“Well, whose it by?” my friend scornfully questions my latest self-help book.

“The author!” I reply both emphatically and defensively.

Who IS qualified to write a self-help book? Must they hold a post-doctoral degree? Must they have gone through helping themselves? Or must they just be good at putting ideas together, writing some bullshit and publishing it?

Can anyone write a self-help book?

Is it assumed that if you can help yourself then you can help others help themselves?

I challenge this assumption. I think there is an “art” behind a good self-help book.

Let me explain this “art” in more detail.

A good self-help book makes you feel all the things you’re not currently feeling. So when you’re feeling unmotivated, you exclaim, “good god, I can do this!” When you’re feeling like your relationship is falling apart, you exclaim, “let’s get married!” When you’re feeling trapped in a job, you exclaim, “I quit!” (And realize you get paid more in unemployment insurance than your actual job anyway.)

The “art” of self-help is determined by how well the author makes change sound appealing. By nature, change is not appealing to most people because it means uncertainty in our lives and uncertainty means perceived lack of control.

I love Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles” for many reasons but the main one being that he introduces the concept that we are all 100% responsible for our own lives! Yes, things can happen to us but we can respond in ways that still leave us in control and able to change. It’s all about taking the bull by its horns- a terrible saying coming from me, an animal loving advocate- and steering yourself in the right path regardless of the situation and keeping that sense of control.

Jack is a skillful “artist of self-help” because he knows the secrets. I won’t go into all of the secrets, just the main ones: First, he writes everything in small paragraphs with interesting titles, which is super amazing because if you’re like me then you tend to get lost in the sea of ongoing words that last for pages and pages. Second, he uses famous quotes. I wonder if he also has an addiction to Pinterest? And third, he is on the cover of his book looking sharp (as my nana would say) and has this big smile that says, “look at me, I know all, now read my book dammit.”

So back to qualifications and the “art” of self-help books. I guess what I am trying to say is: Who cares who wrote it or didn’t write it- if it helps you bring meaning to your life, to bring some long-lost quality back to your life, then preach it my friends!

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.