Helping Me Help Myself
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Helping Me Help Myself

4.0 6
by Beth Lisick

Grappling with her lifelong phobia of anything slick, cheesy, or remotely claiming to provide self-empowerment, Beth Lisick wakes up on New Year's Day 2006 with an unprecedented feeling. She is finally able to admit to herself that she's grown tired of embracing the same old set of nagging problems year after year. She has no savings account. Her house feels


Grappling with her lifelong phobia of anything slick, cheesy, or remotely claiming to provide self-empowerment, Beth Lisick wakes up on New Year's Day 2006 with an unprecedented feeling. She is finally able to admit to herself that she's grown tired of embracing the same old set of nagging problems year after year. She has no savings account. Her house feels unorganized and chaotic. She and her husband never hang out together. The last time she exercised regularly was as a member of her high school track team almost twenty years ago.

Instead of turning to advice from the abundant pool of local life coaches, therapists, and healers readily available on her home turf of northern California, Beth confronts her fears head-on. She consults the multimillion-dollar-earning pros and national experts, not only reading their bestselling books but also attending their seminars and classes. In Chicago, she gets proactive with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In Atlanta, she tries to get a handle on exactly why "women are from Venus," and in a highly comedic bout on the high seas of the Caribbean, she gamely sweats to the oldies on a weeklong Cruise to Lose with Richard Simmons.

Throughout this yearlong experiment, Beth tries extremely hard to maintain her wry sense of humor and easygoing nature, even as she starts to fall prey to some of the experts' ideas, ideas she thought she'd spent her whole life rejecting. Beth doesn't think of herself as the typical self-help victim. But is she?

Editorial Reviews

Seattle Times
“wildly funny” and “a cross between David Sedaris and Susan Orlean.”
Bust Magazine
“Beth Lisick’s latest book is a wildly fun read that falls somewhere in between memoir and a Cliffs Notes guide to the self-help genre.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Lisick has created a hilarious, knowing tale of a year of willing ridiculousness.”
not only hilarious but enlightening... Readers will be inspired: If a woman in a banana suit can clean her closet and pay off her credit card debt, surely you can, too.”
Los Angeles Times
“sweetly neurotic, funny and occasionally insightful.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A witty, disarmingly earnest account of the year [Lisick] spent test-driving renowned self-help franchises.”
Kirkus Reviews
A delightful, Plimptonesque exercise in immersive journalism exploring the strange world of "self-help."Lisick (Everybody into the Pool: True Tales, 2005, etc.) devoted a year to various gurus in an attempt to self-actualize. She endeavored to become a Highly Effective Person under the auspices of Stephen Covey, to fortify her soul with Jack Canfield's Chicken Soup, to get fit with Richard Simmons on a cruise ship, to straighten out her perilous finances with Suze Orman, to consistently discipline her young son with Thomas Phelan's 1-2-3 Magic method, to figure out John Gray's Mars/Venus gender dichotomy, and generally to live a better, happier life. It is to the reader's great benefit that Lisick is: 1) a mess, 2) cynical and horrified of cheesiness, and C) effortlessly funny. Her visualizations didn't go right, she didn't have the right clothes for the ghastly seminars and on Simmons's cruise she got high and made inappropriate advances to a surly young musician accompanying his mother. Lisick makes keen use of comic detail, as when she charts the deflation of Simmons's hair over the course of the cruise. She is tough on the well-paid experts, but fair, sincerely laboring to suspend her skepticism and game to put their advice into action. Some of it works: A home-organization expert helps Lisick's family emerge from their chaotic clutter, and Phelan's discipline strategy tames her truculent toddler. But of course the book is funniest when things don't go so well. The author's revulsion over Gray's retrograde sexual stereotypes (and disturbingly smooth, buffed appearance) is palpable and highly amusing. Her articulate hatred of the anodyne platitudes in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Wayprovides a tonic for anyone dismayed by fuzzy New Age smugness. None of that from Lisick, who is sharp, irreverent and endearingly screwed-up. Her experiment may not have solved all of her problems, but she got an enjoyable book out of it. Funny, perceptive and surprisingly open-hearted under the cynicism. Agent: Arielle Eckstut/Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Helping Me Help Myself
One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone

Chapter One


A lesson in cringle-stifling

Technically, you wait until January 2 to start your resolutions, right? When everything is supposed to be getting back to normal, when banks are open and mail delivery resumes, that must be when you jump in and blindside this nascent, unsuspecting year with your hot new program. Because, if you're like me, the first of January is already shot. It's noon and you're just getting in the car to drive down to your parents' house to collect your four-year-old son and will spend the next six hours sinking into their battered leather sofa with the central heat blasting while emptying a wooden bowl of its potato chips and staring at a football game on the enormous TV screen before eating a half-pound of ham and polishing off the rest of the See's candies. See what I'm saying? You can't attempt anything new or revolutionary under those circumstances.

My dad, who's gearing up for triple bypass surgery later this month, is filling Eli in on the game using some of his favorite phrases like "barn burner" and "deep yogurt." Eli's not much of a football fan, but he can get into the novelty of it during holiday gatherings. My son, Gus, is momentarily content, doing a connect-the-dots book on the coffee table in front of me as I watch this football coach get more and more agitated. My first thought is: I'm glad it's not me he's yelling at. Then it dawns on me that I've been hearing a lot lately about "personal coaches" and "life coaches." It's usually in the context of a joke, or oneof those newspaper lifestyle features you can't quite believe is real. One of those stories where it seems like the journalist is just interviewing her friends and passing it off as a trend. But maybe I should find a coach to help me. The thought of it makes my scalp tingle, but it might be time to admit that if I put my mind to it, anything could happen. I'm already doing okay, so I've got nowhere to go but up, right? It could even be entirely possible that by the end of the year I will actually be able to say it—"life coach"—without using a cartoon voice or making air quotes with my fingers.

"I need a life coach," I practice saying to the TV.

There are supposedly 30,000 certified life coaches in the world right now, and lord knows how many unlicensed practitioners lurking about on Craigslist, which means that each time I say those words with a sneer I am essentially hocking a giant loogie on a group of people who are only trying to help (and I'm sure some who are preying on your insecurities, which can be found in any profession, including dentistry, landscaping, and the small but influential army of body waxers). I'll start with opening my heart a little and trying not to be mean for sport. Being mean, as I've learned from Gus and quite a few blogs, is one of the easiest things in the world.

The first time I ever heard of a life coach was a couple of years ago. Some guy I'd met at a party, the kind who introduces himself as "an entrepreneur," was carrying on about a dinner party he'd thrown to which he'd invited everyone in his employ—"my people," he'd said. I was a little hung up on the reality of it anyway, a dinner party for the eight people who work for you—not for you at your company, but just, you know, the housekeeper, the accountant, the pool guy, and the like. The staff. (How did I even meet this person?) He said he had wanted to invite everyone "from his life coach to his housekeeper" but wasn't sure if his house-keeper would feel awkward, because she didn't speak that much English, or—"and I know this is terrible to say," he conceded—if his life coach would feel "insulted" to be invited to a dinner party that included the housekeeper.

Quality problems.

I went on to quiz him, in a not unkind manner, about what he and his coach did together as I tried to wrap my mind around it. You pay this person to help you achieve your goals. You are so focused on yourself and your quest for fulfillment and happiness that you hire a professional to motivate you. You're okay, but you want to be the best you can be, and you have a very specific idea of what constitutes this Ultimate You. The corners of my mouth were involuntarily turning downward as I spoke, nearly twitching as if they were being pulled by strings. Interesting that I have none of these reactions when people tell me they are in therapy. I have heard of life coaching being called "the new therapy," and supposedly it's much more popular with men because of the bro-friendly nomenclature.

Just hanging with my coach. We're coming up with a game plan!

But why am I so critical of someone who's trying to improve his life? Do I think if I don't keep up, I'll be the last loser standing? Part of it is that the intimacy of having a personal coach freaks me out. I can barely get a pedicure without feeling ridiculous for imposing my feet upon someone for twenty minutes. How could I dump my whole life in someone's lap?

It's not that I don't have a plan. What I want to do is spend the year putting some well-known self-help programs to the test, but I am lacking any semblance of an entry point. Do newbies really just walk down the self-help aisle at the bookstore and pick up whatever looks appropriate? For something so monstrously pop-u-lar, it sure is difficult to get hooked up. Where's the pusher willing to give me the first one for free?

Helping Me Help Myself
One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone
. Copyright © by Beth Lisick. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>

Meet the Author

Beth Lisick, author of the New York Times bestseller Everybody into the Pool, is also a performer and an odd-jobs enthusiast. She has contributed to public radio's This American Life and is the cofounder of the monthly Porchlight storytelling series in San Francisco.

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4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
LauraFram More than 1 year ago
I stumbled across this book, and I am so happy that I did. I learned a lot about myself while reading this book. It is good to know that I am not the only one who has used sheets as drapes, had a messy house, or had issues with raising a child.

Thanks again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just loved Beth's book. Her prose is refreshing and enlightning. Why spend money on self-help books and courses, when the author has done it all for you. Save your money and just buy her book. You won't be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisick really nails it with this funny,insightful,sometimes sarcastic and self deprecating book. On New Years Day 2006, she wakes up and decides her life needs an overhaul. Always being weary of the billions dollar self help industry, she decides to try studying one self help guru a month to get her life on track. What follows are great stories, such as setting out on a Richard Simmon's Cruise to Lose and attending seminars headed by Suze Orman and John Gray. As she makes her way through the year, and slowly runs out of money, she gets more reflective. I especially enjoyed her chapter on spirituality and Deepak Choprah. I'll be buying this book for all my friends.