus viable information) can make it easier for people to cope and accept things before they happen. Other pros of self-help books are:

  • Reading self-help books enrich or support your learning. Self-help books show that you don’t have the answers to everything. You’ll be able to learn from people who specialize in the area or experienced individuals.
  • Once you realize that you don’t have the answers to everything, you’ll feel more humble. Some self-help books even make you question the way you think or have dealt with your issues up until that point. Continuous reflection on your part can ultimately mean more growth.
  • Self-help books also help resolve conflicts of all kinds. This includes conflicts with your family, your relationships, and even within yourself. For people who don’t understand the reason for their conflict and how to resolve it, the rift between them and other people can only grow more and more. This is one of the reasons why people behave immaturely instead of resolving conflicts. Self-help books help the reader understand conflicts and help ease the tension amicably.
  • There are also many forms and sources for self-help books. There are blogs, eBooks, websites, and even the traditional paperback. These different sources make it easy for authors to reach out to their readers. For you, this means that you can avail of a self-help book easily depending on which medium you are comfortable with.
  • One of the most important things you can get from reading self-help books is you’re given a better perspective than what you have now. It might be very different from how presently you see things or people. A deeper or wider perspective can mean a world of difference to many people and have benefited from this aspect in self-help books.

Negative Effects

On the other side of the spectrum, psychologists and experts aren’t totally convinced about self-help books. They argue that anyone with a good advice can start a book and label it as “self-help”. The increasing number of people cashing in on this fad has risen over the years and experts point it out as one of the major flaws.

Viewed as a marketing strategy, self-help books are deemed to tell the reader what they like or what they want to hear. In a lot of self-help books, they only tell the author’s personal story. How they overcame their dark past and went from rags to riches. It’s definitely a good read, but their story and the reader’s story are totally different with different opportunities. It’s not good when you compare your own life to a successful person’s life. Other negative aspects about self-help books are:

  • A lot of claims made by self-help books are without basis and without the backing of the scientific community. Just because a psychologist publishes a book doesn’t mean that it’s true and other psychologists support it. What makes this situation worse is they tend to exaggerate their claims by promising astounding results in little time.
  • When people believe in these amazing claims, they will rely on false hopes. They are made to believe that by simply following what the book says, their lives will be better like the author’s. Once it does fail or it doesn’t work out, they become more negative and end up in a more negative mindset.
  • In some self-help books, they instead direct the reader towards more self-destructive behaviors. This is because they are forced out of their comfort zones and made to confront their own conflicts even if it’s in an unhealthy manner. People who don’t know what they are doing but attempt self-help tips, run a huge risk of damaging their personal life or worse.
  • The way the author presents their self-help tips, they make it seem like it’s a general truth. The reality though is that it only worked for them and there might not even be some cases where it worked for other people. Creating this illusion helps sell the book, but it doesn’t mean that the advice is verified or is applicable for everyone.
  • Given that self-help books are just a bunch of advice from a single or multiple authors, it can be easily overpriced. Authors are simply using their fame or popularity and milking it by making a series of self-help books. If they don’t know what they are talking about, it can easily lead to creating misconceptions. The overpricing of books also forces people to accept that what they’re buying is genuine advice when in reality it’s just a glorified manuscript.

It’s not to say that self-help books are generally useless and a waste of money. To sum up the advantages and disadvantages of self-help books, they still provide a good insight for issues and situations which people are not familiar with. However, it’s not good to expect that by simply following a self-help book you can achieve magical results as what the author promises you. In many cases, it’s just an increase in your awareness and appreciation regarding your life which invokes this feeling of change.