#FLPNoShameNovember: Self-Help and Shonda Rhimes

By Link R. Fri, November 18, 2016

Reading self-help books usually throws me into a pit of despair where I refuse to follow any advice, feel deeply inadequate and then ashamed for even reading the book to begin with. (Examples one, two, three, four... ). It’s not only the shame of not being the person the self-help book wants me to be, but, further, the shame of even checking it out from the Library in the first place (I hope my coworkers don’t notice).

In my favorite example of this shame-reading problem, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, and during one chapter I cried about how I own too many things, which spiraled further into feeling like a broken cog in the capitalist machine. Instead of discarding everything I own as she suggests, I went to sleep, woke up and brought the book back to the Library before it caused any more problems. So in short, I’m a tough critic of self-help books, they make me feel terrible, and yet I can’t stop reading them.

My latest venture into the self-help spiral was Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. I thought I already was my own person, but this title tells me differently. Shonda Rhimes is a superstar TV writer and producer, and crafts some of the most confident and compelling women characters on TV. The book is half memoir and half self-help, chronicling Rhimes’ Year of Yes, where she started simply saying "yes" to things that scared her, such as public speaking and acting roles. Her advice of "saying yes" is an overly simplified recipe for curing misery which I certainly don’t buy, but she delivers it with a humble humor and relatability that finally removed the shame from the self-help book for me. She isn’t telling you to throw out all your personal items, or how to eat "100% RAW AND CLEAN" or how to never feel anxious again; she is simply meditating on a mindset and coming from a very human place. This book is not good, but I loved it and I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m still never calling a book "life-changing" or "eye-opening," but leave it to Shonda to take an impossible genre and turn it into something that can be enjoyed without shame. Her enthusiasm is contagious, though not contagious enough for me to take any advice.


For the entire month of November, Free Library staff will be embracing our so-called “guilty pleasures” without embarrassment! Join in and show us your pride for whatever you’re reading, watching, or listening to by snapping a photo with the hashtag #FLPNoShameNovember. We’ll feature your photos on our social media accounts and curate a list of the now-shameless titles!

A sampling of self-help books read by the author.
A sampling of self-help books read by the author.

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