Welcome to IrishCentral’s Book Club February pick! This month, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the world of self-help books and how one Irish woman tried her best to make them change her life with “HELP ME! One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life” by Marianne Power.
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Below, author Marianne Power tells us all about her experience. You can pick up “HELP ME! One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life” here.
“HELP ME! One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life”
I have always been a sucker for self-help books. I was one of those sad souls who had the ”Little Book of Calm” on my desk and ”The Power of Positive Thinking” by her bedside table. If a book was promising to change my life in my lunch hour, give me confidence/a man/money in five easy steps and had Oprah’s seal of approval, I would buy not only the book but the t-shirt and the audio course.
Friends laughed because I was a terrible advert for books such as ”How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” - which I had read four times – and “I Can Make You Rich.” Aged 36, I was broke, single and in debt. While my peers were buying houses and starting families, I was drinking too much and spending far too much time either Keeping up with the Kardashians or reading self-help books.
But I always thought these books would work if I just followed the advice they gave. Because I never did do what they told me to do – instead I’d just read them and fantasize about how great life would be if I meditated or repeated positive affirmations; I’d imagine how great life would be if I was skinnier! More productive! Full of confidence! Oh… and rich! Then, after this lovely day-dream, I’d get back to red wine, worrying and television.
Then, one hungover Sunday, I had the idea that would change my life. Really, really change my life. I would no longer read self-help, I would DO it. I would put the gurus to the test.
I started my mission with the classic ”Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, which argues that we should all be doing something that scares us every day. I did what I was told and spent January jumping out of planes, doing stand-up comedy, naked modeling - and, most petrifying of all, chatting up men on the Tube.
Then I spent a month crying over my bank statements with a finance book called “Money; A Love Story,” a book which argued that people who don’t look after their money are not free spirits, they are self-sabotaging. Oh.
Next was “The Secret,” one of the best-selling self-help books of all time; a book that tells you that you can have anything you want in life if you just believe. I did a vision board which involved cutting out pictures of best-selling books of which I would be the author. I found myself getting stressed about what color bathroom tiles to have in my fantasy home in LA. I road-tested a Mercedes and tried to believe it was mine, before getting the bus home. I even wrote out pretend cheques in the hope that real ones would come flying through the door.
They didn’t. At this point my Kerry mother became concerned. When I explained positive thinking to her she said: “You mean you delude yourself?” And when I told her about the pretend cheques and suggested that maybe I would be rich and famous one day, she said: “Well, at least when you get too big for your boots you can buy new ones.”
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Unsurprisingly, there were not many self-help books when she was growing up on a farm in Ballybunion. She did not have time for the self-indulgence of navel-gazing - or, as she puts it, “I was not brought up to contemplate my toenails, Marianne!”
And on it went, through a month of “Rejection Therapy”- which involved getting rejected every day by other people and was as awful as it sounds - and “Angel Therapy” where I tried and failed to talk to my winged friends. I ran across burning coals at a Tony Robbins weekend and swore my way to enlightenment at an “F**K It” retreat in Italy. I learned a lot along the way and did things that I would never have thought I’d be able to do.
The plan at the start or the year was that I would systematically eradicate my flaws - my disastrous attitude to money, my inability to find love, my constant worrying - so that by the end of the year I’d be, well, perfect.
I honestly thought that would happen. It didn’t. In fact, nothing went to plan and for every dramatic high, there was a crashing low as I started to realize that there’s no such thing as perfection.
That said, my life after self-help is the stuff of “The Secret-”style vision boards. I have written a book about my experiences which has now been described as an “international publishing sensation.” It’s being published in more than 29 countries around the world and the rights are also being sold to make it into a television show – which makes the LA house on my vision board less ridiculous than it once was … So, who knows, maybe there is something in it all?
The best bit for me, however, is how much everyone loves my mother. Her no-nonsense one-liners are most people’s favorite bit of the book. It turns out you can read all the self-help books under the sun but usually an Irish mammy knows best.
“HELP ME! One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life” by Marianne Power is published by Grove Press.
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