Self-Help Book Review: Belong

September 15, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★

Self-Help Book Review: BelongTitle: Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life
Author: Radha Agrawal
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: There were a few bits of extremely helpful, practical advice here, but most of the book was a poor fit for my goals and values.

This book included a few really helpful pieces of advice, but overall, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I thought maybe that was my own fault for not reading the cover blurb carefully enough. However, the cover blurb does actually promise a first section on figuring out what you want (which it delivered!) and a second section on finding friends and community (not so much!).

The first section did a great job of suggesting specific exercises. There were ideas for figuring out what interests or values you might share; what you might want in a friend; and what you could do to be a better friend. Even in this section, though, there were some bits that rubbed me the wrong way. The author seems way into manifesting what you want by putting it out into the world. I think that idea is largely BS. She also acts like just being positive will get you friends. This particularly bothered me as some of my best relationships are with people dealing with depression. They’re not always all sunshine, but they still share my interests and values and I’m glad I have them in my life. She vaguely gestures at institutional decline, but mostly puts the onus the individual to do something about it. Still, the exercises in this section were helpful. Personally, I do think there are things I could do to be a better friend. I appreciated prompts that made me think of specific ways to do that.

The second section spent one short chapter on finding friends. The first idea in this section was basically to use meet-up groups. I found that disappointing, because that’s advice I can get very easily from the internet. Her second suggestion was more useful to me. That was that after finding a group, you should get involved in making that group better somehow. I am just realizing that getting more actively involved in my volunteer group is deepening my connection to that group and the people in it. I think this is great advice. I’ll be doing my best to implement that in my own life. I wish the author had continued to give more suggestions for finding existing friends and social groups. Or even advice for building new, small social groups. Instead, the remaining 3/8 of the book focused on building large social movements, like the ones the author has created. That’s way beyond where I’m at or where I even want to be.

The second section also included some woo-woo, law-of-attraction-type nonsense. It focused a lot on connecting to people based on shared “energy”, which I thought was extremely silly. There were a lot of shallow points made about our changing society, the impact of technology on our social lives, and how friendships worked. They didn’t add anything to book for me. I also disliked her negative view of technology. Some of my best relationships were made and maintained online! Online interactions don’t and shouldn’t replace meeting people in person, but I think the one leads to the other more often than the author realizes.

There were a few true gems in this book that I think will actually change my behavior. That’s not always true of self-help books! On the other hand, it included a lot of info that wasn’t a great fit for me. I think if you’re looking to grow your social circle, this is a book worth checking out. Just be ready to keep the parts that work for you and discard those that don’t.

6 Responses to “Self-Help Book Review: Belong”

  1. Bookertalk

    As you say some of this advice simply repeats what is already easily available and doesn’t actually take yiu very far. Simply joining a group doesn’t mean you’ll make friends – some groups can be very unwelcoming to newcomers. If you offer to help and push too much fir change that can rebound too. Presumably she doesn’t deal with those issues.

    • DoingDewey

      Not really, no! She did also suggest volunteering time to on-going group activities as a way to make it better, so she wasn’t necessarily pushing people to try to make big changes. She didn’t address the possibility that help might not be well received or that a group might not be welcoming though. I suspect her advice would be to move along and try new groups, since she suggests sampling many before getting involved.

  2. Helen Murdoch

    Too bad this book didn’t go beyond the woo-woo-la-la stuff and wasn’t super helpful. I think finding friends/group is difficult as an adult, especially if you work remotely. Volunteering seems to be a great way to meet like-minded people.

    I think you were the one who recommended SideCountry to me and I really enjoyed it, so thank you!

    • DoingDewey

      Yeah, I’ve switched to remote work permanently and that has pushed me to be more proactive about meeting people! Maybe looking for a few more volunteer opportunities would be a good next step.

      I did really love SideCountry and I’m glad you did too 🙂

  3. Liz Dexter

    Oh dear, not the best, really. I find volunteering a good way to make friends, although I tend to get sucked onto committees and end up over-committing, so now I try actively to be a foot soldier not a general!

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, I do think that could be a tough balance! I’m still at a point where I’d like to get more involved, but I’ve not done much political organizing of the kind my current volunteer group is doing, so I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew either 🙂

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