Self-help books often get written off as being too clichéd or a feigned attempt at a cure-all solution. No one particularly enjoys being directed to critique their own attitudes, thoughts, and actions. We get it. However, as we’ve matured and learned a few hard lessons in humility — a common theme in our 20-something lives — we’ve come to understand that taking a step back and really analyzing the facets of our lives is an extremely valuable exercise. Self-help books are a great place to start this inner dialogue. This exercise is not merely an admission of weakness, although acceptance of mistakes and flaws is a part of it, but rather a declaration that positive change in your life is possible and within your reach with a little effort. There is always room for self-improvement, and we personally believe that self-improvement and happiness go hand-in-hand. And isn’t happiness the ultimate goal? In short, self-improvement is not embarrassing, it’s EMPOWERING.
We’re certainly not experts at life or “adulting” just yet, and we may never be, but these books have truly helped us to establish control in our lives, however small.
1. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
A culmination of the best bits from Cheryl Strayed’s once-anonymous advice column on The Rumpus, Tiny Beautiful Things covers every human experience in the books, from triumph to tragedy, grief to ecstasy. For anyone who has ever experienced heartache or that crushing feeling of being between a rock and a hard place, Sugar has a seemingly infinite wealth of love and support for all us, imbued with tactful wit and honesty. It’s a heart-wrenching, relatable read that will have you simultaneously tearing up and planning big, positive changes in your own life.
2. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth – M. Scott Peck
The Road Less Traveled was written way back in 1973 but it remains at the forefront of spiritual psychology even today. In fact, you may have even read snippets of it in a psych class. Exploring love, psychology, and religion, readers are encouraged to undertake the difficult, life-long journey of real personal growth. As cliché as that may sound, Peck provides grounding examples of these lessons in the form of his own personal experiences, as well as those of former clients, making for a narrative that is welcoming and poignant. So much so that we found ourselves taking notes throughout the entire book!
3. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert, following the journey of self-actualization of Eat, Pray, Love, provides a practical, loving approach to creative living “that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” She examines the creative lifestyle — the perceived “glamorousness” of it and the undeniably harsh reality of obligation (read: you need money to live). Based on the belief that capturing an idea and creating something is a form of magic, she encourages us to honor that magic by welcoming art into all aspects of our lives, like a daily devotional. Big Magic acts as both life coach and cheerleader, showing all of us how to live our creative truths.
4. A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose – Eckhart Tolle
Oprah is a huge advocate for this book, so you know it’s good (hehe). Tolle has a lot to say about the universe in which we live and he believes that we as humans are on the verge of creating a new world — one that can only be opened through a personal transformation that shifts our attention away from our ever-expanding egos. A New Earth is one of those books that moves you so profoundly and requires you to reach so far into yourself while you’re reading it that once you’ve finished, it doesn’t even feel like you read a book, but rather, a filtered reading of your own psyche through the purest, all-knowing prism. That’s gotta sound weird, but I’m being sincere. Just read it.
5. I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) – Brené Brown
We’ve admired Brené Brown for awhile now — for her writing, her public speaking, and her work to empower women. If you haven’t already checked out her TED talk or our feature on her, we encourage you to do so. Following a 6-year study of shame’s effects on women, Dr. Brown discovered that its effects are often disguised as other feelings and actions, like blame and perfectionism. After speaking with hundreds of women and therapists, she identifies the many shaming influences that dominate our culture and gives us strategies to escape and transform this detrimental feeling.