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Actually Helpful Self-Help Books


Let me just preface this post by saying I used to despise the idea of a “self-help” book. I thought each and every one was written by some high-and-mighty snob who intended to preach from their throne made of sunshine and rainbows explaining to us lowly, depressed peasants on how to, “just not be sad,” or, “not worry so much.” I thought the pages of self-help books would be filled with overused, motivational cliches they stole off of Pinterest like, “Excuses are for people that just don’t want to work,” or, “Sometimes to see the rainbow, you’ve gotta put up with the rain.” *Gags* I figured that although some books may be inspirational, they wouldn’t provide any actual helpful advice for my day-to-day life. I was naive to think these things. I just hadn’t found the right book yet.


I didn’t need to hear from a highly successful CFO, or CFFFE, or some other acronym that sounds important, of some fancy-schmancy company to tell me, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” I needed to hear from a person, a real human being who had been through it and survived, and learn exactly the steps they took to do so. I needed the tools to get off the couch and start living. These lovely bibles of self-care fell into my lap and proved there was such a thing as a helpful self-help book. Brimming with wisdom, hardship, sympathy, understanding, and love, these books gave me hope when I have needed it most. Whenever someone is struggling, I ask them if they have read one of these five books because they are what I turn to when I feel myself falling back into a rut. And now, I pass them on to you, dear friends.


1. BUY YOURSELF THE F*CKING LILIES: AND OTHER RITUALS TO FIX YOUR LIFE

“Life is not a series of crises to be endured. Life is to be enjoyed.”

— Tara Schuster


Sounds aggressive, right? Reading this title, I pictured the author to be a super intense, personal trainer at the gym. Close, but not quite. This book is the most gentle, loving kick in the ass we all need. I have never felt more seen or heard than reading the pages of this holy grail of self-care. Tara, or T$, as she likes to call herself, is my self-love guru.


“Busy isn’t special. We are all busy. So why label yourself something so common?”

— Tara Schuster


It’s hard for me to put into words how much this book has single-handedly changed my outlook on life, but I’ll do my best to make you understand the everlasting effect Tara has imprinted on my soul (yes, exactly like in the werewolves in Twilight). A dear friend bought me this book as a graduation present. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this book would become my life-line during a huge transitional period for me as I moved back in with my parents, started my career working from home, and, for the first time ever, lived hundreds of miles away from all of my friends that I had grown so close to over the years. Oh, and did I mention that this is all during a worldwide pandemic?


Right away, I knew that this was the self-help book I had been waiting for. I have grown up very privileged; I have always had a roof over my head, a full fridge, a warm bed to crawl into at night, a great education, and most of all, two happily married parents. This was not the case for all of my friends growing up. Some of their parents were divorced, abusive, alcoholics, some even in jail. For that reason, I tried to never complain about my home life, because I felt that since I did not have anything “traumatic” going on at home, I had no right to. Even though I felt suffocated under the pressure of perfection that my parents had demanded of me, who was I to complain when some parents didn’t care at all? The soul-sucking, teeth-gritting, hair-pulling silence from lack of proper communication in my family seemed tolerable compared to families that communicated only by shouting and throwing things. “I should be grateful,” I told myself. It was not until Tara, who had a similar struggle growing up, that I realized my problems were no smaller or bigger than anyone else's, and we all must face our own eventually.


“If you went through some shit, even if it was ‘minor,’ and it’s affecting your life, then you deserve to deal with that shit. Period.”

— Tara Schuster


What especially blew my mind about this book, was that Tara provided actual steps, tools, and actions to do every day that helped put her life back together—and for me, they actually worked. We have all said the phrase “Treat YO’ self,” (thanks Parcs & Rec), but until reading this, I had no idea I had been “treating myself” all wrong. After a good workout, I would applaud my good efforts with cookies. After a hard week, I would reward myself with sleeping my weekend away. My rewards would often take away from the habit I was trying to build, instead of the action being the reward in the first place. Tara taught me how to reward myself with things I enjoyed, but that weren’t counter-intuitive to my goals, like a new candle I’d been wanting, a set of new sexy PJs I’d been eyeing up, or LILIES! Because who regrets purchasing a beautiful bouquet of flowers? I even discovered, after considering myself an avid journal-keeper for years, that there might be a more constructive way to go about it. My journal entries consisted mainly of a list of tasks I did that day with a sprinkle of whatever drama was going on at the time—the end. I wasn’t getting the emotional release that I was looking for. Journaling was always a “memory preserving” task for me so that if one day down the line, my grandkids found my journals in an attic somewhere, they’d say “wow, Granny was lit.” (Or whatever kids from the future say.) According to Tara, your journal should be for you and you alone to explore all of the thoughts, fears, and anxieties you have on a daily basis. To get yourself to articulate it on paper and through words hopefully help you come to a conclusion on why you are feeling this way, and how to move forward.


“Little by little, I pulled the golden thread of gratitude out from the blanket of pain I usually wrapped myself in.”

— Tara Schuster


I thank Tara for 90% of the good habits I’ve formed over quarantine: the sacred ritual of journaling (properly), running (even though we both openly hate it), gratitude lists, and the benefits of eating some f*cking vegetables every once in a while. All because of this queen of self-care. The best part? She suggested these habits as if she were talking to a close friend, someone she loved dearly and cared about deeply. She includes anecdotes that feel genuine and relevant, rather than bragging or snobbish. The number of times I said aloud while reading, “Yes, that’s so me,” is borderline embarrassing. After reading this book, I felt as though I made a lifelong friend. It sounds cheesy, I know, but once you read this, you’ll know what I mean. And did you ever think a self-help book could be funny or actually make you laugh out loud? Me neither, until Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies.


“For you, I see something grander: I see a life that you consciously live. That you curate and cultivate and create for yourself, a life in which you are self-aware AF, grateful for the luck that you are here at all, a life in which you love and also let yourself be loved. I see you engaged to your life, holding it firmly yet tenderly by the hand like it’s your soulmate, bringing it in for the deepest of make-out seshes. I see you feeling up your life in the most passionate of embraces. That is what I see for you.”

— Tara Schuster


2. UNTAMED


“I am a sensitive, introverted woman, which means that I love humanity but actual human beings are tricky for me. I love people but not like in person. For example, I would die for you but not, like…meet you for coffee.”

— Glennon Doyle


Have you ever been casually reading a book, and then suddenly one sentence makes you stop and think, “Wait, wait. Was that sentence really as profound as I think it is?” So you go back and reread it. “Yes, yes it was.” And at that moment, just by the power of one sentence, your life may have just been changed, your perspective permanently altered. And then you go back and reread it—just one more time, just to savor the words, closing the book and holding it to your chest for a minute to be sure they’ve fully sunk into your soul and are etched into your mind? This happened at least once a chapter for me while reading Untamed. My walls are now covered with Glennon Doyle quotes that I couldn't help but write down because they were either so damn relatable, or they moved me in such a way that I had to capture their beauty.


“The opposite of sensitive is not brave.”

— Glennon Doyle


Glennon didn’t just shake my world, she shook my soul. I think this should be required reading in school (right after proper sex ed and health class: mental and physical). Untamed brings an entirely new level to female empowerment. If you aren’t friggen proud to be a woman, ready to break free from the cages society puts us in she-hulk style after reading this novel, you read it wrong. Start over.


“When a woman learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn how to please herself.”

— Glennon Doyle


Before reading this book, I had gotten to a point in life where I had simply accepted I would never be satisfied. I look around at the adult women in my life and see such bright, beautiful, strong powerhouses living unfulfilled, unhappy lives. They have done their duty doing their best to raise their children well and are now left with the empty carcass of a life lived through their kids. They did a wonderful job trying to help their children find themselves, never stopping to ask themselves, “Who am I?” I hear them say things like, “Well, I can’t do that,” “That wouldn’t be proper,” “What would people think?” I’ve known my whole life I was put into a cage from the moment the doctor said, “It’s a girl.” But this book made me realize that yes, I may be living in a cage, but I’ve had the key to unlock it all along.


“When women lose themselves, the world loses its way. We do not need more selfless women. What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world's expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves. What we need are women who are full of themselves. A woman who is full of herself knows and trusts herself enough to say and do what must be done. She lets the rest burn.”

— Glennon Doyle


Glennon tackles topics from motherhood to sexuality, racism and social justice to meditation. Even in the sections where she speaks of being a mom and the difficulties of raising both girls and boys to not succumb to society’s expectations, something I have yet to experience as a twenty-three-year-old, I found myself taking mental notes to save for later when I am a mom. It also revealed so many levels of how my childhood shaped me into the person I am today, and at times added barbed wire to the cage I was already put in. Glennon reveals her own passionate story of love at first sight when she saw none other than professional soccer player, Abby Wambach. One of the many reasons she ended up divorcing the father of her two kids. The love between Glennon and Abby is so pure, inspiring, and had such a deep, emotional understanding of one another it honestly made me wish I was attracted to women.


“Our letters were like blood transfusions.”

— Glennon Doyle


I started reading this book directly after Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies. If that book helped me form habits to improve my everyday life, then Untamed helped me look at the bigger picture. It made me want to find my greater purpose. In the middle of quarantine, I was bored, lacking passion and motivation for anything, and felt purposeless. Untamed made me realize, finding our purpose doesn’t mean avoiding what causes us painin fact, Glennon argues just the opposite. We must throw ourselves into the fire and feel the burn. We must look at things that make us want to look away. We cannot continue to put a cute, princess Band-Aid on gaping wounds and be surprised when it still hurts. The following line was actually written about her son who was spending all his time on his phone, becoming an internet zombie and no longer the creative, passionate being she once knew. I don’t think Glennon knew how much these words would affect a woman who had been living in quarantine for six months:


“The moment we don’t know what to do with ourselves is the moment we find ourselves. Right after itchy boredom is self discovery. But we have to hang in there long enough without bailing.”

— Glennon Doyle


From that moment on, I have tried to view this time in quarantine not as what I can’t do, but what I can do with this extra time. Before I viewed quarantine as simply wasted time, dissolving months of my youth before my eyes. But now, I see it as an opportunity to find out what I really want to make of my life. I have crafted, written, and read more than I’ve been able to in years during this time. I have learned what sets my soul on fire and am ready to relish in its warmth.


“The blueprints of heaven are etched in the deep desires of women.”

— Glennon Doyle


3. EAT, PRAY, LOVE


"Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation."

— Liz Gilbert


Before I went to study abroad in Hong Kong my sophomore year of college, I was so excited, I went to buy a bunch of adventure/travel novels to prepare (as book nerds do). I was in no way, looking for a “self-help” book. When I found Eat, Pray, Love in the travel section, I cringe as I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t this a Julia Roberts movie? Must be good then. I’ll give it a try.” I had no idea the book I had just added to my cart and the plane I was about to board in the next few days, would change my life forever.


“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight."

— Liz Gilbert


For those of you who don’t know, our main character and author, Liz Gilbert, wakes in the middle of the night to find herself lost and uncertain how her life had become something she no longer wanted. She asked her husband for a divorce that very night. Fast forward years later, still heartbroken and adrift in her own life, she decides to go on a journey for self-discovery, spending a year traveling. She starts in Italy where she learns the art of doing nothing, pleasure, and food. Next stop is India, where she learns the beauty of silence, meditation, and letting go. Her final stop is in Bali where she not only learns to love herself but (spoiler alert) finds someone who gives as much love to her as she does. The people she meets along her journey become lifelong friends, and teach her just how connected we all are. Their words of wisdom left a lasting impression on her heart and my own.

"To lose balance is sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life."

— Liz Gilbert


Meanwhile, I am landing in Hong Kong. This is my first real experience traveling, and I am instantly reborn. I fall head over heels in love with discovering every inch of the bustling city. I breathed in new passions and desires and exhaled fears. I had left my boyfriend of four years back home in the states, but with being long distant for two of those years, we were used to saying goodbye. With each passing day, in a new and exotic city halfway around the world, I felt myself growing stronger, braver, and more confident than I ever imagined for myself. But as I grew, our relationship didn’t, and I started to feel like I was outgrowing him. As I sat in my window seat, watching the cotton candy clouds roll behind the mountains, wondering when our relationship had become so stagnant, I read this:


“I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”

— Liz Gilbert


Saying I could relate is an understatement. I broke up with him the following morning.


With growth comes pain—I learned that the hard way. After a really difficult week, and a falling out with one of my closest friends at the time, I unintentionally, yet very poetically, ended up taking a long weekend trip to Bali, Indonesia, winding down my time abroad in the same place Liz did. I sat in the sand of a Bali beach, seemingly friendless and boyfriendless for the first time in 4+ years, and as I watched the sky change from blue to purple to pink, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of peace. I knew everything was going to be okay. I was always going to be there for myself. I was unafraid.



“At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.”

— Liz Gilbert


Is this a self-help book? No. Technically, a memoir. But it’s hard not to be inspired by Liz’s own journey of personal growth. Liz’s words and advice are so profound, they could shake the world, the same as they shook mine. And I am forever grateful. Meeting Liz Gilbert is at the top of my bucket list. (Can anyone hook a girl up?) I hope you get as much out of it as I did. Just promise me, no matter, what you do, don’t just rent the movie (I know I don’t need to tell you that the book is always better, right?)


4. WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC COAST TRAIL


“I’m a free spirit who never had the balls to be free.”

— Cheryl Strayed


At the age of 26, Cheryl Strayed set on to hike the PCT. A 1,100-mile hike with no prior training. The girl didn’t even break in her new hiking boots. Oh, and did I mention she was doing this all...by herself? Although she spent most of her life alone, this still baffled me. Her mother passed away from lung cancer at a young age, and the rest of her family parted ways once they no longer had that foundation to keep their family glued together. Cheryl was recently divorced and completely lost. Her mother’s death left a gaping hole in her, and the only way she could think to mend it was to keep moving forward, putting one shaking foot after the other. Talk about a journey to self-discovery.


“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.”

— Cheryl Strayed


I read this book during my time spent in Hong Kong as well—a time in my life where I discovered my love for the great outdoors, hiking, and the feeling of being on top of the world. This is likely why I related to this book so deeply; there is a transformative quality about being in nature that not only heals but empowers as well.


“I made it the mantra of those days; when I paused before yet another series of switchbacks or skidded down knee-jarring slopes, when patches of flesh peeled off my feet along with my socks, when I lay alone and lonely in my tent at night I asked, often out loud: Who is tougher than me?


The answer was always the same, and even when I knew absolutely there was no way on this earth that it was true, I said it anyway: No one.”

— Cheryl Strayed


Shortly after my break up, I went on probably one of the hardest hikes I have ever been on. I was laboring up a rocky slope, scared at any moment I would step on a loose rock and twist my ankle, or worse, go tumbling down the mountainside. I found myself thinking, “I wish there was someone in front of me to guide my path, so I could walk in their footsteps.” Then I physically stopped and shook my head. “No,” I thought. “I am strong. I am capable. I can lead my own way. I will no longer follow in anyone else's footsteps. I will create my own path,” and I forged on. Such a simple, almost embarrassingly cheesy moment that signified a HUGE turning point in my life. I had never been truly alone before, and I sure as hell had never spoken to myself in such a kind and empowering way. For this reason, I felt happy tears stream down my face as I reached the summit of Dragon’s Back, and through the fog overlooking Big Wave Bay, I felt as though I myself could breathe fire.




“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

— Cheryl Strayed


Cheryl moved me with her sheer determination to physically move through the pain. Her dedication to keep going is something that I have always tried to emulate in my own life. With every turn of a page in this memoir, I felt myself growing stronger in time with Cheryl. She is such an inspiration to me, and I long to someday find the peace she has found at the end of the PCT, and to one day forgive myself, as she has. To have resilience and faith, and nerve, like her. To “write like a motherfucker,” just like her.


“How wild it was, to let it be.”

— Cheryl Strayed


5. GIRL, WASH YOUR FACE: STOP BELIEVING THE LIES ABOUT WHO YOU ARE SO YOU CAN BECOME WHO YOU WERE MEANT TO BE


“Moving doesn’t change who you are. It only changes the view outside your window.”

— Rachel Hollis


I have to be honest. I avoided this book like the plague. It was all over the shelves of the book section at Target. It flooded the Instagrams of those girls who think bubble baths are the greatest form of self-care and the cure to all of life's problems. It had a cutesy photo of a hot woman getting wet on the cover (I know, I know, biggest cliche ever. I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and yet, I did). I labeled it in my head as one of those books that girls want to be seen reading, but not something anyone genuinely reads and finds inspiration in. It wasn’t until a trusted friend and fellow book junkie said she thought I may enjoy it and get something out of it, that I finally decided to push past my judgments and give it a whirl.


“I cannot continue to live as half of myself simply because it’s hard for others to handle all of me.”

— Rachel Hollis


Feeling like I was starting off this new year at an all-time low, I needed a book to lift my spirits and give me a well-meaning kick in the ass to stop whining and do something with this life of mine. This was the book for me.


“Stop pressuring that if you only had the right job, the right man, the right house, the right car, the right whatever that your life will become what you’ve always dreamed of. Be honest about who you are and what you need to make a change.”

— Rachel Hollis


Alright, I’ll go ahead and own up to it right now—I was wrong. I misjudged this book and it was actually super relatable and downright inspiring (I’m even looking forward to reading her next two novels she published after this one). I loved the way each chapter was set up as different lies Rachel, and every other girl out there has told themselves throughout their lives. Some may even say…”cages” we’ve put ourselves in (see what I did there?). Rachel gave a new, original perspective on how to look at the world that finally made me examine the way I spoke to myself on a daily basis.


“Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived—it’s meant to be lived.”

— Rachel Hollis


Growing up in a religious household, I was able to relate on a deeper level to Rachel and her upbringing. I saw a lot of similarities in the way we were both raised that shaped where (and who) we are now. I also can understand, maybe on a deeper level than most, how hard it was for her to open up about her sex life, her relationships, and honestly, half of the things she wrote about in this book. I commend her bravery and appreciate that she was willing to face the criticism for girls like me who needed to hear those words in order to feel more comfortable in their own skin.


I will say, the only knock I have on this book is that the chapters where she spoke of being a mom are not as relatable or relevant to me now before I have children. They were different from Untamed in the way where I felt as though you needed to experience being a mom in order to fully understand. (If you are a mom, then I hope you get a lot out of these chapters. I plan on bookmarking them to return to when I too am someday a mom).


“Nothing that lasts is accomplished quickly. Nobody’s entire legacy is based on a single moment, but rather the collection of one’s experiences. If you’re lucky, your legacy will be a lifetime in the making.”

— Rachel Hollis


I think the greatest gift I received after reading this book was the courage to finally sign up for therapy. After years of encouragement from my closest friends and multiple self-help books telling me “therapy is beneficial for everyone,” when Rachel again suggested therapy as a tool and encouraged readers to go, I closed the book and thought to myself, “Okay. That was yet another person who I admire, respect, and hold dear, telling me therapy is not only a helpful tool but something that requires great strength and should be respected. How many people have told me that now? Are you brave enough Cher?” After a moment's pause I answered, “...Yes, yes I am.” I hope to tell you guys more about my twisted and convoluted route to get to therapy in a later blog post, but for now, I take comfort in knowing my journey has simply begun. And I couldn’t be more proud of myself.


“The precious life you’ve been given is like a ship navigating its way across the ocean, and you’re meant to be captain of the vessel. Certainly there are time when storms toss you around or cover the deck with water or break the mast clean in half-but that’s when you need to fight your way back, to throw all the water off the deck bucket by bucket. That’s when you battle to get yourself back at the helm.”

— Rachel Hollis


So, I’ve said my spiel, revealing all my self-help secret weapons and laying them at your feet. The question is, will you pick them up and wield them with the strength and ferocity that I know you have inside of you? Now, it’s your turn. What are your all-time favorite self-help books? What do you do to take care of your own mental sanity? What are habits you’ve formed in your daily lives that have improved your overall outlook? Tell me all your secrets! Let’s grow stronger, happier lives together, shall we? You know where to find me.


xoxo.

__________________________________________________________________________


What I'm Reading:

Normal People by Sally Rooney - Wow, I really devoured this book. It was shockingly addicting. I’m a sucker for those love stories where it seems like they just keep missing each other. What I thought was just going to be a silly, yet loveable high school relationship became a dark and somewhat twisted story of two people connected on an indescribable level. The depth Sally Rooney was able to create in these characters in such a short amount of pages astounded me. I am still somewhat perplexed by the ending so if anyone has read this and wants to chat about it please reach out!

What I'm Listening To:

Bummerland by AJR - I recently started putting together my one-second a day video for 2021 and chose AJR’s newest song for the intro. I feel like it encapsulates the vibe of the first few months of 2021, yet somehow they still made it fun and catchy. AJR is one of my all-time favorite bands. If you’re looking for some new music, definitely check out “100 bad days,” “Weak,” “Dear Winter”...actually just binge listen to all their albums and let me know which songs are your favorites.

What I'm Watching:

Super Bowl LV - Ah yes, the holiday my dad has been waiting for all year long. Working in the world of advertising, the Super Bowl is a pretty big deal for me on multiple levels. But I'll be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this year's commercials. I felt like they relied too heavily on celebrity appearances than the humor or story or message itself. I wish I could pick a favorite, but honestly they all seemed pretty forget able to me. At least Tom Brady got his seventh ring, so it wasn't a total loss.

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