My first thought when I held the book in my hand was that someone has beaten me to my own game. I had always wanted to write a self-enrichment book, keeping in mind the Pakistani cultural context.
Dare To Be You has been billed as Pakistan’s first ever self-development book in English. It is written by Shahzad Malik, who was born in Toronto, Canada and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. This is his first book and it’s a 2020 publication.
I was surprised to have received a package at the door. (Yes, I don’t get many packages hence the surprise!) The package was a white box, with three colored circles merging into one another, creating a unique color in the middle.
Upon opening the box, there were several things- it felt like receiving a care package (thank you to the friend who sent this box to me!) Apart from the book, there were several other things: a scented candle (a warm, soothing scent perfect for my therapy room), a mirror (so you look at yourself with positivity), and a bookmark. In addition to this, there is a personalised note from the writer himself.
The book is 116 pages long and can be read within an hour. The book is broken down into eight chapters that includes Happiness, Passion and Purpose, Fear, Self Belief and among others.
Belief and Positivity
“This is the secret for success. The more positive you are, the more you will achieve, because your universe is being shaped by your throughs and energy that you emit. And the degree of positivity that you exhibit, that you feel, and internalise, is entirely up to you. Because you are in control.”
“We have no control over our past or our future, and allowing ourselves to be immersed in either will eventually lead us to drown in the merciless sea of what-ifs. What, then, do we have control over? Nothing more and nothing less than ourselves in the present. So we learn to let go. We lean to allow ourselves to be.”
“The only way to turn fear into excitement is to go out and do. Whether you succeed or you have to try again is immaterial. What matters is that you show up, and you give it a shot.”
There are several laws discussed here: Cause and Effect, Creation, Humility, Growth, Responsibility, Connection, Focus, Here and Now, Significance and Inspiration. These are basically seen as basic laws of life, and Malik shows us how we can incorporate these laws into our lives to bring out the best version of ourselves.
“Happiness is a mind-set. What’s the difference between mind-set and an emotion? You can control a mind-set. You can develop a mind-set. You cultivate it, and you can practice it. You can choose to be happy.”
Passion and Purpose
“Your purpose in life isn’t necessarily going to be something everyone considers glamorous, and your passion isn’t always going to be something that will make you rich overnight. You don’t follow through on your passion because it pays well and you don’t live out your purpose because it gets you the spotlight. You do it because it fulfils you.”
“The only shift we need is realising we must be the best version according to our own metric, and no one else’s. Allow yourself to go from being your greatest critic to being your greatest supporter.”
“Success is never instantaneous. Change is never immediate. You need to see the journey through to get to your destination. By that first step? That first step, you can take right now. And regardless of how ling it takes you to reach the destination, you can surely marvel at the beauty of the journey itself.”
I was very excited to get into this book. There was something thrilling about reading a self help book written by a Pakistani in English. This was something I had always felt was missing. Why must we rely on books written by Westerners?
As I finished this book, I felt a huge sense of deja vu. For someone like me who is in the field of mental health and therapy, a lot of what Malik writes in the book felt very familiar because I had read about these very concepts in other books. So the information for me was nothing new. Concepts like The Law of Attraction and the Power of No have been discussed umpteenth times earlier.
There were couple of moments where Malik brings in his own personal examples- the most extreme being the one where he struggles to endure his parents divorce. Other issues Malik struggled with centred around finding out his purpose and plan and combatting negative doubt. However, they are presented almost in a very simplistic manner- doesn’t really go deep.
Malik was privileged enough to have access to his professors at his university in the States and that has enabled him to make a huge progress in his life.
I didn’t really mind all that, but the one thing that disappointed me was the lack of the Pakistani cultural context. The Pakistani cultural set up is vastly different from the Western cultural context. Given that this book is billed as Pakistan’s first self development book, I was hoping to read more on how we can tackle life issues within our cultural context, especially with issues that are merely brushed under the carpet.
For example, when I talk to young lesbian woman from a middle class family, statements like “be you” and “be the best version of yourself” don’t necessarily work because the context is different for her. Or, when I talk to 21 year old boy being forced to marry under family pressure, affirmations like “discover your happiness” doesn’t work. Our cultural context plays a large part in how people self develop.
I just wished this book had taken the cultural constraints into consideration to help people from the Asian-Subcontinent region deal with their issues.
We have unique issues here, and it’s not always easy for an individual to truly pave their way to be the version of themselves. It’s easier in the West because of the concept that everyone is an independent individual, with their own individualistic thinking. Individualism is celebrated.
In Pakistan, although some of us are individualistic, people generally function in a collectivist setting- where individuals’ actions are influenced by the people surrounding them- everything from their education to their marriage.
Dare To Be You is a very general book, and is aimed for readers who want to get just the basic gist of how we can lead a more meaningful life. It doesn’t go very deep and stays on the surface. At times, the book did feel like a more of a passion project.
Has this book challenged me and dared me to be a better version of myself? Not really. But to be fair to the writer, I have read enough books to have worked my way to where I am today. To someone who is new to this idea, they may find this book helpful. It’s a short and easy read with basic ideas that can get on the road to self-discovery.
Having said that, I am still thrilled that this book exists. I cannot deny the fact that I am excited to have a book like this. I will give Malik full marks for writing this book. He has blazed the trail with this book. Hopefully, we will now see more such books- perhaps one from even me! We need more such books written by Pakistanis and hopefully start to address the issues that are rampant in our society.
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