On Self-Help Books and Writers

Most writing about self-help is bollocks.

There. I said it. It’s all bollocks. Chance and circumstance. Coincidence and blind luck. And very often nothing more than the use of common sense.

What prompted me to write this? Well, I’ve always been stuck inside that social media circle, of older women looking for things they want and need and not finding them. The middle aged and older woman is the perfect target for the self-help market. A book one can read or listen to in your spare time, which is easy on the eyes and ears and doesn’t require too much thinking. That’s why Fifty Shades of Grey was so popular, because it’s so damn absorb-able and requires minimal effort.

Quite often, these self-help stories require minimal effort anyway. They suggest the same things people have been suggesting for decades, perhaps even centuries. It’s common sense really. If you’re a nice person, then people will be nice to you. If you save a little money every day, you’ll have more money. If you really want something and try very hard to achieve it, then one day you’ll get there.

A lot of it is there to make the reader feel special, even if they’re not.

I say that though, some self-help really is bullshit. I stumbled across a post the other day talking about “acting how you want to be”. The post claimed that if you wanted to be skinny, rich and happy, you had to practice being skinny, rich and happy. You had to practice loving your body, practice being happy and practice being rich, ideally by spending money. That’s utter bullshit. You don’t get any of those things by acting like them. You get those by slowly working your way towards them. Sure, some people might be able to fluke their way to the top but the majority has to work their way up.

What makes it worse though is when people tie pseudo-science into it all. Tying religion into self-help is one thing. All you’re doing with religion is giving yourself an extra person to give excuses to and to magically give you what you want. A lot of religion is about self-help anyway. But pseudo-science is just pissing on common sense. There’s no magic mind reading, no inner eyes, no secret power that’s going to give you what you want. Wrapping it up in science-y language is frankly just rude and intentionally misleading.

But really, it’s all to make money off you. Buy the book. Buy the trinkets. Get the audiobook. Watch the video. Subscribe to the channel. Join the Patreon or GoFundMe or whatever. It’s all the same. If these self-help books were actually valid, if they actually worked, then these people would and should give this stuff away for free. But they don’t. They give little sections away for free. Just enough to latch on to you and start burrowing into your wallet.

Okay, I said all self-help is bollocks, some of it is genuinely okay. Self-help books to quite smoking are a good thing, because that’s something someone might genuinely need help with. A lot of those books will still contain a lot of bollocks, and wrapped up within that bollocks are useful nuggets of truth to get people through the day.

But at the end of the day, that’s what the majority of self-help is. Nuggets of truth wrapped up in fancy words, flowers and silk wraps to make the receiver feel special, and to perhaps convince them to buy a book or a souvenir or something.

You know what, now I’ve said that, maybe I should get into the self-help business. I write bollocks all the time, I’m pretty sure I could turn some of that bollocks into something to make people feel better about themselves…

I won’t do that though. I don’t have the heart to rip people off.


Medic, also known as Phovos (or occasionally Dr Retvik Von Scribblesalot), writes 50% of all the articles on the Daily SPUF since she doesn't have anything better to do. A dedicated Medic main in Team Fortress 2 and an avid speedster in Warframe, Phovos has the unique skill of writing 500 words about very little in a very short space of time.

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