As someone who experienced adverse childhood experiences, books take on a special meaning to me. Libraries became sanctuaries, bookstores as havens, stories as escapes, and books as stability. Engrossed in a multi-book series with hundreds of pages was often the only safe activity for me, and provided me consistency I was never used to. People would come and go from my life; Harry, Katniss, and Aragon would stay within the pages of the text. I could visit them whenever I wanted.
From this experience, I knew the written word was powerful. But I had a bias: I laughed at the people who browsed the “Self-Help” section. Real, or imaginary, this section was a little dusty and abandoned. When I saw patrons in the “Self-Help” section, they seemed to give a furtive left-to-right glance before picking up a novel. I maintained my place in the fantasy section, but each time I passed this section, I shook my head and thought “what can you find in a book that you don’t already know?”
Cue the universe laughing at me. On my twenty-third birthday, I received a self-help book from an acquaintance. She told me it would help me change, and I still, to this day, don’t know if that was an insult. However, the new year falls only eight days from my birthday, so of course, I was feeling the “new year, new me” vibes. I read it. And I actually enjoyed it, with the added bonus that it did change me.
After researching my first ever self-help book, called Warrior Goddess Training: Become the Woman You Were Meant To Be, by Heather Ash Amara, I started reading self-help more frequently. I found that, unlike reading a novel, I could spend days on one page. Instead of devouring a two-hundred page text in one day, it took me days to get through twenty pages. This was due to the profound content I found within the pages of the texts. It was a completely new way of reading and processing — it was a process. Indeed, I found, within the pages of the following books, things that I knew, things that I didn’t know, and things that I remembered.
The Four Agreements
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a book rooted in ancient Toltec, or pre-Columbian Mesoamerican, traditions. In this book, Ruiz helps the reader understand four “agreements” that we make with ourselves everyday. “Agreements” are things we accept, such as, we are not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Those aren’t our thoughts — they are thoughts put into our heads by others or by misunderstanding, miscommunication, or mis-imagining the -future. In order to overcome those agreements that are self limiting, we must become impeccable with our word, not take anything personally, not make any assumptions, and always do our best. To do that, you will be rewarded with happiness and free from suffering. It seems like magic, it’s so easy, but it’s actually difficult to practice. If there was one book to read before you die, this is it. This book is for the practical, the primal, and the ones who strive for wisdom.
Is this a self-help book? Maybe. It’s a brilliant adventure across mountains and seas and deserts. This book is unique. There are no words in this book I would take away. Every word has its place and a meaning and feels profound. Paulo Coelho created The Alchemist as a metaphor. It begins with Santiago, a Andalusian shepherd, who goes in search of his own personal legend. Everyone has a personal legend, something they have wanted to do since they were a child. But life gets in the way. Peppered with brilliant lines such as “and, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”, “one is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving,” and “tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity”, you will fall in love with this story and it’s charm. The lush scenes are merely metaphors for our own mountains and deserts we wander across. This book is for the modern-day transcendentalist, the dreamers, and those with wanderlust.
How to Be You
Tik-Tok sensation Jeffrey Marsh created How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life as an approachable and accessible way to heal from your traumas, or agreements, as Don Miguel Ruiz would say. “You forget your bravery. You stop trusting yourself. Other people’s words ‘You shouldn’t be like that,’ in whatever context, become your own words ‘I am wrong for being like this. It’s my fault”, writes Jeffrey. Part narrative, part journal, and part personal cheerleader, this book invites one to realize who they are, and let go of things that do not serve, and begin the journey of loving oneself unconditionally. Jeffrey’s love for themselves and love for the reader resonates in every word. This novel is for the hands-on learners, those practicing radical self-love, and those who are a touch fabulous.
I was kind of right as a child when I asked “what can you find in a book that you don’t already know?” Nothing in the pages of these books are radical. Some of these things I already knew. But sometimes, the world can make you feel small, less then, not capable, and make you forget your personal legend. These books are certain to help you remember, reimagine, and renew your love for your beautiful self.
Self-help is now my genre. I stand proudly in the section, dusting the shelves by picking up every book. I have realized, through these pages, it is my personal legend to write a self-help book and heal others through my experiences. When I start to forget, or become lost in the 9-5, I just remember the wisdom of these written words. If you have the time, try one of these books — they are short, they are imaginative, and they will help you realize your agreements, your personal legend, and your love for yourself. Comment, like, and follow me for more recommendations, if you love these books, or if you have recommendations for me!