Does Self-Help Book Help?

Self-help books have entrenched themselves in popular culture over the past century, particularly in countries like the United States. People turn to self-help literature to seek answers to immediate questions and to independently tackle issues in their lives. These books cover a wide array of problems, including relationships, self-esteem, spirituality, and more. Primarily, readers search for meaning in their lives. They hope that advice literature will aid them on their lifelong journey. Increasingly, more self-help books are being penned for and by single mothers, showing a desire for positive stories about their often-stereotyped experiences.

Yet, a question persists: do self-help books really help? Sometimes, a story is authored by those who may not necessarily have something to say but who know how to convey it. A compelling story alone is insufficient. To become an author requires writing skills of and the knowledge of how to effectively present one’s story. Those with access to cultural influence tent to be the most vocal. Valerie R. Renegar and Kirsti K. Cole explored advice books for stepmothers and discovered that these these publications typically align with ‘normal’ expectations, often being written by white, cisgender, wealthy women (2019, p. 512). Instead of empowering, it appears that self-help literature exacerbates social stereotypes and perpetuates traditional notions about mothers.

Nevertheless, self-help books, like any other genre, can genuinely alter how people perceive themselves and their connections with others. This holds particular significance for the single mothers’ community. A self-help book is a potent tool for sharing personal stories and depicting an individual image. A printed book serves as an inspiring instrument of self-reflection. It enables individuals to contemplate their lives from a distant perspective. Authors step outside their personal experience and view their community from an outsider’s stance, either making it stronger or identifying differences within it.

Although self-help books may inadvertently reinforce repressive societal norms surrounding single motherhood, they remain indispensable in the journey of self-discovery and the search for inspiring stories. Anyway, it is important to remember that a book should be chosen wisely.


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