If You Want To Improve Your Life, Don't Buy Books By Entitled White Women

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 

Girl, just live your best life. You do you. You can do this. You are enough, and you are worthy. Step into the light of your own life, and start that journey toward your better self. You are strong, and you choose your own happiness. Don’t apologize! You don’t need anything or anyone but you. I can teach you how to practice self-care so that you feel refreshed for the challenges you will conquer.

If you’ve read or seen anything on social media over the past few years, you’ve heard these messages, likely hundreds of times. They are shared with you by middle to upper class white women, with perfectly highlighted hair, toned and tanned bodies, dazzling white teeth. They have children who look like Pottery Barn Kids’ models. Pictures of mother and offspring baking together or reading books in designer bedrooms cover their feeds. They are trying to sell you their fantasy, through their books, conferences, podcasts, and social media channels, but the reality is, they can’t. What they have is privilege, often disguised as bravery and confidence. Most of us cannot ever, and will not ever, obtain their best life and make it ours. Instead, we need to create resolutions that are obtainable and personalized, without the faux-help of entitled white women who make money off our desperation.

Every time one of their books hits the bestseller list, I scoff. They are determined to convince you that you can step up your game, your glam, and your fam if you will just buy their book, devour it, and apply the principles to your life. Often, these authors have zero educational or professional credibility. To make up for it, they hire marketing-savvy employees who push a very specific narrative.

We can all be better, if we just buy a $49 ticket with the promise of creating a new and better self and attend the virtual girlfriend conference. Together, women from across the world can hop around in front of our laptop screens screaming, “I can do it! I am worthy! I am fabulous!” while the hostess with the mostest eggs us on. We can shed a few tears, have some good laughs, and then take notes in our conference-issued (not included in the ticket price) notepads. We are just a few hours away from a brand-new tomorrow in which we take command of our destiny and let the universe know just how special we are.

Self-improvement books have been around a long time. I worked at Barnes and Noble for over three years, paying my college tuition with each check I earned. I often stocked shelves, including the self-help section. Even then, I could see how empty and impractical the offered advice tended to be. Most of these books were written by wealthy, white men (and a few women) who declared our life would be changed at the end of the 246 pages.

I’m an author myself. I believe that books and other media can elicit positive change. But what’s disturbing about many self-help books is that too often they rely on the author’s privilege—be it their race, gender, income—to dictate what they tell others to do. Desperate people are vulnerable to buying into a fantasy of a best life that simply can’t ever come to pass, because the reader and the author have very little (if any) privilege in common.

So readers can apply the positive, determined principles all day, every day, and still see no results. An upbeat attitude doesn’t undo a traumatic childhood. Telling yourself you are enough doesn’t pay the rent. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps and out of the job you’re stuck in because you have to provide health insurance for your family, especially for your medically fragile son. You can decide that you are done apologizing and ruin your partnership, because you’ve decided you’re too good for saying you’re sorry when you’ve messed up.

Real life isn’t a Disney movie where the pretty girl lives happily ever after, exploring her interests, falling in love, and pulling up to a palace. The vast majority of us have real responsibilities and real problems, none of which will melt away if we chant “you go, girl” to ourselves in the mirror each morning, wash our faces, and walk into the sunshine.

I follow almost none of these self-improvement gurus on social media, mostly because what some see as beautiful and hopeful, I see as fraudulent. Filtered, posed, sponsored posts do nothing but breed desire (for something unattainable), jealousy, frustration, and disappointment. No, thanks. Real life is difficult enough without volunteering to add in more anxiety.

The messages in their images, books, YouTube videos, and everything else are redundant and inauthentic. You can sign up for their electronic newsletters, download the first chapter of their new book for free, and purchase their branded (overpriced) merch, and sister, your life isn’t going to change. It’s just not. But the hostess of lies covered in glitter? She gets more money in her bank account to buy trendy, designer clothes and go on vaca with her family while you stay in your misery.

These women aren’t your girlfriends. They don’t know your name or care about your life. They want you to think they’ve leveled up using their determination and discipline, and you can, too. But the reality is that they make bank on your vulnerabilities. Let me ask you a question: Every time you scroll longingly through their pics, do you feel like you’re enough, or do you feel less worthy?

I’m all for women doing their thing. We all know that women have been held back by the patriarchy for far too long. There’s still a lot of gender equity work to do. What I’m not for is wealthy, white women pretending like their privilege (they wouldn’t dare use that word, though) is attainable, through a book, or a podcast, or a conference, or a product. That’s not how privilege works, friends. Don’t fall for it.

If you want to improve your life, by all means, do it. I personally believe that therapy, movement, hydration, meditation, journaling, prayer, and other similar means are more effective in changing your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Don’t try to talk yourself out of your trauma, your diagnosis, or your relationship challenges by making yourself feel even more guilty for whatever is going on and always pushing yourself to be more and better. (Even though, ironically, the same self-help leaders who tell you that you are enough are also trying to make you better.) Perhaps, confronting your struggles, bad habits, and challenges head-on and authentically, with tried-and-true methods, is the way to go.

Don’t waste your time or money on superficial white woman nonsense. You are smarter than that, and yes, you are worthy of something so much better.

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