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A new study from Typing.com, a company that teaches keyboarding, digital literacy, and coding, looked at the estimated monthly searches for the 50 best-known self-help books on Google and Amazon. The goal was to identify which self-help titles were the most popular, and the results showed broad interest in the broad “self-help” category.
The most popular self-help books, as measured by monthly search traffic, are some prospective books, some perennial bestsellers, and some books that are notorious in various circles (secret and four agreementsFor example, make lists for those interested in spirituality; who moved my cheese and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a classic in the business world, easily accessible at the airport; Jordan Peterson remains a leading member of the “Men’s Rights” “activists”).
Out of ten books, only two are female. Few authors of color.
It’s easy to criticize the most searched books on these criteria alone. On the contrary, the content of these books is also worth considering.
In July 2020, author Devi Abraham shared her experience reading two popular self-help books. first, atomic habit, included in the list above. Second, Cal Newport’s deep workNot on the most popular list above, but it’s a must-read title often cited as a productivity booster.
Men are not only the most popular self-help book authors, but also their own subjects.Self-help isn’t an all-white category, and it keeps getting more diverse every year; it’s a positive, not only because self-help books are big business — but also has its own New York Times Bestseller list – but it’s positive because white male themes aren’t and shouldn’t be the standard way of doing it.
Unfortunately, it’s built in the bones of helping itself.
Self-help books have been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that they became a popular genre for mass reading. This is in addition to the period when capitalism developed and provided (white, middle-class) individuals with time and money to buy, read and write such books, when helping professions became more common and legalized. This is also a time when psychology majors such as counseling and social work have become more accessible. The 1950s and 1960s in particular brought the development of early cognitive behavioral therapy (thanks to Albert Ellis) and Carl Rogers’ person-centred therapy.
Rogers is widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of therapy. His work centers on people as unique and capable individuals, helping to move away from Freudian psychoanalysis and the theory’s sometimes problematic fixation (note that psychoanalysis still has contemporary uses!). Rogers was a humanist who viewed people with optimism and believed that everyone has the ability to grow, change and develop into the person they want to be. He believes that everyone can be self-actualized.
But as Rogers did to help the field, he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors: white men. He works in a field of gender stereotypes, and while empathy, unconditional positive attention and presence with clients are key to his theory of help, his own thinking remains inspired by his experiences living in a patriarchal society. Rogers’ daughter Natalie challenged her father to think a little further and consider the angle of his help. Natalie expanded on her father’s work and developed her own entire field of person-centred therapy through the expressive arts, her first book, Emerging Womenis an emphasis on how much of the “traditional” role played by women is no longer a role played by women.
Her work, and that of dozens of other women in the helping field, has had as much impact as their male predecessors and women of the same generation. But as is the case today, women’s voices — and women’s lives — are oddly absent from the most popular and popular self-help books.
Self-help/self-improvement books will always have their fans and their critics, and rightly so. But they’ve grown up in a fast-moving world built on capitalism, and the promise of packaging Restoration into a neat, easy-to-read book has made them the go-to sales — and big books. The books are broadly defined, and their tone, content, and approach vary in much the same way as the treatment. If one book doesn’t work, maybe the next one will. Unlike therapy, however, there is no end to the need for the next self-help book. The more the better, the closer to realization.
With foundations created by white men, no matter how groundbreaking their work is, no matter how inclusive it is, it’s no surprise that self-help continues to be a male, male, and male-centric arena. Frankly, the five pages on women’s issues in two top books is astonishing. Men have — and continue to have — a day that requires less unpaid labor than their female counterparts. *
Because men don’t need to think about hours of unpaid labor, intangible jobs, spending countless hours making grocery-meal-bag lists, they don’t have the life experience to use these realities as fodder. They have the privilege of writing nonstop for an hour without answering the phone or email. ^ They don’t need to arrange their days around school pickups, play or trips to the post office.They are often not tasked with finding a caregiver, primary caregiver, or both; this task is especially onerous for women of color, especially if they are caregivers themselves, as Angela Garbus (Angela Garbes) in basic labor.
Men don’t think because they can’t see, and they can’t see because they don’t need to. As a collective, our dedication to self-help books and the popularity of men reaffirms what self-help books do for us. These people who say we can be self-reliant and solve our problems miss the bigger picture. There is no single solution to a collective problem, and what’s worse, by framing the problem in the context of male-driven solutions, we expand the market for more self-help books to solve the same problems that cannot be solved by self-help books written by men .
Reading self-help books for decades, both for fun and for my own growth, I’ve learned that the real value in this category isn’t what you find sandwiched between the pages.Instead, it is no See: Blank and question why we need to improve ourselves as individuals rather than rebel against the systems that impose this sense of inadequacy and disenfranchised experience on us.
For white people, this is rarely a pursuit they need to question. They built the system. The lack of women on pages and searches is intentional. If they are not being seen, then why do they need improvement or self-actualization?
“We can’t be our best selves – no matter what it looks like, without making sure our neighbours do the same. This kind of development doesn’t happen in the middle of reading a book. Time and energy are in the minority privilege,” I wrote in my earlier musings on self-help. “It’s only when we take what we see or don’t see in the books and put ourselves to work in our communities, with those we can do through hard work, hard listening, and when we join hands to give voices through the microphone to those who are often People who ignore, speak, or remain silent.”
Men, especially white men, still have a lot of work to do.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why the self-help world is worried that markets will start to crash. Bread and butter experts and consumers are baby boomers 60 years or older. Few millennials have made a name for themselves in self-development, and even fewer among Gen Z.
except there Yes Experts of both generations. There are dozens of self-help and self-development books designed to provide young people with solutions and empowerment. These books touch upon complex, delicate topics, including community and friendship (how we appear and great friendship), confidence and anxiety (Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?, how to be yourself, Brave is not perfect, body is not an apology), gender (come like you), and mother/care (like a mother and basic labor).
They’re just not white or about white people.
They are about dismantling patriarchy, not tying tighter knots around them.
*Of course this is not universal, it is based on gender binary. We know this. This does not change the cultural perception that this is seen and valued.
^ A white guy once told me how offensive he was and I used an out-of-office responder to outline my response time to my personal emails because of how unprofessional that was. Surprisingly, it’s an offence for a woman to claim her boundaries.