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3 Life Lessons from “You Matter”: A review of Matthew Emerzian’s self-help book

Book cover of You Matter: Learning to Love Who You Really Are by Matthew Emerzian.

I have read a lot of self-help books this year. 2020 seems to be the year of reflecting on ourselves, our communities, and our world. In some ways, the books often say similar things and share similar talking points. The difference, for me then, is in the way these messages are delivered, and how well I can relate to the content. I liked the idea that Emerzian’s book also asked readers to reflect and write about their own experiences by providing readers with conversation points and journal reflection prompts.

I received a review copy of Matthew Emerzian’s book through Netgalley, and I was happy to read it and see what it was about. It has had some mixed reviews, with some people not even finishing the book to others loving it. So today, I want to talk to you about the good and the bad of You Matter – what I think was great, and what needs to be addressed more critically if Emerzian wants to write another self-help book.

So, here we go. The good:

Find Your Community

Emerzian asks readers to find their community. When he does this, I believe he is questioning the very staunch neoliberal ideals of the U.S. were hyperindivdualism rules above all else. He asks people to reach out, find and participate in their community – in new communities too. We are not all tiny islands floating in the ocean cut off from one another, yet we hardly know our neighbour’s names. Since COVID has hit, community has also taken on new forms and a lot of community is now expressed and celebrated online. No matter what the world is throwing at us, we need our community.

To Have a Friend, You Have to Be a Friend

Building new relationships is tough. Many self-help and self-improvement books talk about how difficult it is to make friends when you are an adult. We get so caught up in our small worlds and our worlds grow smaller and smaller. And suddenly, we can look around and realise we have very few friends. Big Friendship is a great book specifically targeted at friendships, which I really enjoyed (in case you want to explore this further). Emerzian talks about the importance of being a friend to have friends. We often want the friendships and relationships without the hard work, the vulnerability, and the showing up for crises. But if you want to have friends, you are going to have to put yourself out there, and be vulnerable.

Be Generous When You Can

Be generous, when you can. Volunteer, show love, give support, time, and likes. There are so many ways you can be generous. Generosity also means not expecting anything back in return. Emerzian talks about his routine of picking up rubbish in his neighbourhood and his non-for-profit organisation as ways that he tries to be generous.

Okay. Now that we have had the good, I also wanted to touch on some of the bad. Emerzian wrote You Matter, I believe, from a place of good intentions. However he gets a lot wrong. Firstly, his discussions on suicide are very clumsy and insensitive. He talks about it being ‘committed’ which is out-dated as it refers to the act as a crime. That kind of language blames the sufferer. Secondly, Emerzian uses a lot of examples of disabled and neuro-diverse people as a kind of ‘disability porn’. Like look, I made friends with an autistic person and they helped me realise how lucky I am… Do I think that was his actual intention? (Gosh, I hope not) But it is definitely how it comes across in his writing. And lastly, Emerzian makes a rather quick remark about how women love to go to the bathroom together because they just love to socialise, and men don’t do that because they don’t see bathroom time as social time. And I just had to wonder if Emerzian had ever had an honest conversation with a woman, ever? I like, pretty much every woman I know goes to a bathroom in a group, or at least in twos, because of safety. Especially if this is at a bar or club. Sure we might talk and share while we are in there, but I don’t think it is about sharing lipstick and gossip.

I love a good self-help book. What books have you read that have helped you see things differently about yourself or the world around? As always, share the reading love.

Note: this book was accessed through Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are my own.