This is a book review of “Boost Your Self-Esteem” by Christine Wilding and Stephen Palmer. This is a good book for the general public, for students of psychology, and for students of the Law of Attraction.
KEYWORDS: book review, Boost Your Self-Esteem, Christine Wilding, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychology, self-development, self-esteem, self-help, self-image, self-improvement, self-love, Stephen Palmer.
- PART 1: THE BOOK
- 1.1 About the Book
- 1.2 The Parts of the Book
- 1.3 The Nine Chapters
- 1.4 The Authors
- PART 2: THE REVIEW
- 2.1 Physical Format
- 2.2 Paper, Printing, and Binding Quality
- 2.3 Layout, Design, and Typography
- 2.4 Basic Content
- 2.5 Writing Style
- 2.6 Ideas and Techniques
- 2.7 Usefulness
- RATINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- EDITION DETAILS
PART 1: THE BOOK
In this book review I am evaluating my second-hand copy of Boost Your Self-Esteem by Christine Wilding and Stephen Palmer.
This book is published by Hodder Education in London. It is of a small physical size, and less than a hundred pages thick (click image to enlarge):
Figure 1. Front and back covers of Boost Your Self-Esteem by Christine Wilding and Stephen Palmer (Hodder Education, 2011).
This book is part of Hodder’s “Flash” series of books. As is said on its Amazon.com sales page:
“The books in this bite-sized new series contain no complicated techniques or tricky materials, making them ideal for the busy, the time-pressured or the merely curious.”
This book was originally published in 2011, as noted on the copyright page. And to my knowledge there is no later edition than this.
Note also that Boost Your Self-Esteem is available in Kindle format in America, India, and Australia, but apparently not in Canada or the UK. And that it is available in audio format in India, but not in America, Canada, UK, or Australia.
Another interesting fact about this particular copy is that it was originally in the library of Norfolk Library & Information Services (a public library system that seems to include the impressive Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, totally hosting more than a million books), as seen from the images below (click image to enlarge):
Figure 2. Left: The sticker on the inside back cover, showing the name of the previous (original?) owner of Boost Your Self-Esteem. Right: The empty library borrowing/checkout card, placed on the title page.
As we can see from the image on the left, its price was 5.99 GBP. And as we can see to the right, it was actually never checked out (unless they replaced a fully stamped checkout card with a new, empty one).
About the Book
Boost Your Self-Esteem is a self-help type of book. And its design clearly indicates that.
Although this title has no explicit genre printed on either its front cover or back cover, other pieces of text reveal its nature.
First, on the back cover there are five phrases that signal “self-help”: “gain confidence, feel great, be assertive, feel positive, love yourself.”
Second, on the inside back cover we find a long list of other titles in the “Flash” series, such as “Life-Changing Happiness”, “Master the Art of Confidence”, and “Successful Speed Reading”. All of these clearly indicate that the whole “Flash” series is a self-help series.
As mentioned above, the “Flash” series is described as “ideal for the busy, the time-pressured or the merely curious”. Since there is no explicit intended audience mentioned on the Amazon.com sales page (other than “the busy”, etc.), this books apparently is meant for the general public.
There are no photographs in this book. But there are many flow diagrams and tables. And there are also many exercises for the reader.
This book contains no glossary, no references, and no type of indexes.
The Parts of the Book
Unlike most other books, this book does not have the typical three-part structure (front matter, main content, back matter). Rather, it only has two parts, namely front matter and main content.
This is undoubtedly because of its short length. Since it’s less than 100 pages, the decision was most probably to keep all “unnecessary” material away. So the back matter had to go (i.e., glossary, indexes, etc.).
Although existing, the front matter is minimized to three pages: one title page, one copyright page, and one contents page. After that, the rest of the book is the main content (93 pages).
The Nine Chapters
The nine chapters in this book contain the following basic ideas, as I have understood them:
Chapter 1: Great Self-Esteem: What Is It? Here is described the many traits and “symptoms” of people with good self-esteem. Low self-esteem often comes from one’s childhood. Your number one enemy is your PFF (Personal Fault Finder). Self-acceptance is the key to overcome low self-esteem (pp. 2-15).
Chapter 2: Unpacking Your Low Self-Esteem. In order to understand your low self-esteem you have to analyze your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and behavior. And you can use a “thought record” to help you in that process (pp. 16-29).
Chapter 3: Challenging Your Thinking and Beliefs. In order to develop good self-esteem it is crucial that you learn to recognize distorted thinking patterns. And when you discover such distorted ways of thinking, you should replace them with new thoughts that are more positive (pp. 30-45).
Chapter 4: Defeat Low Self-Esteem by Developing Self-Acceptance. Another process is to learn to develop self-acceptance. This process enables you to overcome your Personal Fault Finder (pp. 46-53).
Chapter 5: Defeat Low Self-Esteem through Rejecting Victimhood. Many people behave like a victim, in order to get attention from other people. Stop that. You must take responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (pp. 54-61).
Chapter 6: Increase Your Self-Esteem through Assertiveness. Being assertive is a clear indication of healthy self-esteem. You have to take control of your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. The four behaviour types (pp. 62-71).
Chapter 7: Act Your Way to Good Self-Esteem. Pretend that you already have good self-esteem. After a while it will become natural (pp. 72-79).
Chapter 8: Body Image. Poor body image is just another form of distorted negative beliefs. So it can be changed into more positive beliefs (pp. 80-87).
Chapter 9: Self-Esteem and Relationships. Many people expect relationships to provide them with more self-esteem than they already have. That attitude has to change (pp. 88-94).
According to the back cover, Christine Wilding is a practicing CBT therapist, treating people that suffer from mood disorders.
Professor Stephen Palmer is, as it says on that same back cover, “one of the most well-known experts on stress and self-esteem”.
PART 2: THE REVIEW
My copy of the 1986 paperback edition is approximately 4.4 x 7.0 inches (11.1 x 17.7 cm). And it’s approximately 0.25 inches (0.7 cm) thick.
This physical format is very attractive to me. Its dimensions make it very easy to hold, and its light weight makes it comfortable to hold, even in cases when one wants to keep on reading for a longer period of time.
Its dimensions and weight contribute to making it very portable, which is, in my eyes, a very attractive trait. I mean, who doesn’t like reading a new, interesting book while traveling on the bus or the subway?
Its format actually reminds me of one of the books in the “A Very Short Introduction” series that Oxford University Press is publishing, in which they have titles on all kinds of subjects. So when I compare the width and height of Boost Your Self-Esteem with Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction, they are almost identical (click image to enlarge):
Figure 3. Boost Your Self-Esteem is just as portable as Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction, and more portable than both Self Esteem Bible and The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, and Self-Image.
There is a small difference, though, in their respective physical format. The Psychiatry title has 160 pages, while Boost only has 96. So Psychiatry is substantially thicker.
If we compare to other titles on self-esteem that I have previously reviewed, Boost Your Self-Esteem has a more convenient format than The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image by Jay E. Adams, since both its width and height is smaller.
Compared to Self-Esteem Bible by Gael Lindenfield, Boost Your Self-Esteem is even better, since not only its width and height is smaller, but it is also less thick than the former title (with its 376 pages).
Paper, Printing, and Binding Quality
The type of paper in Boost Your Self-Esteem is, more or less, of “mass market pocket book” quality. So in that respect it cannot be (favorably) compared to Psychiatry: A Very Short Introduction, which has pages of a much better paper quality.
The printing is crisp, and the binding is tight.
Layout, Design, and Typography
Both the front cover and the back cover are well done, and the design fits well with the type of self-help message that the book presumably wants to emit.
As for the design of the pages in the core text, it is competently done. The font size is big enough for most readers, and the leading is good.
The various tables and diagrams in this book are also well done, in terms of their “execution”. However, one might have designed the flow charts (for example on pp. 25 and 26) in a different way, to make them less “boxy” and repetitive. But it is my guess that this design was proposed by one of the authors, and that it was not up to the art director or graphic artist to freely choose a new design.
The overall assessment of the value of this book must be put in relation to the sales argument presented on the product page (on Amazon.com), where it says:
“Boost Your Self-Esteem is a short, simple and to-the-point guide to learning the basic principles of being more happy with yourself in a few short steps.”
Also, we must take into consideration the statement regarding the whole “Flash” series (as I presented it in the beginning of this book review).
Seen through the lens of these two passages, the basic content does not really correspond to what is promised. Although the book indeed is short and the text is to the point, one cannot really say that it does not contain any “complicated techniques or tricky materials”.
For mastering one’s own mind is one of the hardest things one can do, and especially so if one’s general mood is a very negative one.
Of course, the publisher might object and say that “Well, the techniques themselves are not very complicated, nor is there any trickiness to the materials”. And those points are well taken.
For the “complicatedness” and the “trickiness” appears only when one actually starts setting things in motion with one’s own practices. And it is at this stage that the Personal Fault Finder and his associates apply their sneaky strategies in order for the practitioner to abandon his practices. Their aim is to secure their own power, and not be demoted.
In any case, the implication of the statements of the publisher, if not their explicit words, indicate, to most people, that it should be relatively easy to boost one’s self-esteem with this book. But that is not the case, in my opinion. So its “promise-to-delivery” value is definitely not 100%.
However, it should also be said that this is a rather “typical” account of a CBT approach to developing more self-esteem. Thus, there is nothing “abnormal” or “wrong” about it, as a collection of techniques used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
In fact, the reader does get a lot of techniques and methods of how to improve their self-esteem according to the CBT approach. So there is value for money, after all, in terms of these theories and procedures (but I’ll return to that subject below).
So for those who are collectors of theories and procedures (as students and professors normally are), these theories and procedures might be very valuable. The question, however, is if the CBT approach, at all, works in practice, and especially so when applied in the typical self-help way, in a home setting (as opposed to in a clinical setting).
The book is nicely written in the sense of being a “no-nonsense” kind of work. The authors write in a very clear style, so that their explanations of the theories and exercises are (relatively) easy to understand.
However, the overall tone of this book is somewhat dull, and it would, in my opinion, be a stretch to label it as “entertaining”.
Ideas and Techniques
There are many ideas, techniques, and exercises in this book. Some of these are good, and some of them are questionable. So let’s take a look at some of them.
1. What’s Working?
My first comment here is that there are many ideas that are good in this book.
In Chapter 1 we find several good ideas. First, the idea that self-esteem can be improved is correct. And the idea that low self-esteem many times comes from childhood is also correct. And so is the idea of a Personal Fault Finder.
In Chapters 2 and 3 there are also some good ideas. One is that you have to analyze your thoughts and emotions in order to understand your true state of affairs. And another is that you have to replace distorted ways of thinking with more positive thoughts.
In Chapter 5 there is a splendid idea: reject victim mentality. So by taking responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and behavior, you can stop being a victim.
In Chapter 6 there is a discussion on how to improve one’s self-esteem through “assertiveness”. This, in my opinion, is not a particularly good chapter.
However, even here, there are some good points. One is that assertiveness should not be confused with being aggressive or being a bully. So that’s all right.
And now to some less good points. Their idea is that assertiveness, as a whole, is about taking control of one’s emotions and behavior.
But it will be hard to practice away the various “undesired” behaviors and emotions that are listed on p. 64 (e.g., “getting upset very quickly when others question your opinions and views”, etc.).
These behaviors and emotions, in my opinion, are the result of a large wall of thoughts and beliefs, which is triggered in particular situations. So it’s not behavior and emotions that should be practiced, it is new thoughts and beliefs.
And even if the authors say that “Before you can behave assertively, you need to think assertively” (p. 68), they do so only after they have recommended the reader to practice assertive behavior: “. . . you will need to practise them [these assertiveness skills] a great deal” (p. 64; my square brackets).
Another shortcoming of that chapter is their focus on “decent” or “politcally correct” behavior. Thus they say things like “probably reaching some kind of compromise” (p. 63). But this is not what people with lots of self-esteem do. They would, in most situations, rather just say: “You can think what you like. And so can I” or “Let’s agree to disagree”, or something like that. Or just change the subject.
In Chapter 7 (“Act Your Way to Good Self-Esteem”) the authors claim that that self-esteem can be improved by pretending. This is, in my opinion, not a very good idea.
Personally, I feel that this is a no-go. Sure, one can, like an actor, rehearse a new behavior as if one were, say, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. And one may very well convince others that one’s self-esteem now is on the same level as Tom Cruise’s is. But is it, really?
So what I am saying is this. Rehearsing new behaviors may very well work to fool others that one, in particular situations, may have high self-esteem. But I am not at all convinced that such self-esteem would be “global” (i.e., for all situations that one encounters), nor that oneself would really experience a higher self-esteem and more self-love within.
In my view, the only “real” self-esteem modifications are those that one accomplishes by adjusting one’s thoughts and beliefs. And then everything else (emotions, behavior) just follows naturally.
I think this book can be useful, in varying degrees, for three types of audiences: the general public, students of psychology (and of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and students of the Law of Attraction.
For the general public I give it a total rating of 65%. I do this for a couple of reasons. As a general rule I am deducting 20% of its value because of its dubious “promise-to-delivery” value (as discussed in the Basic Content section above). In addition to that, I feel that Chapters 6 and 7 are not solid enough. So that’s another 15% off, making a total rating of 65%.
For psychology students, I give it a total rating of 75%. This is because such students presumably are a little less guided by the publisher’s description of its contents, and a little more guided by the prospect of getting a new interesting text to read. And they are hopefully also well aware that everything that is written isn’t always true. And what may work for one person may not work for another.
For students of Law of Attraction, I give it a total rating of 80%. But this is not because this book tells you all about how to make the Law of Attraction work for you; it doesn’t (it’s a psychology book). Rather, it is because such students have already gained perfect knowledge about confidence and self-esteem, and self-acceptance and self-love. So they can easily identify weak spots in this book, and are thus less vulnerable in that respect than the general public.
RATINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This is a good book for those who want some introductory methods to improve their self-esteem.
Rating for the general public: 65%
Rating for students of psychology: 75%
Rating for students of the law of attraction: 80%
Title: Boost Your Self-Esteem
Author: Christine Wilding and Stephen Palmer
Publisher: Hodder Education, 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH
Year (stated on copyright page): “2011”
ISBN-10 (a): 1 444-12895-7
ISBN-10 (b): 1444128957
ISBN-13 (a): 978-1-444-12895-6
ISBN-13 (b): 9781444128956
Links to This Edition