Believe it or not, I finally finished Russ Harris’ book this week after reading it for some two years or more. I bought it out of curiosity, and as a kind of extension to finishing off Overcoming Low Self Esteem. I felt I had the tools to overcome something I had suffered from all my life, but I wanted to take it one step further and figure out how to build some confidence in myself.
What does the book do? Unlike many other self-help books, Harris throws out the superficial platitudes of “positive thinking” and pseudospiritual claptrap like The Law of Attraction, and uses techniques and methods of CBT and Mindfulness while presenting something quite revolutionary. Rather than trying to suppress our fears and paranoia, Harris recommends that we harness them, acknowledge them and use them as fuel to spur us on. They are a normal part of our survival instinct. He rails against the self-styled gurus who deliver “Instant Confidence” (and even mocks them by agreeing that they deliver just that – confidence that lasts for an instant).
What is in it? Lots of practical exercises and tips that it recommends you put into practice in order to get the most out of the book and his ACT course. Some of them were CBT exercises similar to those in Melanie Fennell’s book, so these are clinical exercises used by professional therapists and encouraged for simple applications. There is lots of humour and critical analysis of the unhelpful New Age methods listed above. No cosmic energy in this book, no willing the universe to bend to your narcissistic little will.
Who would you recommend it to? This is not a self-help book for people looking to treat even medium level mental illness. It won’t cure your depression; it won’t help much with critical low self esteem for which you may be seeking or receiving professional help and nor should you use it for that. What it is good for, is helping those who feel in a funk, unable to move on in life, feeling a little fed up with the direction of their life, scared to make a critical decision or generally unwilling or scared to try changing the course of their life. It’s useful for people like me who were in the position of having come out of a depression and facing a big challenge in life about where to go next and how to develop the confidence to do it. It is also useful for helping to challenge negative thoughts, but again this is for very low level stuff rather than as a medical treatment for a mental illness where you might need professional help.