We don’t need ‘self-help’ thank you very much!

I am generally a fairly tolerant person but there are certain things I have a hard time digesting. For example the audacity of book stores to hang ‘self-help books’-signs above certain shelves. What is even more surprising is that we the (mostly female) customers, quietly succumb to that degradation. Honestly, who can walk into that section with their head held high? Don’t tell me you don’t look around to make sure nobody you know is in the bookstore, or nobody of interest actually sees you in those aisles? We might as well just take a marker and scribble “I need help” across our foreheads.

And how many males do you see in the ‘Self help’ section? Even my husband starts getting very uncomfortable as soon as I venture near those shelves, muttering something like “don’t you have enough self-help books?” Any non-fiction book that is about something other then your primary school subjects falls into his definition of ‘self-help’. And while I am browsing book jackets, he stands a good two feet away from me, signaling to any other male “hey see, I am too far away to be able to read the titles. So just to be clear, I am merely guarding my female”.

There’s a good reason for this behaviour. Especially being the ‘stronger sex’, should they ever feel the interest (I purposely didn’t say ‘need’, but you probably filled that one in yourself) to grab a book on how to communicate with your partner, they are written off instantly. Like the other day when I overheard two young ladies chatting: ”Look at the guy in the self help section, poor man, his wife probably left him and now he thinks reading those books will bring him another one”. Granted, they might have been ignorant and if the gentleman had looked a little more confident and knew how to iron his shirt, they might have actually praised his ‘openness’. Which doesn’t make it any fairer for us females; any male shies away when seeing a woman in the self help section. They would never label us ‘open’. No, instead they scream: “Beware! Comes with baggage!”

And to prove that point, the other day I was looking at a book about being bipolar, merely for interest sake, and this stock broker guy just mustered me with this ‘oh you poor thing’ look. Had I be standing in a ‘Reference’ section, I would have been taken as a Psychology student, or if it was called ‘Learning for life’ section, I would have been considered knowledgeable, maybe even wise. Well, maybe not, but I trust you get my point.

So, don’t you think it’s time to silence the book stores who try to convince us that we need help? I do feel this urge to grab a bottle of spray paint and start correcting those misleading and discriminating signs. The only thing stopping me is the possibility that I might be sentenced to anger management treatment. Worse, I might be urged to read some books on the subject, which of course, can be found in the self-help section of any major book chain.


~ by spasmicallyperfect on October 23, 2007.

8 Responses to “We don’t need ‘self-help’ thank you very much!”

  1. I think it comes down to the judgmental hearts of people. They just pass judgment whether or not it’s true. That’s why the first impression deal is not a way to go with getting to know people.

    The Spokesman

    I agree to a certain degree. Judgmental can be a good thing in certain situations and I am sure it’s one the reasons why I am still alive. What we have to be careful though is how we use it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. You should have stopped with your title.
    We don’t need self-help.

    Some social scientists are even gutsy enough to take on Oprah. Indicating that her mantra of “if you want it bad enough it will come” which puts fault on the individual when it may be societal.

    Welcome to SP. Funny you should mention that, I thought about that myself the other day, wondering whether Oprah would ever go out of ‘fashion’.

  3. You know, I’ve never seen it quite like that. Although, I don’t get to spend near as much time in bookstores as I would like. I think your point about being taken as a psych student if you had been in a different section is a very good one, and one I will admit I’ve never thought of.


    Good to see you Jennifer 🙂 . I guess it really doesn’t matter in the end what people think, they’re mostly wrong anyway. I had fun writing above and it’s not as big a deal as it might have sounded. And whether I’m a psych student for my own good or because I am planning to get a degree again really isn’t important. But I made a good point, yes 😉 ?

  4. I am agreeing with Jennifer. I’ve never quite thought of it that way either but now that you mention it, it is a bit intrusive; if not, degrading. But then again, it is not necessarily the books and their categories; but the people that are looking at which books you are reading.
    Great post. Made me think. I like that.

    PS. You may want to look at that guest post (The World I Live In) you wrote for me about three or four months ago; someone posted a comment on it yesterday and I thought you may find it interesting what she said. I figured you should probably respond instead of me.

    Ha! I did it again, made you think 😉 . Grinn. Yes I agree, it has a lot to do with one’s own confidence (although I’d like to state that my feelings are not based on a lack thereof) and the judgmental side of human nature.

    Re the comment, thanks, I’ll go back and answer.

  5. I thought I was the only one who felt odd being in the self-help aisle in the book store. Those books are largely what has been pretty common knowledge for years though – it’s just packaged differently and of course must fly off the shelves – especially if the author has been on Oprah.


    Sometimes I feel like the main problem people have is that they just don’t trust their inner selves, their own judgement and their own intuition and above all, their own hearts. I guess it’s easier to see from the outside than from the inside though. That seeing from the inside can take years and might never happen for some.

    Much love to all today. ~ RS ~

    (see you in the children’s section if you happen by our local book store, that’s where many of the best lessons in life come from I think)

    Yes, you are correct. Although I wasn’t as much writing about the books themselves, I do agree. ‘Self-help’ (grrrrrrrrrr) isn’t rocket science. Having read quite the list myself, I find that there are a few selected books that I cherish and that hold the thoughts that I like to remind myself of, should I get too tied up with life. I used to read a lot of them to find another angle of how to look at life. I don’t know whether it’s an age thing, but I find that nowadays I don’t seem to look for answers externally as much anymore but more internally, if that makes sense. Lately I am not even sure anymore whether I am really looking for answers at all. It seems to me that I have moved on from that stage to the one of ‘doing’, ‘implementing’, ‘practising to live my life based on the my beliefs’. I never trusted what my beliefs were as they seemed to change so often. Again, this might be an age thing, but it’s been a while since that has happened. So maybe I’ve outgrown the ‘self-help’ section. That’s actually a nice thought, come to think of it. 🙂 Where to next? 🙂

  6. loved reading your blog…

    Thank you and welcome Connetta. Hope to see you around again some day 🙂

  7. I really liked this post.Very true. I must admit I am usually observing the people pausing here rather than the books themselves.Personally I think you can get more help in the classic section,unfortunately the writers here are usually not around any more to reap the huge profits. Age has a lot to do with it as I have noticed from my own experiences and from my people watching.
    Discrimination? readers in other sections might feel equally discriminated. Perhaps it’s time that book stores looked into their own dictionaries and came up with new section headings.

    I do agree with your ‘classics’ comment. Trouble is, I read most of those too. 😉 .

  8. I enjoyed reading about your take on the self help publishing industry. It’s a point of view I hadn’t thought about until you zeroed in, and rightly so, on the likely target market. Even so, be assured that men read them too, locked in the bathroom or in some other hideaway. Personally, I think the industry has done an effective job of convincing us that we need a personal trainer to perform the basics of human interaction, and for no other reason than because there is a lot of money involved. But what is really sad is that I haven’t met a self help book yet that couldn’t be reduced to a few well written pages, and learned in a few hours. Someone already said it (above): a lot of people just don’t trust themselves.

    Thank you for commenting, and leaving your thoughts. Yes, one could say that people don’t trust themselves or in the words of another “people don’t believe”.

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