Spoiler Alert: This post shares the books about finding yourself that I have found most valuable personally as a woman in my 40’s (ok, so I’m fifty – I’m just been saying I’m in my forties for so long…). Each book is filled with words of encouragement for women inspiring you to be the best you can be. Some take a tough love approach, some women open their hearts and souls in their writings, and others have shared with humor. What these books don’t do is tell you what your best looks like for you. Some of you may want a Manhattan penthouse and some may want to be goat farmers. No judgements from either way. I am about helping you dig inside to discover what your very best version of yourself wants and then to learn how to get it.
As women over 40, we start to realize that we have everything that “they” say will make us happy. And yet, something seems off. Something seems as if it doesn’t quite fit.
Everyone around us has settled nicely. Our spouses have made their way professionally and have settled in to the comfort that we so often provide in our homes. They have no idea that extended and solitary poop breaks are a luxury not afforded to all.
Our children are doing all of the boundry testing that they are evolutionarily programmed to do. Which, on any given day, can suck the very marrow from our maternal bones. They have friends, passions, and an entire life ahead of them.
But what does everyone else’s comfort leave us with? Sometimes, as women, this leaves us wondering why we feel so off balance and how to feel more balanced. Less pulled at and drained. Less exhausted and more like ourselves. If we could remember who that is… And realize that she’s likely morphed into somebody we need to be reintroduced to.
I wanted to share this list of books about finding yourself to help us reflect inwardly on our own unique light that we have to share with the world, and hearing the stories of those who have gone before us can help us decide our personal path. Being our best selves means that we aren’t comparing ourselves with others, but “competing” only with ourselves to be the best that you can be.
Words of Encouragement For Women From Women Who Think Deeply & Share From Their Hearts
How could I not include the amazing Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia? In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
I love Brene Brown, like serious fangirling here. She is funny, irreverent at times, but always so wise and she never misses the mark.
In her most recent life changing gift to the world, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.”
Confession: I’m not actually “reading” Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love. I’m listening to my copy on Audible. When I started listening, I was so disappointed that Rachel Macy Stafford wasn’t narrating it herself. But as I listened, I realized that the narrator was perfect. Her voice gives warmth and life to the palpable love in Rachel’s words.
I often feel that love is a super-rich dessert of which I’m not worthy. And Rachel instinctively knows that so many of us who need her words aren’t used to taking in so much love. She doles her love lessons out in small, bite-sized bits that are easily consumed even by those of us who must still remind ourselves daily that we are worthy.
I do have a hard copy as well – which I plan to read next. And highlight. And dog ear the pages. And maybe sleep with it under my pillow in the hopes that the love found there will fill me with enough love for the next day.
Amazon says that Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Loveis perfect to pick up at any time of the year and find hope and encouragement to address your current challenge or need – family, parenting, relationships, finding peace in a stressed out world. Rachel Macy Stafford offers strength and vision for a new and more connected way to live. This is a timeless book of inspiration to remember and live for what really matters.
I whole-heartedly agree.
The Take No Prisoners Books About Finding Yourself
In this refreshingly blunt how-to guide, Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, life-changing insights, easy exercises and the occasional swear word. If colorful language is your friend, you will find yourself laughing, learning, and wishing Jen was you bestie next door.
By the end of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, you will understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to start living the kind of life you used to be jealous of.
Given the title of the book, Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do (A No F*cks Given Guide), you know exactly what you’re getting – a complete guide to getting your shit together that contains the frequent use of language. Frequent. But, girlfriend is telling it like it is. This book is like going to happy hour with that friend who tells you the cold, hard truth, has another cocktail and tells you some more. And she isn’t whispering.
While this isn’t a “per se” book about finding yourself, it is a riotous take on the current tsunami of cultural bad behavior. And while I agree that we definitely don’t need any more judgy people in the world – some things just must be judged. Luvvie Ajayi is a go-to source for smart takes on pop culture. I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual is her debut book of humorous essays that dissects our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behavior in our increasingly digital, connected lives. It passes on lessons and side-eyes on life, social media, culture, and fame, from addressing those terrible friends we all have to serious discussions of race and media representation to what to do about your fool cousin sharing casket pictures from Grandma’s wake on Facebook.
With a lighthearted, razor sharp wit and a unique perspective, I’m Judging You is the handbook the world needs, doling out the hard truths and a road map for bringing some “act right” into our lives, social media, and popular culture. It is the Do-Better Manual.
I confess – I’ve only just started this book. But, so far, it is the perfect blend of hillariously wise insight, humor, and memoir.
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.
With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Shrill boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.
Books By Women Who Have Been Transformed
We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True, is a moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with Gabrielle Union’s unique wisdom and deep humor. She uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska, coping with crushes, puberty, and the divorce of her parents. Genuine and perceptive, Union bravely lays herself bare, uncovering a complex and courageous life of self-doubt and self-discovery with incredible poise and brutal honesty. Throughout, she compels us to be ethical and empathetic, and reminds us of the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and the power of sharing truth, laughter, and support.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.
And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.
Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.
You might also want to check out another list of books that can really inspire you to boldly live out loud and share who you are with the world!
I mentioned that I’m actually listening to the audio version of several of these books – I just love audio books! They fill my pockets of time in a way that’s helping me reach my potential. Oh, and my kids LOVE them too! It’s all we ever do in the car anymore!