I was in two minds about this book, going from thinking it was telling me exactly what we needed to hear, to telling us things we already know, but in a long-winded way, being a history lesson in consumerism. And I ended up thinking it is the book you need during the quarantine/confinement/isolation time. But let me start at the beginning and tell you about my personal experience of reading this book.
I started when everything was fine. I was on a continent where all of the recent events had no bearing on my life. Getting my book out whilst enjoying hikes and waterfalls, having a woman tell me that instead of constantly trying to improve myself, I should let it all go – it doesn’t work anyway. Apparently, everything will happen on its own if I don’t push it.
To use Karen Karbo‘s phrase: Yeah. No. Not Happening. How is anything suppose to happen if I don’t do anything towards it? But oh well, reading on. This is a journey after all, and at some point, I expected a how-to guide.
But we went into an interesting, though rather long, exploration of the history of (female) consumerism and marketing. I won’t tell you too much, because you should discover this for yourself, and you will be surprised, even if you may feel a little played.
Finally, we got back to our original topic: Self-improvement – yay or nay? (We know Karbo’s answer, it’s the title of the book.)
By then, I was in confinement. Granted, in a beautiful place with 30 degree weather, but still in confinement, having LOTS of time on my hands. While you may finally be doing all the housework you want to do and sorting through finances and going through your wardrobe, I am in a hotel in a foreign place with only a suitcase. “Sorting through my things” takes approximately five minutes, even if I re-fold every item of clothing.
And this is when Karbo tells me to swear off all the self-improvement schemes, the ideas influencers use. Well, I don’t follow them anyway, I thought it was common sense.
She goes further though and talks about how much we put into our jobs, because we think we have to (I think back to my old job and now THAT rings a bell). She also says it is never enough and that perfection we aim for is not going to happen (all I can hear are bells now).
The idea of Yeah. No. Not Happening. is something we know, and as Karbo says, if you are reading this book, you are on the right path: What is the point in half the things we think we “have to do”; because successful people tell us, because it seems right, because that woman who always seems to have it all together does it? We know what we need, we just need to remember to listen to our bodies: It’ll tell us when we need sleep, when we need to move, and when we need water.
And most importantly, saying no, leaves more room to say yes, to things we actually care about.
That was the theory. And then I stopped and thought. I had, subconsciously, started exactly that. I am in confinement, so there is no one to say no to but myself, but I started.
Getting up early to try and have a productive morning? No, I am a nightowl.
Keep regular eating hours even though I am alone? No, I’ll eat when I am hungry because I am not using as much energy since we can’t leave.
I have tried to meditate a little, even though it’s not my thing, but my usual ways of calming down and ordering my brain (swimming and hiking) are out.
And finally, I understood the part about saying “yes”. I ditched everything and dived into a project I genuinely wanted to do, a birthday present I completely forgot and now had four days to create (I am skipping a little bit of sleep, but will catch up). Suddenly, energy levels are back and I haven’t thought one minute about the fact that I am stuck here without seeing the beautiful part of the world I wanted to see. I am happy, because I am doing something good (preparing something I know will make the person, and in turn myself, happy), and I am not doing anything to become a better person!
So before you make yourself a big schedule of how you will better yourself in this time of confinement, and come out of it a well-read, size zero, organised, smoothie drinking person, wait a couple of days and read this book instead. Let Karbo tell you in her own words. Then decide what you really want to spend your time doing.
Need more reading inspiration? Check out our Readers Corner segment here.