“I think you could write a book. Kind of, an anecdote of ‘Why Men Love Bitches’. You could call it something like, ‘What Not To Say In A Relationship’. A bit like ‘How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days’. Those sort of vibes.”
“Omg… stop…!” I threw my head back in despair. “I don’t even want to think about it. Seriously… someone needs to wire my jaws shut.” I whined to my friend. I was sat on her sofa, a cosy blanket draped around my shoulders with a barely touched, almost melted aćai bowl cast to one side. That’s when you know something is wrong with me – an uneaten açai bowl is a sure sign that something is very, very, awry.
My friend gave me a concerned smile. “You’ve barely even touched that, Pam. Do you want a coffee?”
“Can I have a gin, instead? A big one please?” Caffeine and I were embroiled in a love/hate relationship at the best of times, and since coffee to my anxiety was likened to pouring fuel on a burning blaze, I decided it wasn’t such a good idea. But then again, isn’t gin a well known depressant?
Never short on gin, my friend chuckled as she politely obliged. It hadn’t even gone 2pm. “One large gin coming up Miss Violets!”. My mood was blue like the violet in my name.
When I got home later that night, a few gins deep, I lay awake and thought about all of those ‘self-help’ books I’d fallen victim to. Buying them in the hope that I’d suddenly manifest as this new positive best ever version of myself. Pamela v2.0 : The Sunbeam Edition.
“Why Men Love Bitches”
“5 Love Languages”
“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”
“You Do You, Boo“
“Get Your Sh*t Together”
“The Four Agreements”
“The 48 Laws of Power”
“Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus”
“Think Like a Lady, Act Like A Man”
“Nice is Just a Place in France”
“He’s Just Not That into You”
“The State of Affairs”
“They Fuck You Up”
It seemed to me that we were in the midst of a self help boom. Brazenly flocking towards the self-help section in droves, (where as before, it was an aisle visited cautiously and fleetingly). Christ, these days we were even talking about the best self help titles amongst our friend circles! Passing them around each other like a box of Christmas Quality Street. Inundated with titles that claim to ‘fix’ you; they’ll change your life! But with so many options to choose from, what information should you follow? What’s the correct prescribed dosage? And most importantly, can you overdose on self help?
I’ve come to realise that there’s a reoccurring theme in many self-help titles. Most of them are just the same old regurgitated ‘wisdom’, rewritten and reworded over and over again, until it’s packaged up in an attractive cover with a title that aims to shock you.
‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck’, ‘Unf*ck Yourself’ and ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’. Are we really a generation that’s fucked? Or is it merely hypersensitive culture and over exposure turning us all into anxious balls of cotton wool; a nation full of self diagnosed issues?
One book tells you one theory, and another tells you the opposite. For example, one dating book states, “Men don’t respond to words. What they respond to is ‘no contact’”, but then another tells you that ‘communication is key’. So do you reply or not? And if he likes you, shouldn’t this kind of scenario be irrelevant? One book tells you that it’s healthier to become vegan, and yet another tells you that in order to build muscle, you need eggs, meat and fish. So… what should we eat? If I eat red meat, will I die prematurely? But what about veg? Won’t I lack iron and B12? One book tells you to be yourself and to hell if no-one else likes it!! But… what if you’re just an arsehole who isn’t actually a good person? Should you really still be yourself, never questioning why everyone around you has ditched you? Or should you take a hard look at yourself and make some changes? If it’s the latter, then I am pretty positive there exists a book somewhere called, ‘How To Be A Good Person’, or the updated revised version called, “Don’t Be A D*ck”
And then we have convenient wisdom; people who read a few articles or heard some opinions on a particular subject (probably on Google or a blog) and who now think that they know best, and try to ram their opinion and advice down your throat at every given opportunity, despite not knowing all the facts.
There will always be someone who has an opinion about what you should do. “You should do this. If I were you, I’d do that.” But the thing is, you are not me, and I am not you. Wether you ask for it, or not, there will always be someone in the back of your ear, giving you advice that they are not necessarily qualified to give you, and many self help books are not any different, except that you picked it up, took to to the cash desk and made a conscious decision to pay for it haha! So-called professionals who merely have an opinion, or a tale of advice that worked for a small group of people.
But in amongst all the colouring in books I’ve been gifted, (in a bit to help with my anxiety – bless) that lie untouched, part of my problem is that I feel like I don’t have enough time, that I should be doing greater and more important things in order live my life to the fullest. Imagine if I start colouring in? I’ll only amplify my stresses by a million, cursing myself for ‘wasting my precious time’ trying to stay between the lines of an intricate Secret Garden drawing. Who the hell started that rumour that colouring in is therapeutic?! Now give me a colouring book designed for a four year old – big pictures that require speed scribbling: a much better outlet for stress!
Yes, there is definitely a right and wrong time to say and do things, (and timing has never been my forte) and there are definitely some things that cannot be unsaid once they’ve tumbled out, and while words can be comforting, they can also feel like a punch in the face. But no book will ever be able to help you during those times, I mean, are you going to pause an argument, just to consult your book? “Just give me a minute ’til I find it, I think it’s covered in section four.
When I was in my early twenties, I remember crying to my auntie, (who’s really like my big sister). “Why am I like this? I hate that I can’t hide what I feel. The words come out and they’re all jumbled up and wrong!”
“It’s because you wear your heart on your sleeve, and that’s a very brave thing these days. Don’t ever stop wearing your heart on your sleeve, Pam.”
I think about her words all the time. Even when I write my blog.
I’m no professional, and I am almost certainly one for not even taking my own advice, despite reading numerous titles full of the stuff, but it seems to me that these books only work if you follow the principles religiously, studying it like a bible, and adopting them as a way of living. I mean they say a problem shared is a problem halved, but it’s like the blind leading the blind. Upon hearing said problem, most times, we are all just internally grateful that we ourselves do not have to deal with that, meanwhile we utter kind words and try to comfort the problem-ee (that is 100% not a word, but I’m going to pretend it is) offering bleak ideas of how to resolve the issue, most times saying something like, ‘time will fix it’.
Well, I’ve concluded what works better: nodding your head, listening to all the advice, being sure to hum and ahhh at the right points, and then doing whatever you were going to do anyway. Basically, just being yourself,* because at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with the consequences, and someone else might just find you quite endearing, just the way you are.
I reached for my phone and posted an advert on the group page, “Books free to a good home!”.
*Unless you’re a despicable nasty human (go buy yourself a book about not being a dick).