I was a nerd in grammar school. The kid with the glasses who people called “four eyes,” the kid that was bullied for wearing my school uniform skirt too long, and the kid who basically kept to herself.
Grammar school was a painful time in my life.
I felt like a misfit and in many ways I was.
All that changed when I landed in high school. I left the majority of my classmates behind including the bullies who ventured into public high school while I attended the private, Catholic Presentation of Mary Academy.
There I met a group of girls who took me under their wing, and my life was transformed. On the outside at least. Inside I was still painfully aware that something was missing.
Fast forward through college, dropping out of school, getting pregnant at 20, married at 28 and divorced at 33 where I landed at the feet of a man who would open my eyes.
It was at this point in my life that I started reading everything and anything I could about self-help and spirituality. I couldn’t consume it fast enough. Dana would recommend a book, and I would immediately go out and purchase it along with several others that caught my eye.
We would spend Saturday nights getting high (don’t judge, I’m a product of the seventies) discussing and dissecting each book and its points. I learned a lot from my dear friend over the course of many years and ultimately found what was missing in my life. I believe we are solely responsible for our own personal growth and development and it’s crucial if you want a life of happiness. My own progress is a testament to that.
So without further delay, here’s my personal self-help book list!
Self Help Books That Will Change Your Life
The Places That Scare You – Pema Chodron
Pema teaches we always have a choice. We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder.
At 33 when I first read this book I had a lot of anger. I was angry at my biological mother, angry at my adoptive mother, angry at my life circumstances. This book opened my eyes to see my life as a group of lessons tied together showing me how to push back what was rooted in fear and move towards openheartedness and tenderness. I learned how to connect with others, accept myself and others with all our faults and imperfections. It was one of the first books to teach me about the ego and how it helped me to resist life as it was instead of accepting it as it came.
The Art of Happiness – Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
I love and admire the Dalai Lama and since finding happiness was high on my radar in my early 30’s I decided to read this book.
The entire book can be summed up here: “I believe that happiness can be achieved through training the mind… Generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.”
This sounds simple at first, so simple you almost want to dismiss it. But as you actually begin to understand these words you realize they hold the answer to the purpose of our lives. If you’re ready to shift your perspective, this book will help you change the way you look at happiness.
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
I love anything that Brene Brown writes, but this book was the perfect entry way into her work around shame, perfection, and vulnerability.
Living authentically can be a challenge in a society that seems to favor superficiality. But Brene lays out the road to accepting ourselves and knowing we are enough even when society wants to dictate otherwise. It will help you move from “what will people think” to “I’m fine the way I am.”
You Can Heal Your Life – Louise Hay
If you decide to read this book, realize it’s not for the faint of heart. Louise believes in personal responsibility, and therefore her words can feel like a dagger to the heart if you are looking to dodge your role in how your life is turning out.
If you can get past it, you’re left with some sage words about how you too can turn your entire life around and heal yourself.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
This book fell into my lap at a time when I was faced with parting with my mother’s possessions and downsizing my home. I’m not sure I could have so successfully managed either of those tasks unless I read Marie’s work.
I had been dabbling with the concepts of minimalism for a few years and had been pretty successful in getting rid of things no longer had a use for, but this brought it to a whole new level of understanding. Not only did it open my eyes to the value (emotional, financial and spiritual) of an object but it also allowed me to heal myself of the waste and overspending I had participated in years earlier.
This book is a no brainer if you own too much stuff, and you want to see your possessions in a different light.
When Bad Things Happen To Good People – Harold Kushner
Every so often a book comes along that tackles a difficult human issue in such a way that it almost leaves your speechless. This is how I felt after reading Rabbi Kushner’s book. He’s facing his own child’s terminal illness and uses this to guide us through the inadequate answers to the problem of evil. He then provides us the reader with a compassionate and practical answer no matter what your religion. If you ever struggled with the question “Why me?” you’ll want to read this book!
Why Good People Do Bad Things – Debbie Ford
When I learned Debbie Ford had passed away fews years ago, it saddened me to the core. To think this brilliant writer would never publish another book was sad to me because her books taught me some of the greatest lessons.
In Why Good People Do Bad Things, Debbie Ford reveals the illusions of good and bad, right and wrong, real and unreal. She gets to the root of the problem plaguing the world today, the effects of toxic shame and the inability of people to make peace with who they are – both light and dark.
If you find yourself self-sabotaging in any way, you’ll want to read this book. It will show you the way to becoming whole again.
The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
Shamanic teacher and healer Ruiz shares these simple but elegant truths that will change your life: Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. It’s the how and why one should do these things that make this book worth reading and remembering.
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
I remember the first time I opened the Power of Now and attempted to read it. I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I struggled with the concepts and eventually put it down. Years later, maybe ten or more I picked it up again and read it in a day!
If you struggle with this book and the concepts at first, don’t worry, as you progress in your own spiritual journey of growth and development this book along with many of the others will become easier to understand.
With that being said, this book eloquently helps the reader understand what it really means to ‘live in the now’ and is a fantastic guide to help you get there.
Loving What Is – Byron Katie
This book is all about questioning what you think about your fundamental relationships.
In the “work”, the straightforward method is based on a series of four questions aimed at your assumptions. Through the work you get to see your problems in a different way. It is a life changing book if you’re willing to do the “work” on yourself and uncover the truth.
Let me know if you decide to read any of them and if they had as profound effect on you as they did me.
If you’re looking for books that can transform your financial life, check out my list of favorites here!