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Snap Out of it! Self-Help for the Disillusioned

Aga Zano By Aga Zano Published on June 13, 2016

Self-help books belong on a very particular shelf. We all came across this kind of literature at some point in our lives: sappy, patronising, highly spiritual, always there to offer a kind pat on the back, full of magic words, such as "mindfulness", "gratitude", "blessings", "law of attraction" (hi, Rhonda Byrne!). In essence, self-help books are to literature what Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop is to attainable lifestyle. They tap into an incredibly responsive market: it would not be overstatement to say most of us are somewhere between "somewhat dissatisfied" and "utterly miserable" about our lives. Self-help literature offers some compassion ("you are not alone") and it's affordable (certainly unlike therapy), while providing a comfortable level of anonymity. 

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source: Instagram

Self-help literature has been around for quite a while - it first gained popularity in 1930s, thanks to invention and expansion of the Twelve-Step culture and first bestsellers in the genre, including the iconic Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, published in 1937. Since then, self-help has spread all over the Western world, becoming an ultimate embodiment of the American dream and of the idea of self-made success and reinvented joy. The pressure to achieve a fulfilled, happy life has never been so intense before: media-fueled belief that we are the makers of our own destiny is a double-edged sword. While it convinces us that anything is possible, it also creates enormous amounts of stress and guilt: if we didn't make it big, if we are depressed, lonely or dissatisfied, it is our fault and our fault only.

Self-help promises quick-fix solutions to all our problems. Easy money, great business tips, resuscitating your marriage, your sex life, your love life, your whole life - self-help authors have all the answers. Hey, they have answers for problems you didn’t even realise you had.

Self-help is a billion dollar business, and let’s not forget it is firstly and foremostly just that – a business. It sells hope for a painless solution, but also hope for a better life. It makes us believe we can be a better version of ourselves, and that we still have a shot at becoming wealthy, healthy and ridiculously-effortlessly happy.

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source: Instagram

Despite all the rosy visions of good fortune being just at our fingertips, the real impact of self-help literature on our wellbeing and general happiness can be only as beneficial as we allow it to be. But if we are to trust any kind of book to tell us what to do, we need to develop some trust. And is it even possible to develop any trust for a book which speaks in a language crafted specifically to cater to the needs and sensitivity of those mild-mannered, soft-spoken and ultimately gullible? 

A lot of self-help books actually make a point of giving up on sarcasm, swearing and edgy humour. In essence – anything that even remotely reminds you of Ricky Gervais, your friends, or being an actual human rather than a Pinterest-bred stay-at-home, Mormon-style, grateful-and-graceful mother of four (or Gwyneth Paltrow, if you're lucky enough).

The chase for ultimately unattainable level of inner peace and spirituality has been mocked without mercy – some wonderful examples include razor-sharp Ultra Spiritual video series by JP Sears and this delightfully sassy Uninspirational Instagram account.

Luckily for those of us who seek happiness while maintaining healthy level of misery in our system, a new trend in publishing is on the rise. Authors and publishers are noticing that many of us don’t need a sickly-sweet pat on the back, but rather a no-nonsense handbook on how to snap out of it, to get our shit together, or at least how to vent a bit and keep going.

Some of those ideas have been conceived as parodies of über-popular bestsellers such as Marie Kondo’s THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP (in case you somehow managed to convince yourself that folding your socks will magically sort out your life, and not just, well, your socks), or series of “inspirational” and “meditative” adult colouring books (in case you just really wish you were five again - because the five year old you didn't have to deal with student loans, electricity bills, sexual dysfunctions or recurring depressive episodes). Mockery or original thought, the outcome is the same: a pretty satisfying reading list.

So - if you're feeling blue or just sick of sugar-coated smalltalk, go ahead and check out those books. 

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by Michael & Sarah Bennett

A lot of self-help books are written by people who claim to be doctors. This one, however, has ben written by an actual active psychiatrist, in collaboration with his daughter, who happens to be a comedian (put your hands together!). This psychiatrist will not only tell you all those things you don't really want to hear - he will do it while using rather liberal amounts of profane language. Kids, cover your ears.

Written in a snappy, cut-to-the-chase style, this book will take you through some harsh truths, the most important being this: GET OVER IT.

Of course, we all have our right to be unhappy and nobody is trying to minimise the importance, extent or severity of our suffering - the author is, however, trying to make us realise that ruminating is not really going to take us anywhere, so it's best to accept the things we cannot change and simply move on.

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by Sarah Knight

If you're tired of giving way too many f*cks about things and people that don't deserve it - maybe it's time to drop that Marie Kondo sock-folding guide and focus on your own mental hygiene instead. This book is both a tongue-in-cheek parody of Marie Kondo's decluttering bible, and a no-nonsense self-help handbook in it's own right.

The easy-to-use, two-step NotSorry Method for mental decluttering will help you unleash the power of not giving a f*ck about such things as: Family drama, having a "bikini body", Iceland, and your co-workers' opinions, pets, and children.

Go for it - just remember to not give too many f*cks about it.

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by Jason Headley

Did you ever try to meditate? It looks so effortless, neat and pure on Instagram. You inhale, you exhale, and you are one with the Universe... Or not. Because you can't stop thinking about all those ratbags that annoy the life out of you. Or perhaps you're just hungry. Or you need to pee. But most of all, you're just really, really pissed off, and you're very well aware that no amount of kale and Perpetua filter are ever going to fix that. 

Good news - with this tiny book full of inspirational photos of nature and landscapes paired with even more inspirational quotes you're never going to boil inside on your own again.

Breathe in strength. Breathe out bullshit.

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Whenever you're feeling like a hot mess on wheels on fire, do you really want to sit down with your pretty crayons and colour such words as "gratitude", "inner beauty", or "faith"? 


This book knows it - and apparently the market knows it too, as swear word colouring books are gaining momentum and become increasingly popular with every angry Amazon click. Go ahead, release your inner goddess and colour every page of truly inspirational words... None of which are appropriate for me to quote, though.

Cover image source: Instagram

Translator, linguist, copywriter, literary agent. Enjoys bad puns, exploring ruined buildings and being the weird one.