I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and as much as I’m usually happy with the books I request on NetGalley, this one was a miss for me.
I read a lot of nonfiction, especially personal development books, which I greatly enjoy reading. My ratings usually follow the Goodreads scale, with 1 = did not like it, 2 = it was okay, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it and 5 = amazing. Sadly, Empower Yourself by Xenia Tchoumi didn’t live up to its hype, as I rated it a 2/5.
So, why such a low rating?
Xenia takes readers on a practical, no-nonsense journey to self-empowerment, covering topics such as taking responsibility, using your pain and your failures to push yourself further, and learning digital dominance instead of letting yourself be digitally dependent. She offers a wealth of tips for creating productive habits, setting goals, protecting your mental health and resisting society’s pressures to confirm.
She shares her stories of struggling against prejudice as the child of recent immigrants, battling the restrictive structures of the fashion industry, making her mark in the digital space and ultimately making herself into an ultra-successful brand. Questioning exactly what empowerment looks like today, she also offers the inspiring stories of empowered people she has met all over the world and shows that, while empowerment can seem very different in different cultures, there are certain key traits that empowered people share – habits that anyone can learn and use to become a success in life.
What I liked
The book was well organized, with a page of important things to take away from the chapter at the end of each and every one of them. The #Powertrick inserts in the middle of the chapters, with practical tips on how to put in action the advice given in this part of the book, were interesting and well thought out.
On the content itself, most of it was very sound advice, like using daily journaling as a way to know yourself better and figure out your goals and ambitions, or making sure you don’t skip your self-care in favor of your work because that’s never going to end well… nothing revolutionary, but nothing inherently bad either.
The use of scientific evidence to support these tips was an excellent addition, at it served a lot to support the author’s claims that something would be beneficial for you – that’s something I’d like to see more in self-help and personal development books, as lately it seems to me that very few of them bother sourcing their advice or supporting their theories with psychological studies or sound research, even when including those references might help convince more strongly their readers of the legitimacy of their opinions.
What I didn’t like
I didn’t know anything about the author when I picked up this book, and from the very first chapters, this seemed to come from an extremely privileged place – completely detached from my reality and difficult to reconcile with my personal experiences.
I had a hard time finding any flaws to her behavior and character – it seemed, from her descriptions, that she did everything almost perfectly, from eating good food cooked at home to doing physical activity every day, journaling, communicating with loved ones, to being productive while still having time for her personal life… The problem with perfection, however, is that it puts distance between you and your readers, who see your behavior as an unattainable goal – if the people who do it are this immaculate, and I’m not, how and I ever going to succeed ?
Likewise, when I’m reminded more than once that the author “turned down an offer to work full time at a leading investment bank”, and that when she was looking for an internship, she was so sure she’d get into a top company that she felt offended and outraged when her therapist told her there was a lot of competition and it wasn’t a done deal… I’m having a hard time relating to these experiences.
This specific situation, with the therapist trying to make sure she wasn’t setting herself up for a terrible disappointment, served as a way to advance the idea that confidence is the only thing that makes the difference between you and other people – no mater your and their diplomas, experience, skills… of you have the confidence, you’ll get that job/internship/work offer! Except… for most of us, that’s not how life works. And treating the therapist as if she was actively trying to undermine her self-belief instead of trying to help her and make sure no matter what happened, she’d be okay… isn’t a good look at all. (Neither is qualifying people who weren’t productive during a worldwide pandemic as “sad and lazy“.)
On the positive/negative balance, the scale tips a bit too strongly on the negative side for me. This is not to say that this is a terrible book – to reuse the Goodreads scale qualification, it was okay. Sadly, with the amount of self-help and personal improvement books published every year, just okay isn’t good enough for me anymore.