Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help

Young students choosing a book from the library
Photo: © Wavebreak Media Ltd / 123RF Stock Photo

The Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help Book Program brings heavy, difficult-to-understand concepts from self-help books to teenagers in an interactive session consisting of role-plays, live demonstrations, group discussions and hilarious analogies. The idea is to learn to apply concepts of a self-help book without reading it.

Teenage is a time of ups and downs, and with no manual to guide us we are (almost) left to our own devices. It is like we are in the driver’s seat of our car, all of a sudden, long before we have learnt to drive. In a roller-coaster without a seatbelt and a dense tropical forest without a map. That is where self-help books step in which act as the manual, the map and the driving lesson. A large number of books covering a large number of areas make self-help books, usually, pretty helpful.

The first time I read a self-help book, it did not help me one bit! I was 14, and the book was When I Say NO, I Feel Guilty. The reason it was of not much help was pretty obvious: I did not complete it. It was boring and soon forgotten, becoming what I now jokingly call a shelf-help book lying on my shelf.

A year later when I entered college, I briefly appeared on a television show. I felt very proud, and my classmates were heaping praise and awe on me in the college hallway. Suddenly, a friend from another class came up to me and gave me some (unsolicited) criticism which evidently was more of a put-down: “You were not confident on TV!” It stung. I wanted to say something but did not know what to. I felt tongue-tied, with no real reply. Six months later, the book I just mentioned came up before me again. This time I was patient, and reached a section I had read before. Guess what? I read and re-read “A Technique to Handle Putdowns!” (and an effective one, too), and as this incident came to my mind immediately dozens of responses flooded my mind. I could spontaneously think of so many responses I could have given, had I remembered what I read. (But with humans having an average approximate 10% retention rate after a single read of any material). During the next one year, I read nearly two dozen such books on multiple topics, each book radically changing the way I looked at the world. At the same time, through several informal interviews, I realized how difficult (and boring) it was for so many teens to find and read these goldmines!

This was the personal reason that led me to the Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help Book Program. You will agree with me when I tell you that you find most “self-help” books boring, preachy and a little difficult to understand and apply. Don’t the philosophy and words sometimes seem too much to digest? Isn’t it too difficult to remember everything you read, and then also apply it? The answers to those questions, when I asked myself, were yes, yes, yes!

The Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help Book Program brings these heavy, difficult-to-understand concepts to teenagers in an exciting, interactive, participative session consisting of relatable examples, role-plays, live demonstrations, exercises, group discussions, and hilarious analogies. The idea is to learn to apply concepts of the book without reading it. And the journey began!

Shahen conducting a Shelf-Help to Self-Help session at a school

The first session was conducted with a group of 20 teens, 13-15-year-olds, on “Active Listening” (the book — Parent Effectiveness Training). It consisted of students learning to actively listen to parents and improve relationships with parents, friends, teachers and almost anyone. They understood the concept and the difference between what one says and what one means, in a not-so-usual manner.

The second session was an upgrade; 150 Std IX students of Rustomjee Cambridge International School, on How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything (Yes Anything!), by the author/psychologist Albert Ellis. This session saw students warm up to the idea of an active, participative workshop, unlike usual lectures where they are passive recipients. By the end, students were fighting for a chance to participate, throwing their arms up to volunteer for the live role-plays. The essence of this session was learning how ‘wanting’ something makes you feel good, but ‘demanding’ it leads you to misery. What you say in your mind, to yourself, your self-talk, your mental radio, is what decides how you feel, not the circumstances around you.

Here is what one of the students from RCIS, who attended the Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help sessions, had to say about it: “I kind of expected some old guy coming and giving a boring motivational speech, I didn’t expect the talk to be so interesting! I sincerely enjoyed it so much and I got to learn a lot, as well. Thank you so much!”

So you do not need to read a book to apply the concepts it presents. Teenage is a period of stress and strain, but every teenager can do something in his or her capacity to change that. The Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help Program can help you.

Shahen Pardiwala
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Shahen Pardiwala

Shahen Pardiwala, a positive psychology practitioner, can speak about nearly two dozen books across topics. You can get in touch with him at or 7506263106/9322514993 to learn about the Shelf-Help 2 Self-Help Book Program.