These two self-help books were both written explaining how to use one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others.
If in Doubt, Wash your Hair by Anya Hindmarch
I have followed Anya’s career with great interest as we went to the same boarding school, albeit 10 years apart. Anya is married with 5 children, 3 of which she inherited when they were very young as their mother had sadly died. We possibly all know the name Anya Hindmarch for her famous handbags. However, when I heard that she had written a manual for life titled, If in Doubt, Wash Your Hair, I was keen to read it. Apart from the fact that I admire Anya and all she has achieved I also love the title. Whenever one of my kids was ill or feeling a bit down, I would suggest they get up, have a shower, wash their hair, and they’d feel a lot better. 9 times out of 10, it worked.
This is not a book shouting out about all her successes though she would be justified to write such a book as she has had achieved so much. No, this shows the author as a vulnerable woman, juggling many balls, constantly worrying that she was not getting it right and that perhaps her family might be suffering from the consequences. It also tells her failures and how she dealt with them, learned from them and moved forward.
It is a practical self-help book written by a self-deprecating author with lots of tips and quick fixes, showing that the answer to a problem might be quite simple, and we just need to be in our best frame of mind to deal with it. So we owe it to ourselves to keep our body and mind rested and happy. This does not mean she preaches a whacky diet and endless exercise. Instead, like many of our own lives, hers has had to adapt to time constraints and other more pressing needs.
One of Anya’s first moments of inspiration came from her housemistress, a nun called Sister Angela. I remember her well as she was a very smiley woman and always seemed content with the world. She told the new intake of pupils including Anya, “If you accept that you will never be fully satisfied, then you will be very happy indeed.” It was a light bulb moment that has stuck with her – not everything can always be perfect. So if you accept this you won’t be disappointed.
Anya is not a great cook and yet her mother was amazing but she accepts that now. We all have so many pre-conceived standards that we try to live up to. I got from the book that we should create our own standards governed by our own lifestyles. Life is so much busier for this generation of women who are juggling a career and a family, so certain things will have to be compromised to fit in with this.
I wish this book had been about when I was starting out but self-help was not a phrase that was used. Now young people are more open to being helped. This is a book that I am going to purchase for each of my children who are in their 20’s embarking on different things – launching their own business, moving to the next stage in their relationships, or just navigating life and juggling lots of balls. This book is helpful, reassuring and inspiring. It is not just about getting it right, it is also about how to deal with life when it goes wrong.
An Anya mantra is ‘Be kind and, most importantly, be kind to yourself.’
How to be Hopeful by Bernadette Russell
I once went to a talk by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and I managed to speak to him one-to-one. I told him that I had some friends who had recently lost their only child and how could I help them. He told me that after oxygen the one thing that humans need to survive is hope. Right then my friends had lost all hope and we needed to try and find experiences for them to hope for, then they would start to self-help and so rebuild their shattered lives. That conversation stuck with me forever and so when I received this book from Elliott & Thompson to review I knew instantly that this could be a great read.
This book is an absolute minefield of information. It is well researched, full of inspiring stories and timeless philosophy.
How to be Hopeful shows us the places we can look for hope – in ourselves, nature, art, the kindness of strangers, communities, science, technology, innovation, as well as our individual and collective actions – and ways to keep it alive through all the challenges life throws at us.
There are practical tips, exercises to do and suggestions on how we can embrace and develop hope as we face the very real and complex challenges of 2021.
Two self-help books, different and yet complementary. I read both and gained much knowledge, and more importantly felt good that I was getting a few things right.