Review by ciecheesemeister -- How to Define Yourself

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Review by ciecheesemeister -- How to Define Yourself

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[Following is a volunteer review of "How to Define Yourself" by Chuck Clifton.]
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1 out of 4 stars
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The following is my review of How to Define Yourself: Taking Control of Your Life by Chuck Clifton.

This is a brief self-empowerment/self-help book which might be useful for people who have no real problems in their lives, but for me, it came off as a how-to guide in victim-blaming and harshly judging those who do not measure up to the highest societal standards of beauty and functionality.

Although the author acknowledges that there are people who do not possess 100% full physical functionality, citing the story of a young equestrienne who became confined to a wheelchair following an accident but managed to remain involved in her sport, his attitudes towards people who are unable to “define” themselves into an optimized human being show an extreme negative bias against those who are unable to overcome physical and/or psychological handicaps and those who do not fit into extremely rigid standards of attractiveness.

The author states that a person can “choose” their response to pain. Having lived with low-grade, chronic, widespread pain for most of my life, there is a degree to which I can choose to ignore this pain. However, even low-grade pain can be draining, and years of self-shame and pushing myself beyond my limits eventually led to my becoming disabled to the point where I can’t work a regular job.

On the other hand, there was a period of two months at the end of 2017 where I had a severe injury to the median nerve in my left arm. The pain was so bad that I could not sit up for more than about 45 minutes before having to lay on the arm to try and numb it so I could sleep. This pain prevented me from completing the simplest tasks and was so debilitating that I often felt like I wouldn’t mind if I never woke up. Severe pain is not a trivial thing, and while there are people who learn to live with it, this is no easy task. I feel that the author trivializes this very serious issue by implying that one can simply choose to “define” their response to such pain.

The author does not consider that mental health issues such as anxiety and mood disorders are very real and that advice such as his tends to blame the person with the problem for not simply “defining” themselves as a brilliant social butterfly. As a person with a serious mood disorder, I have heard all my life that I need to “just stop that stinkin’ thinkin’” and everything will be okay. This book offers more of the same unhelpful victim-blaming advice that it took me years to finally start overcoming the extremely corrosive effects of.

Further, I will always knock a star off the rating of any book which is harshly judgmental towards people of any body type, and this includes larger people. The hateful way in which society treats those with bigger bodies does nothing except promote eating disorders and self-loathing. A person’s body size is affected by numerous factors, including DNA, health conditions, and medications. The amount of food a person consumes has far less bearing on their body size than we have been led to believe by the multi-billion-dollar diet industry. Many larger people are, in fact, food insecure, and cannot choose to “define” themselves by their diet. Some big people eat nothing but “healthy” foods in the “proper” portions and are still big. The author’s short-sighted and hateful stereotypes of larger people is a massive turn-off.

I found no spelling or grammatical errors, and the book was concisely formatted. However, I was unimpressed from the start and became more so as I continued to read. By the time I reached the end of the book, I hated it. It lacks compassion and relies on stereotypes and shame, which are factors that have caused significant misery in the lives of many “imperfect” people who have been unable to “define” themselves properly.

I give How to Define Yourself: Taking Control of Your Life one out of four stars. I cannot recommend it to anyone who isn’t already confident in themselves, who isn’t free of psychological problems, and who doesn’t have more than minor issues holding them back from living their ideal lives. For those who have any significant physical or psychological issues or who have a history of disordered eating and body image issues, stay away from this one.

How to Define Yourself
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Post by Erin Painter Baker »

I guess luckily it's a short book? I don't think I will pick up this book, because I agree with you on the idea that simply telling people to "define" themselves differently without taking into consideration issues like mental and physical health does not help anyone and can actually harm some people.
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