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Best Books Blog

My favorite self help books

Educated, by Tara Westover

February 11, 2019

Educated is not a self help book. Nevertheless, I recommend it on my Best Books Blog (my favorite self help books) because it is such a powerful psychological odyssey and quest for truth. In her memoir, Tara Westover struggles to find her identity, make peace with her roots and understand how familial abuse and invalidation colored her memories and self image. Not permitted to attend school, Westover resigns herself to a life in rural Idaho where she will continue to live a simple, often dangerous existence on the family mountain. Her survivalist father demands unquestioning submission from his family as he enlists them in bizarre and often life threatening endeavors. (It is not until a college psychology class that Westover realizes that her father’s fanaticism was largely a result of his undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder.) When an older brother plants the seed of pursuing a college education, Westover’s persistence and success surprises no one more than herself.

Westover’s memoir illustrates how abuse at the hands of a loved one can destroy self esteem and cause even a highly intelligent woman to doubt her memories of trauma and to make excuses for her abuser. Despite her educational achievements, the author can’t shake her sense of inferiority and belief that she doesn’t really belong in the revered institutions of higher learning.

A predominant theme throughout her memoir is the author’s struggle to reconcile her love for her family with her love for the new life she is creating through education. Her struggle reminds me of the concept of polarities in DBT that states that two opposites can both be true. Westover eventually learns that she can love her family and separate herself from it. She can cherish the happy memories and embrace independence and knowledge.

I was emotionally moved as I read Educated. I rooted for Westover during the times she nearly gave up and rejoiced in her triumphs. I didn’t want this book to end. I believe that Educated will inspire everyone, especially those who have struggled to heal and flourish in the aftermath of a traumatic upbringing.  

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