By the autumn of 1999, my life was soul-sucking misery.
After moving to Vienna for University, my anxiety went berserk. I had suffered from social anxiety, low confidence and toilet anxiety for many years. But I coped. Life wasn’t a blast, but I was ok.
But now I was forced to depend on myself for the first time. And even little things, such as popping over to the shop across the road, became unsurmountable challenges and triggered frequent panic attacks.
I was trapped in a vicious cycle of fear.
The sickness in my stomach accompanied me from dawn 'til dusk and then turned into full-blown terror at night. Every unfamiliar sound sent sharp shocks through my chest. My heart was racing all night and I laboured hard to force air into my lungs.
Between lectures, I sat alone while others had already formed friendships. I watched them chatting and laughing. But I couldn’t get myself to start a conversation, to just say hello and see what happened.
While I held a driving license, the thought of driving a car made me physically sick. So, I took the train home every other weekend. The 3-hour journey filled me with horror. I was dreading it for days in advance, overthinking everything that could go wrong.
By Christmas, I was a wreck.
Sleep-deprived, broken, self-doubting. I felt so disappointed with myself, so ashamed for my weakness and inability to cope with life. Everybody else was fine!
Why did I struggle with anxiety? What was wrong with me?
I went home for the holidays, beaten, broken and embarrassed. I didn’t know what to do next, how to move forward. I felt like a mere shadow of myself and living a “normal” life was a distant, unrealistic dream.
But then I received the Christmas present that changed everything.
The Christmas gift that saved my life
“I think you need this,” my Mum said when she handed me the small package.
It was a book.
“You can heal your life” by Louise Hay. I was sceptical at first. Universal healing energies and the power of affirmation, positive thinking and visualisation were far removed from my scientifically trained view of the world.
I only believed what was experimentally proven.
But at that point, I was desperate enough to try anything. And I am thrilled I did, because it transformed my life forever.
Over the years, I read hundreds of self-help books. But my most staggering successes in reclaiming my life from low self-worth and fear were kickstarted by a special few.
Today I want to share with you my top 10 books about anxiety, low self-esteem and how to overcome them.
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My top 10 books for healing low self-worth and anxiety
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1. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
I blamed all my suffering on my nervous disposition, my inferior being, past trauma, my parents’ divorce and a sadistic teacher.
What this book taught me was that I was giving away the power over my own life. We are powerful creators of our experiences. The Universe loves us and provides what we ask for.
Negative self-talk, self-hatred, resentment, and feelings of unworthiness create experiences of fear, lack, ill health and misery. This book helped me transform my toxic attitude towards myself and life.
If you are just starting out on your journey back to life, this is the one I recommend. It's the best book about self-love I have read.
2. The Power Is Within You by Louise Hay
If you liked “You can heal your life”, you will love this one!
At the beginning of my healing journey, I re-read this book every time I felt unbalanced or when the negativity crept up on me.
The book explains further how you can learn to love and accept yourself. It helped me overcome emotional barriers that were holding me back and break through vicious cycles of fear, guilt and shame that overshadowed my happiness.
If you want to reclaim power over your life, this is well worth a read (or twelve).
3. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by HH the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
In his interview with psychiatrist Howard Cutler, the Dalai Lama reveals how to cultivate happiness from within by feeling gratitude and compassion towards others and yourself.
I am a big fan of the Dalai Lama and his teachings. I read this book when I was bullied by narcissists who considered me their enemy (I had never been anybody’s enemy before!) and spread horrible lies about my family.
I was angry and wanted justice. And I was terrified.
This book taught me how to overcome the anger, resentment and fear and focus on love, sympathy and growth instead.
If other people’s behaviour towards you causes your anxiety and unhappiness, this is the book I recommend.
4. Matrix Energetics: The Science and Art of Transformation by Richard Bartlett
This book introduced me to quantum healing, a technique to dissolve negative emotions such as fear, anger or resentment. I have used methods adapted from this book for many years as part of my daily emotional hygiene to clear energy blocks, emotional pain and limiting beliefs (and stubborn back ache for that matter).
This funny and engaging book had a profound impact on how I am now dealing with toxic emotions, such as anxiety and the feeling of worthlessness. Granted, the connection to quantum physics sometimes is a bit of a stretch.
But if you enjoy a more scientific approach to self-healing, give this a try!
5. Awareness by Anthony De Mello
Anthony de Mello believed that our attachments, conditioning and unawareness keep us anxiety-ridden. Our mind is stuck in an anxiety and worthlessness habit, if you so want.
He offers unconventional ways to deal with fear of change, suffering and unhappiness.
And he does it with brutal honesty!
This book is as blunt as they come! And it was a wake-up punch right between the eyes for me. His direct message is sometimes hard to swallow and won't appeal to everybody.
But, of all the books I've read, this one was the biggest eye-opener.
6. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer
I love this book! It turned my world upside down.
Michael Singer teaches that our unhappiness is caused by us and thus we can change it. Our mind has expectations of how our life and the outside world should be. These likes, dislikes and preferences are created by our past experiences.
If those arbitrary expectations aren’t met, we are unhappy. I learned from this book how to detach from the mind's obsessive worries, its chatter and judgements. It helped me to de-stress, feel calmer and exit the emotional roller-coaster.
If you want to feel happier and free, this is the book for you.
And if you liked “The Untethered Soul”, you might enjoy "The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life's Perfection" by Michael Singer.
I do not usually read autobiographies. But this is an entertaining account of the miracles that happen when you surrender yourself to the Universe and follow the path it lays out in front of you without (too much) resistance.
Both Michael Singer books are well worth a read.
7. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle teaches that the now, this present moment, is all we ever have. We cannot change our life in the past or the future.
We can only change it now.
From this book I learned to focus on the present moment, let go of the past and worry less about the future. It also showed me how to stop identifying with my ego and its habitual behaviour.
I always had assumed that I was my thoughts. I think, therefore I am, right?
But this book revealed that my mind was an essential tool, never meant to be the master. Putting it in charge was the cause of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
After reading it, I stopped my obsessive overthinking and coped much better with my worries, frustrations and flaws. Because I knew that they weren’t me.
So, if you are a worrier, overthinker and control freak, I highly recommend this book!
One warning though: if you are new to the whole concept of the mind as a tool and living in the present moment, read "The Untethered Soul" (see above) first to ease you into the topic.
8. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
This is the follow-up to “The Power of Now” and I enjoyed it even more!
It expands on the problem of identification with the ego as the root of our suffering. It focuses on how we can disengage from the ego’s need for drama, approval and praise and live a balanced, happy life.
I recommend reading “The Power of Now” first. But if you liked that, you will love “A New Earth”.
9. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is aimed at the aspiring writer or artist. But it contains enlightening insights about dealing with rejection, failure and fear of judgement.
We often give up on our dreams because we think we aren’t good enough. Because others disapprove or don’t acknowledge our efforts.
We perceive ourselves as failures if others criticise us. This book taught me how to follow my passion just because it amplifies my life, without anticipating it to produce any success, praise or personal gain.
We are all here on this Earth to be as happy as we can be.
And this book is a beautiful guide on how to find happiness through your passion without expecting anything more from it.
If you want to follow your dreams and aspirations but are terrified of failure and rejection, this is the book I recommend!
10. The Holographic Universe: The Revolutionary Theory of Reality by Michael Talbot
OK, I'll admit, this is not an easy read.
Michael Talbot discusses the theories of physicists such as David Bohm, who postulated that the Universe is a giant hologram, where every tiniest part contains, and is connected to, the whole of creation.
It's so easy to feel small and irrelevant in such an enormous world. And anxiety, a sense of worthlessness and depression arise from our perceived insignificance. But this book helped me to grasp my own infinite nature.
We are all infinite worth.
This book also helped me to shed my fear of death. Because, according to the hologram theory, we are all like broadcasts. We can be seen by others because we have a body (our TV, if you so want). The body may die, but the broadcast continues.
So, we don't die. We merely level up in life. Which sounds so much better!
I cannot remember how often I said "Wow!" while reading this book. The insights are mind-blowing. I highly recommend this book if you want to get your teeth into something challenging.
Alright, but where are the anxiety and self-worth books?
So, here we go!
My top 10 books for healing low self-worth and anxiety. At this point you might wonder why my list doesn’t contain any books specific to anxiety or self-worth.
Well, the thing is, I never read any. There aren't many out there for self-worth. And, for anxiety, it is most important to eliminate the root cause of the fear, rather than doctor the symptoms.
And that's what these books helped me to achieve.
When choosing books, I tend to follow my intuition. Sometimes I like the cover picture. Sometimes 3 friends mention the same book within a week. And sometimes books pop up in my Amazon recommendations and I immediately know I need them.
But mostly I trust that the right books, the right teachers, will appear when the pupil is ready.
These 10 powerful books helped me on my journey from an insecure, doubting and fearful existence to a content, confident and meaningful life.
So, why not give some of them a try? The worst that can happen is that you lose the $10 you spent on a book you don’t like.
And remember, when choosing your next books, listen to your intuition. It is usually right!
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Your journey is so very inspiring Berni! It gives me so much hope and encouragement to overcome these same fears!
Thank you so, so much, Lori! It means a lot to me! I know you will succeed. Just be patient with yourself. You know where I am if you need help!
Thank you. So relate to your past. Shall keep this list handy. Much appreciated. Love your work. 🙂
Thank you so much, Laura! It really means a lot to me!
Thank you Dr. Berni.
You are most welcome, Mohammad! I hope you are doing well!
Thank you! Just picked up the first book on your list!
Again, it is my fortune to have had Providence bring you into my life. Also, like you, I choose books (or they choose me!) by intuition and knowing. To have you take your time and use your energies to share your top ten, speaks of your altruistic nature–helping others to help themselves!
I love what you do and how you do it–with style and class. It occurred to me, I have books which changed the course and direction of my life’s journey. I will give them thought and share mine with you. I love when like minded people come together. Others may have experienced this gathering of like minds themselves–I call it Kindred Spirits.
Thank you so much, Mo for the lovely words! I would love to see your top 10 books. I am always keen to find new insights and inspiration!
Thank you for this list! I’m saving it. I loved “The Power of Now”, I wanted to reread it, but for some reason it didn’t even occur to me to look up more books by Eckhart Tolle. I did not read Louse Hay, but I have her book “Heart Thoughts”, it’s just affirmations and it’s beautiful. Love everything by Elizabeth Gilbert. Thank you for reminding me to read the book by Dalai Lama, I wanted, but forgot. “Running scared” is on my list too, I heard it’s good.
I smiled when I read your comment to “Three in a bed”. I did the same, but since I had a few friends who were very much into attachment parenting, I felt it’s ok and didn’t sweat much about the rules. Each time I hear that a baby should sleep alone in her crib and on her back.. I don’t know.. How?? So glad there are books like that, closer to life.
Thanks so much, Maria! I am glad you found some inspiration! I will check out “Running scared”. Couldn’t agree more about the baby sleep. We bought a crib when I was pregnant. She never spent a minute in it. It was a lovely 2 years having her in our bed. And then she decided it was time for her to have her own big bed. We tend to get so stressed out about “training” our babies to eat, sleep, potty…but I found when you just leave them to it, they learn it all on their own in good time, without the stress. 🙂
Please share the books.
Hello Wendy, the book Maria and I were talking about is called “Three in a bed” by Deborah Jackson. It’s the best book I read on how to follow your Mummy instincts when everybody else says you shouldn’t without the guilt.
Thank you for this list. Can’t wait. I had bought the Louise Hay book and never read it. I’ll start with that one.
You are most welcome, Renee! And “You can heal your life” is the best book to start with in my opinion. All the best, Berni
Thank you for this list. I’ve read all the anxiety books and like you said, I am looking for books that will get to the root. This list is exactly what I was looking for!
I am so glad that you found this list helpful!
Thank you for this ma’am! Sadly, i can’t affored to buy these books but based on your experience and reviews. It already helped me a lot.
P.s: excuse on my bad grammar i’m still practicing on my english skills lol
Thank you so much for your comment! I am sorry that you cannot afford the books but I have worked a lot of what I learned in the past into my blog post which are all available for free. So, I hope you can have a look around and find things to help you. All the best, Berni