While the bookstore has always been sacred, holy ground to me, the looming “Self-Improvement” aisle was the one teenage-Bri would scoff at before striding over to the Young Adult section to seek out a gripping tale with a strong heroine who was probably caught in a luscious love triangle. Any title sitting on the shelves of the aforementioned place of doom was likely full of sad insight about how to climb out of a painful rock bottom situation. I thought you had to be desperate to go seeking information there – and if you were indeed that desperate, you were obviously old and dull.
… I was quite a cocky teenager.
Jump to light speed and join me here at the beginning of my third decade, and you’ll only find maybe one or two titles closely described as “Christian Reflection” books, and then maybe one or two more books dictated by my previous Corporate America life about sales and management. While I have let go of the stigma of what that aisle contains for others, I have held on to the idea that it meant darkness and doom for me. (Reality Check No. 1 – Self-reflection can be instigated in many ways and in many packages – not just in those 5 minutes of corpse pose in yoga.) I had my mind set that is was a depressing aisle filled with depressing things.
Now – I consider myself an ever-growing but quite emotionally healthy adult. Still, when I first heard the title of Girl, Wash Your Face (by Rachel Hollis) there was this little being inside me that just went full fan girl at a Bieber concert. Admittedly, I didn’t even know what it was about beyond the tagline on the front cover, and truly, I didn’t really connect with the tagline itself. I simply thought, “Well, sure – yeah.” Even worse, I didn’t know anything about the author – which may be an epic fail causing the revoking of my Millennial card – or even worse, my Modern Millennial Mom card. Too bad – I think I lost them in my “Societal Titles that Don’t Mean a Thing” junk drawer in my kitchen on Mars anyway. But I digress.
For some reason, I really, really wanted this book.
Let’s not give me too much credit. I didn’t face that long, dark aisle I scoffed as when I was younger. Instead, my Amazon Fairy placed a package under my front doormat, and I really could not contain my excitement. In fact, my sleep-loving self was so excited to read it that I woke up at 5AM, completed a short workout, then curled up on the couch in a with a steaming cup of joe in a dark and still sleeping house to crack open this book like I’m about to find the Golden Ticket in a Wonka chocolate bar!
I can just see my teenage-self sitting in the oversized chair in the corner silently judging me with a strong side-eye. Sorry, not sorry, Young Bri. Reality Check No. 2 – Self-care is not just a day at the spa. Despite what she may think (despite what my now-self may think) this moment of me in a quiet home before dawn reading a self-help book is a normal, relaxed, well use of my time. I just have to learn to be comfortable in it. Beyond the revelations that left me in tears within the first few pages, I’ve been pondering the dynamic between the self-judgey teenage self and the even harsher self-judgey but now receptive adult-self. Why was this book now deemed healthy? Why did teenager-self hold such a stigma against it? When did it change? What caused that switch?
Writing this now, I think I have realized just how unhealthy my mental state was when I was that young age – which should be no real surprise and would require at least 100,000+ words to explore at even the minimal surface level. But surely there is a shift in most of us that still leaves the questions of when, where and why we first decide to pick up a book like this. I’m sure it’s a different answer for everyone, but I also think that it speaks volumes about the desire for community in our society where we can speak uplifting truths, find support, move forward together and be real about the trials that we come across as we all do this thing called life. I also hope that the reason books like Hollis’ is hitting fandom level speaks to the breaking down of the ‘stigma’ around mental health – thus allowing us to be more comfortable sharing and discussing such challenging topics.
Or maybe I’m just crossing that age threshold where I’ve begun to stick my head out of the foxhole to take notice. I wish my immersion has been as brave, strong, and elegant as Wonder Woman climbing off of that ladder out into the fight as the army of men behind her stand with mouths agape, but at least I’m climbing. (Reality Check No. 3: Be free to move at your own pace. Life is not a cycling class.) I feel like womankind as a whole is finally up the ladder and striding over the barrier. Legions and legions of us! With books like this to push us forward. With forums like this to make us ponder and build communities of support within ourselves.
But it starts while sipping coffee on a couch, book in hand held like a mirror before me as I reflect deeper upon what motherhood means to ME, what being a professional woman means to ME, what being a wife means to ME, and what self means to ME.
I am only a couple of chapters in to the book, but I already feel as though Hollis is my spirit animal. She may actually be my twin. Honest. Either way, she keeps asking me some great questions, and I look forward to the next one. Meanwhile, I’m telling that teenage that if she doesn’t clean up her room in the next hour there’s no going out with friends this weekend.
I can try.
In the meantime, whether its Girl, Wash Your Face or another self-help book that has caught your fancy – I hope you are in a place where you can embrace the message in one way or another and allow the pain you have in your life to move you forward. I hope you are also able to use that pain to serve as a beacon to support, love, and lead others.
It’s not a dark, dreary isle. It’s an aisle full of life. We should all meet there sometime.
Update: By the end of the book, I ended up really not liking it. But I read it. And I know myself better for it.