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It's Time to End the Stigma Against Self-Help Books

April 27, 2021 Megan Griffith

Self-help books have been immensely helpful in my journey to recover from mental illness and generally improve my self-worth, but despite their usefulness, I'm often ashamed to admit how many self-help books I read. In my family, I'm known as the "self-help junkie" and teased as if that is a bad thing.

Self-help books carry with them the stigma of desperation, but I think it's time we put that stigma to rest. In reality, self-help books provide immeasurable benefits to people who cannot find validation or assistance from those around them, and those who look down on self-help books often do so in order to avoid the fact that they are not providing their loved ones with enough support and understanding.

Self-Help Books Operate as a Stand-In Support System

Any bookworm will tell you that books often provide support when real life lets you down. For some people, this takes the form of escaping into a world of fiction, but for others, this looks like surrounding yourself with as many self-help books as possible. That has been the case for me. I love self-help books because they hold space for your feelings in a way that people in my real life never did. It's my belief that self-help books are especially powerful for survivors of childhood emotional neglect because they are open to emotion, which is a whole new experience for someone who has gone through emotional neglect. 

Self-help books have given me the vocabulary to talk about my emotions, which has helped me better understand myself, and they've created a safe space for me to explore my emotions without risking rejection or invalidation from an actual human being. Reading self-help books was the first step I took toward actually understanding and maybe even liking myself.

Stigma Against Self-Help Books Is Rooted in Perfectionism and Emotional Neglect

In my experience, there's a lot of judgment when people find out that you read self-help books. I think this is because of a culture of emotional perfectionism stemming from emotional neglect. Basically, we look down on people who study and learn about their emotions because we believe they should just naturally understand themselves and their emotions, and we believe this because we've been taught to neglect our emotions and accept that as "normal."

Taking the time to read self-help books and actually inspect your emotions is seen as desperate, sad, or even attention-seeking, depending on who you talk to. But that's not true at all. In my experience, reading self-help books is empowering, enlightening, and freeing. I have learned so much about how to accept myself and forget about what others think from reading self-help books. I've learned things I would never have learned without self-help books because so often, we aren't taught about our emotions either from school or from family.

Self-help books are an escape route from emotional neglect and the resulting emotional stuntedness.

Do you read self-help books? Do you experience this self-help book stigma? Let me know in the comments, and I'd love to hear about your favorite self-help book.

APA Reference
Griffith, M. (2021, April 27). It's Time to End the Stigma Against Self-Help Books, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2021/4/its-time-to-end-the-stigma-against-self-help-books



Author: Megan Griffith

Find Megan on Facebook, Tumblr and her personal blog.

Lizanne Corbit
April, 27 2021 at 7:21 pm

Bravo to this! Books can be an absolutely fantastic tool and resource and anyone seeking them out should absolutely not be shamed or made to feel embarrassed. This is one of those topics that we might not think about regularly, the stigma around self-help books, but it absolutely exists. Even in the way we sometimes see it portrayed in media. Time to end the stigma, absolutely!

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