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A So-So Guide
on 5 May 2015
I've had this book for a good year or so by now, surely. Unfortunately I can't get past the first few chapters. If I wanted my confidence to be sold to me, I'd have bought it by the bucketload long ago had it been available.
The term 'positive thinking', even in CBT, can be just as easily exaggerated as negativity. It's personal preference, really, but what I was hoping for was a reduction in exaggerated negative thinking and a resultant increase in more realistic thinking. Perhaps 'faking it' can work in the short term; by all means feign confidence if it makes you feel better, but don't use it as a foundation for your self-esteem. The fact that this is what the book opens with, immediately after discussing past events that may give insight into why one might be lacking confidence in adulthood (now THAT was useful), feels like backtracking. Not even backtracking, actually. It feels like running in the opposite direction - backwards. It feels false. It feels as though I'm trying to have my own confidence sold to me, and that's enough to bring on anxiety in itself.
There's also page after page of what feels like filler; McClement explains a point and then uses a few examples to illustrate not only what he means, but to also make the aforementioned method look good. Again, it's like a sales pitch more than a self-help guide; "LOOK AT THIS THING THAT THIS PERSON TRIED - IT WORKED FOR THEM AND IT CAN WORK FOR YOU". It might not necessarily be a negative to everyone, but I really didn't like 1) how the evidential pieces spoke to me and 2) the fact that there were so many. People tried your method? Cool? And it worked? Doubly cool. I don't need to know three or four times over. Unnecessary reading.
Some of the other language used gave me pause, too. There are obviously references to confident, successful people as general examples of what one could become by following this guide. As I mentioned beforehand, the text reads as though you're expected to be in a competitive environment, and the competitive environment is the most important part of your life. Well, not really. I just want to learn how to leave the house without getting heart palpitations, or submit an assignment without having reworked it a bajillion times although I've been told it's fine by my tutors. What is unhelpful about said examples is that there is usually some element of blaming or shaming towards the reader, if not sweeping statements; 'how many successful people do you know who approach things negatively? None.' That isn't true for starters, at least not for everyone.
I have a pocketful of unconfident friends who have worked for some large names as graphic designers and illustrators. They pull through one way or another. Negativity isn't a measure of one's success. In fact, I'd relabel this as a collection of exercises and case studies on success rather than confidence - not necessarily in the workplace, but generally.
I flicked through the rest of the book and browsed some of the exercises. Even tried my hand at some. The exercises themselves, I can honestly say, are helpful, provided you apply them effectively to your own situation. The prose, however, just wasn't speaking to me at all. Perhaps I should've bought a book on anxiety instead.