A self-help manual that puts the concepts of self-esteem and personal agency in a broader context.
“The dominant narrative of our time,” according to professor and social worker Ungar (Social Work/Dalhousie Univ.; The Social Worker, 2017, etc.), is one that appears in numerous movies—tales of “exceptional individuals achieving more than anyone expected them to achieve.” Throughout this book, the author repeatedly addresses this notion with a sober, skeptical tone: “For every Slumdog Millionaire, billions of others toil in abject poverty.” He counters it with a conception of personal fulfillment that finds opportunities for improving one’s well-being in schools and wider communities. Ungar sees humanity as divided into two groups: people who have advantages (“the fortunate” is the author’s term for them) and those who have “few opportunities” but still somehow manage to find ways to succeed. In 12 well-written and deeply researched chapters, Ungar expounds on his central conceit that self-realization is about networking, and he ultimately finds three aspects to “meaning in life”: “significance (‘My life is worth it’), coherence (‘My life makes sense’), and purpose (‘My life has a mission’).” But although Ungar states that self-help strategies have “shortcomings” and only offer “the seduction of hope,” his book also offers familiar pieces of self-image advice, including one that crops up in a depressingly large number of other books: “We all need to embrace our inner bastard,” Ungar writes. “It is to our advantage to shed our illusions of saintliness and accept that our survival sometimes depends on looking after ourselves.” That said, the author does cite a formidable amount of research to back up his points, and readers will likely benefit from these sources.
A densely written guide to self-reliance that concentrates on capitalizing on opportunities.