Inspiring Self-Help Books for Women
Do you need a bit of inspiration? I’ve just taken a look through my bookshelves and picked out some inspiring self-help books for women – great books which have resonated for me over the years, and which I have found myself dipping into again and again.
To help organise this list, I’ve broadly grouped them into six categories:
- Finding Your Power
- Connecting to Your Deepest Self
- Comfort, Calm and Soothing
- Body and Eating
- Making Sense of Your Past
- Relationships & Parenting
In this post, I’ll be taking a look at the inspiring self-help books for women in the first three categories. In another post, I’ll cover the others. I hope you find something that you connect with!
Important note: My list only covers non-fiction, and doesn’t extend to fiction or poetry; but do remember that fiction (and poetry) can offer the most powerful self-help of all! Great fiction and poetry can transport you powerfully to new and life-changing insights, so if self-help books aren’t your thing, that’s fine; just head across the bookshop to browse the other shelves and get ready to be deeply moved, inspired and comforted by novelists and poets from around the world and through the decades.
Finding Your Power
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, by Debbie Ford
What it’s about: ‘Reclaiming your power, creativity, brilliance and dreams’
Why I love this book: Debbie Ford explains that if we want to be fully equipped to live as whole, authentic, choiceful people, we need to really know and own all our qualities. Yes, that includes our ‘shadow side’ too: all the bits that we’d love to disown (greed, envy, shame, hate, etc). It’s a really small, short book but packed with clear examples and exercises that actually make sense.
Find Your Power, by Chris Johnstone
What it’s about: ‘A toolkit for resilience and positive change’
Why I love this book: It’s very practical, without losing sight of the bigger picture. It gives solid strategies for strengthening your ability to bring positive change – both in your own life, and more broadly. Johnstone keeps in mind the idea that we all live in the world together, and must collaborate on helping make the world a better and sustainable place for all. He helps us find courage, feel calm, have breakthroughs, shift stuck patterns, and bounce back from failure and crisis. This book is bursting with straightforward tips and ideas that almost anyone could find helpful.
The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks
What it’s about: Figuring out how we hold ourselves back, and overcoming our own ‘upper limit’
Why I love this book: To be honest, this slim book is written in a style that doesn’t sit well with my British sensibilities. But if you can overlook the style (or if you enjoy it) than there’s much to be gained from this book. Hendricks translates something quite complex into a very straightforward and easy to understand idea. He says we each have our own ‘upper limit’ of success and abundance, and when we venture beyond it we quickly pull ourselves back (unconsciously but powerfully). He offers practical ways that we can overcome our ‘upper limit problem’ and provides lots of food for thought.
Women who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
What it’s about: Contacting the power of the ‘wild woman’ using myths and fairy tales as inspiration
Why I love this book: A massive tome, my copy is very old, dog-eared and yellowed. In fact, I could have put it in various other categories in this list, because it’s almost a medicine chest containing comforting balm, invigorating stimulation, sparkling pleasure, and cool clear wisdom. Estes is a Jungian analyst and this classic text has been described as ‘a lexicon for the female psyche that is riotous, upbeat, and unique’. Gorgeous and sumptuous.Inspiring self-help books for women Click To Tweet
Connecting to Your Deepest Self
I Know I’m in there Somewhere, by Helene G. Brenner
What it’s about: A woman’s guide to finding her voice and living a life of authenticity
Why I love this book: This book is based on Focusing, a technique widely used in psychotherapy (and in self-help). Brenner includes interesting examples, surprising insights, plenty of practical tips, and exercises that are all aimed to help you get in touch with your inner voice. She shows us how to ‘have your feelings without them having you’ and helps us distinguish between messages that come from outside (whether that’s judgements from others, or our own inner critic which is based originally on judgements from parents, teachers etc) and messages that come from something true and meaningful inside us.
Finding the Deep River Within, by Abby Seixas
What it’s about: A woman’s guide to recovering balance and meaning in everyday life
Why I love this book: Seixas is thoughtful, wise and calming. She invites us to slow down our busy lives, so that we get better at remembering what really matters – and better at having a gentle kind of pleasure, satisfaction and a non-hysterical kind of fun. A great book for anyone who’s been feeling overwhelmed, worried and over-busy.
Mindsight, by Daniel Siegel
What it’s about: Transforming your brain with the new science of kindness
Why I love this book: Siegel is one of the world’s best informed experts on the processes, connections and overlaps of the brain, mind and the body. He really knows his stuff, and he has the gift of being able to write very accessibly. And he makes it really practical – he shows us through clear examples, why it actually matters (to your relationships, your happiness, and the planet) for each of us to have the best neural integration we can.
Why Did I Do That? By Dorie Cameron
What it’s about: How you make sense and why there is hope
Why I love this book: This is a really unusual book. It’s small, short, can be read in one sitting, and is basically a simple picture book. The author designed it as a way of clearly explaining the basic concepts of Internal Family Systems (IFS). Have you ever wondered about the different parts of yourself? The playful part, the serious part, the scared part, the envious part, etc… This book will help you understand yourself so much better, and gives a really clear explanation of why you do what you do (for example, why you put yourself down, block yourself, etc).
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
What it’s about: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead
Why I love this book: Brown is a researcher who got fascinated in what makes us feel vulnerable, and why. She discovered that vulnerability is a special kind of strength, and that when we have the courage to embrace it, we can really connect to what brings deep meaning and purpose to our lives.
Art is a Way of Knowing, by Pat B. Allen
What it’s about: A guide to self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment through creativity
Why I love this book: Allen reminds us that anyone can make art, and shows us how anyone can use their art-making to help them in all sorts of different ways – including processing painful events and memories, discovering personal myths and stories, deepening their creativity, and connecting to their spirituality. This is a very personal book, and the author takes us through her own art-making/ soul-finding journey.Self-help books for comfort, calm & soothing Click To Tweet
Comfort, Calm and Soothing
The Woman’s Comfort Book, by Jennifer Louden
What it’s about: A self-nurturing guide for restoring balance in your life
Why I love this book: This is one of the all-time classic inspiring self-help books for women. It’s basically a list of dozens – maybe even hundreds, when you include all the variations – of ways that women can nurture themselves. It’s even got a huge spreadsheet of cross-indexed ways to nurture yourself according to the exact feeling that you’re dealing with (and yes, she lists alphabetically around sixty difficult feelings/ situations, from ‘Afraid to be alone’ through ‘Emptiness’ and ‘Out of touch with nature’ right through to ‘Vices’.
Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff
What it’s about: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind
Why I love this book: This book is about how (and why) to be compassionate to yourself. (Which is totally different, by the way, to indulging yourself or having a ‘pity-party’). Everyone should have access to the concepts in this book. Ideally, we’d have soaked them in as tiny children, and we’d be going through our lives able to feel compassionate to ourselves and to others, freeing us up to use more of our energies in positive ways. A must-read.
Mindfulness, by Mark Williams & Danny Penman
What it’s about: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
Why I love this book: If you’re new to mindfulness and meditation, this is a really good place to start. The book comes with a CD of guided meditations, and a set of simple but powerful practices that can be fitted into everyday life. And the authors explain clearly how and why mindfulness meditation can help you break the cycle of anxiety, exhaustion, stress, etc.
Healing Your Aloneness, by Erika J. Chopich & Margaret Paul
What it’s about: Finding love and wholeness through your inner child
Why I love this book: I first read this book when it came out, back in 1990. It was a revelation to me and helped change me profoundly. And although I must admit I haven’t re-read it in a long time, it still has a special place in my heart. The emphasis isn’t on simply having a healthy ‘inner child’ or ‘inner nurturing parent’; this book is about how you can connect up the relationship between both parts in order to find healing and peace.
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, by Christopher K. Germer
What it’s about: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions
Why I love this book: This book blends self-compassion with mindfulness. Germer discusses how ‘we all want to avoid pain, but letting it in – and responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgement or self-blame – are essential steps on the path to healing’. Lots of practical exercises and tips are provided, and you can even get free audio downloads of the exercises on the author’s website.
Making a Change for Good, by Cheri Huber
What it’s about: A guide to compassionate self-discipline
Why I love this book: Huber is a Zen teacher who teaches us that compassionate self-discipline – the will to take positive steps in life – is found through nothing other than being present. She explains how really being mindful and aware of the present moment can be our route that cuts through our habitual distracting, addictive behaviours. The book includes a guided 30-day programme which involves daily meditation, journaling and contemplation. My one problem with this book (and for me, it looms large) is that I hate the typeface. It’s a ‘handwritten’ style font which I found very distracting and annoying. I’m sure many readers would disagree though, so do give it a chance!
The Road to Calm Workbook, by Carolyn Daitch & Lissah Lorberbaum
What it’s about: Life-changing tools to stop runaway emotions
Why I love this book: I must admit I haven’t read this book through thoroughly yet, but flicking through I can see that it’s packed full of useful tools and ideas for helping you manage your emotions instead of feeling flooded and overwhelmed at stressful times. I heard one of the authors being interviewed at length on a therapists’ podcast, and that was enough to trigger me to purchase the book. It is a workbook, complete with space to write in and an audio CD.
What have I missed? Let me know if you have any inspiring self-help books for women that you wouldn’t be without – tell us in the comments below.