If you smile at life she will smile at you, if you frown at her, she will frown at you.
Typical expressions of self-help literature. Be kind to your neighbour and he will be kind to you. If you look to him kindly he will do it too. If you want him to like you, like him first.
It is not that they tell lies, not at all. But nor do they tell truths. These are pragmatic statements; as good as their consequences are.
Many people have benefited from self-help literature, but many more have despaired at not being able to keep up with it and receive as a kind of consolation that they had not tried hard enough.
The literature on self-help is very useful to those who do not need it and becomes instead a terrible scourge for those who fail to carry out its instructions and then discover with horror that despite many efforts they keep on feeling defective and inadequate.
On the other hand, those who feel pretty good about themselves will find in self-help books many inspiring words on several ways to achieve encouragement, to get soothed or cope with the woes of life.
The open secret of self-help literature lies in the supposition that everybody can choose whether to smile or not, but a person who has this choice doesn’t need to be told he has it, while for one who does not it is a torture to find every day there is no way he can like what he sees when he looks in the mirror.