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9 Ways Self Help Books Are Letting You Down

Becki is a self-help enthusiast and self-love expert helping women ditch destination addiction by learning to love themselves with passion.


You're Addicted to Self Help

Which, by the way, kind of defeats the purpose of reading all of those self-help books in the first place.

If you've got a stack of personal development books sitting on your night stand, or bookshelves full of them in your home, you're probably looking for ways to live a better life.

And to be clear, we're talking about personal development books that promise to make you happier, healthier, and wealthier through spiritual practices such as mindfulness, meditation, scripting, and law of attraction.

But if your to-be-read stack looks like mine did just a few months ago, you have a problem. Because if you still need self-help books on the same topic, you're not getting the results you paid for.

Think about it: Unless you're using the library (or Kindle Unlimited) to get your books, you're likely paying between $10 and $20 per book. That adds up. Fast!

I started out 2021 with a goal of reading 12 books this year. At the average cost of a book, that's about $192. And okay, for some people that might be chump change. But you really want to change your life. Enough you're willing to invest in that change. If you're not getting results, why are you still looking for the between the pages of a book?

Because you're addicted to self-help.

Hey, no judgment here. I was too.

Then I uncovered some powerful truths.

I'm going to share those truths with you today. But I want you to take what pertains to you and leave what doesn't. Because ultimately my goal is to help you make better decisions about your personal development journey by giving you concrete information you can use (today!).

If you love self-help books, you can go right on loving them. I love self help books! But I've learned a new way of reading them so I can make the most of the time I spend between their pages. When we're done here, I'll explain that method to you, so you can use it, too!

Self Help books frequently make promises they can't keep. If you're addicted to self-help and not getting results, these 9 reasons could be why.

Self Help books frequently make promises they can't keep. If you're addicted to self-help and not getting results, these 9 reasons could be why.

1. Coaches & Course Creators Are Encouraged to Publish Self Help Books to Warm Up Leads

In the interest of transparency, I'm a coach and a course creator. (That's how I know about this strategy.)

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And I've browsed dozens of self-help books on Amazon, noting that negative reviews often reflect the sense that the reader felt "sold" by the author trying to get them to sign on for their coaching program or to purchase their course.

I'll be the first to admit that if I wanted to do that (heck, if I could afford to do that!) I would have done that instead of purchasing a book. Most of the time I successfully avoid these types of self-help books because I'm aware of the strategy.

If you weren't aware of the strategy, you are now.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this strategy, as long as the author provides value for the money (and the time!) you've invested in their book.

However, in many cases these books will leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled because they only answer part of the question, leaving the rest of it for their coaching sessions they hope you'll book.

(If you're a coach or course creator reading this, note that while there's nothing wrong with this strategy, your prospective clients should be paying you to advertise to them. Make sure you're giving them value in your books!)

#2 Many Self-Help Books Diagnose the Problem but Fail to Offer a Solution

Many self-help books on the market contain the majority of their content on the front and back covers.

I'm not exaggerating.

The front cover tells you what the book is about. For example "How to eliminate money blocks and invite more cash into your life!"

Then, the back cover tells you what you can expect to get out of the book you're about to read. For example "you'll be able to bring expected and unexpected money into your life from all sources."

Who wouldn't want that? Right?

It's enough to get you quivering with excitement!

But then, throughout the pages of the book, many authors do three things:

  1. They tell their personal story of how they succeeded at what you're trying to do. Which is awesome! I'm glad they were successful at something I'm struggling with! And I'm thrilled that they're teaching from experience! I'm excited! I want more!
  2. They talk about the problem you're having. Good, this means they can relate to my problem (although, see point #5) and they know me! I feel seen! I can't wait to find out how they're going to solve this problem they know I have and can relate to!
  3. They make vague assertions as to the solution. Wait, what just happened here? I don't know how to "turn fear into love." (If I wanted to hear that, I'd read A Course in Miracles). And I've visualized myself rolling in a bathtub of money 90 days in a row and it still hasn't happened!

In this way, these books aren't solving your problem. Because they weren't designed to. (See point #9.)

By the time you're done reading, you know that you have a problem, but not how to solve it. And if you're like many, many women, you feel like it's your fault you can't solve the problem. After all, you did everything the book told you to. Right?

The Promise vs. The Reality of Many Self-Help Books

The PremiseThe PromiseThe Reality

You must love yourself!

To show you how to love yourself.

"Choose love over fear."

You attract what you think about.

You can create your reality!

"Detach from the outcome."

Money is energy.

Your 'vibe' attracts money.

"Think about abundance, not lack."

What do you do when self-help books are letting you down?

What do you do when self-help books are letting you down?

#3 You're Spending Money on Entertainment, Not Help

When you purchase a self-help book, what you really want is for somebody to solve a problem you have.

A great cover goes a long way to convincing you the author understands your problem. And, for the price of a paperback, you can afford to extend a bit of trust to the author, too.

Many self-help books are infinitely readable (and even relatable)! The author shares anecdotes about her own experiences, or stories about the ways in which she's helped clients in the past (hint: This is what she's doing to tell you her coaching or course packages!).

They're fun to read, and (especially if you're struggling with something) it feels good to read stories of other people's success. If they can do it, you can do it too!

You enjoy these feel-good stories because you're supposed to. They generate feelings of happiness and wellbeing by stimulating the production of serotonin (the main feel-good hormone).

This is because humans process information through stories (and have been from the dawn of humanity). Stories tell us what is possible, what to avoid, and how to live our lives.

So while you may enjoy reading self-help books, the majority don't offer real solutions to your problem (because their purpose is to get you to upgrade to a coaching package).

If you're looking for real, practical help, explore the classics in self-help, such as The Science of Getting Rich or How to Win Friends and Influence People. These books will start you off right!

If you find yourself buying more self-help books than you can read, buying more and more self help books on the same topic, and not getting results for the money you spent, you might be addicted to the genre.

If you find yourself buying more self-help books than you can read, buying more and more self help books on the same topic, and not getting results for the money you spent, you might be addicted to the genre.

4. You Can't Implement the Techniques in All Self-Help Books

There are two big things I've learned while reading self-help books designed to help develop my character and create the life I want to have:

  1. Most self-help books say the same thing in different ways.
  2. Every author thinks their way is the only way.

Each author you read is attempting to translate truths they've learned, often from other sources (including other self-help books!). In building their practice (or their book), they've learned what works for them. Then they pass this on to you.

Every book is going to give you different advice for what works, and most authors will tell you "you have to do it this way to get the results I did!" However, if you read a lot of self-help, you're going to find contradicting theories and practices. You cannot implement all of them, as many directly contradict one another!

Reading more self-help books, then, can create confusion. However, if you only choose one and stick to that one, you only have one perspective.

This is one of the best reasons to hire a self-help coach to help you resolve the issues you're working on!

#5 They Are Often Written by Privileged People Who Don't Know Your Struggle

I order to help you, an author has to first be able to understand you.

And if you're coming to self-help because you're tired of struggling through your life, you want to read something from an author who understands your struggle.

They try, of course, but if you're struggling to make ends meet, it can be a lot to process a book written by someone who's never faced job loss, or who has never had the power shut off on them in their lives.

I don't know about you, but for me, the moment an author's story makes it obvious they've never experienced my struggles, it's hard to take their advice. In fact, it makes me feel more alone than ever knowing that they come from a place of privilege while I've scrambled to make even $500 a month at times in my life.

To be clear: It's not that their advice isn't good, or that it won't work for you. But these authors can make you feel small when the goal of the industry is to build you up and demonstrate your worth to yourself.

#6 Self-Help Books Lack Personal Interaction with Their Creators

I read a lot of self-help, and I've also hired a mentor to help me adjust my money mindset and start achieving my goals. Without personal mentoring, I couldn't process what I'd been reading in books for years.

No matter how great the content of a book is, it's inflexible. The content you absorb from a book won't change based on who you are or what you need from it (though it might change for you if you read the book more than once and receive different takeaways from the book each time you read it).

In this way, self-help books also don't provide you with the needed social interaction to complete some of the necessary steps to absorbing their content, such as the ability to ask questions about the author's intent when writing their book, or to clarify that pieces of the author's process will work for you.

#7 They Can Make You Afraid of Experimentation

When an author sits down to write a self-help book, they do it with the best of intentions. They've discovered something that works! They're excited to share that with you because they can save you from having to experiment the way they did.

They're going to show you their way, because their way can save you from having to go through the struggle they did to find a process that works. And in many cases, they are going to tell you that their way is the one.

Not only does this mean you're trying to implement too many different (often conflicting) pieces of advice at one time, but it may also make you afraid to experiment. Since the purpose of many self-help books is to help you avoid wasting time researching more broadly, it can create a vacuum of information in which you become afraid to experiment.

The problem with this is that if you stick to what you've read, you may never find what works for you. Since so many self-help books say their way is the way to be successful, it can stop you from finding your own methods that work better for you.

Self help books can be toxic for some people. They set unrealistic expectations in the reader's mind and make it more difficult to get the results you signed on for.

Self help books can be toxic for some people. They set unrealistic expectations in the reader's mind and make it more difficult to get the results you signed on for.

#8 Their Advice Can Be Toxic and Frustrating

Have you ever read a self-help book and done everything it told you to do, but still didn't get any kind of results?

This is common in social media communities where self-help books are discussed. People describe how they have followed all of the instructions in the books they read, but they aren't getting the results they expected.

Often, this happens because the intention of the book is for the reader to seek and obtain a coach (often the writer) to help them resolve any problems resulting in their lack of success.

The result, however, is often toxic for readers who are doing their best and then citing themselves as the reason they weren't successful, rather than the lack of customization of their program or the failure of the author to provide thorough and detailed instructions for how to achieve their results.

Self-help books have their place, but you're often going to do better with a coach or therapist who can help guide you on your own unique path.

#9 The Author Wrote Their Book for Themselves, Not For You

Authors write self-help books about themselves.

Even when they know how to use the language that attracts the people who will most benefit from their work, their work is most often based around their own experiences.

In most cases, the research and the work they have done occurred because of a change they wanted to make for themselves. They pass their findings on to you, often with genuine intentions of helping you. Unless your circumstances are at least similar to theirs, however, may often not get the same type of results.

What A Great Self-Help Book Should Do

A great self help book (and there are many out there!) should do two things: One, accurately diagnose your problem, and two, provide a solution.

The solution should comprise the majority of the book, and should be actionable. If the solution does not give you action steps you can take to achieve the goal created by the diagnosis of the problem, the book won't provide the return on investment necessary to be useful to you as a reader.

(If you are an author of self-help books, take heed: You should be writing more about the solution than you are about the problem.)

What To Do When Self Help Books Don't Deliver

If the self-help books you're reading aren't delivering on their promise to solve your problem, look for a coach who can provide you with accountability, feedback, and a customized plan to solve your problem.

A well-trained coach knows better than to inject themselves into your story, and knows how to create results designed to suit your specific circumstances.

By its nature, a book simply cannot do this for you.

If, for any reason, you aren't ready to hire a coach, many will provide you a list of recommended reading to get you started, as well as advice for how to get yourself ready to hire a coach.

You may also choose to explore lists of recommended self-help books in the genre of your choice.

Or, alternatively, you could begin your own course of independent study into potential solutions to your problem and write your own self-help book focusing on the following:

  • The problem the reader has (not the problem you solved for yourself)
  • The solution to this problem (not the diagnosis)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Rebecca Rizzuti

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