wholehearted living

8 Books to Inspire a Kinder Inner Voice

I don’t know whether it was a dad or an uncle or a family friend who started it, but the exchange I heard while standing next to my son in a rock-climbing line has rung through my head ever since.

“Why didn’t you make it to the top?” the mid-thirties man asked, looking down at the boy.

“My hands got sweaty,” the boy answered.

“Well, you can’t let Milo show you up,” the man said, gesturing to the boy scaling the rock wall at the moment. “He’s four years younger than you. This time you NEED to get to the top.”

The boy looked at the towering rock wall and rubbed his hands together, nodding in nervous agreement.

Unfortunately, exchanges like this one find us all. The messages we internalize chip away at our self-worth, and over time they erode what could have become one of the most powerful forces any of us can have: a reservoir of self-love.

I’m passionate about learning to treat myself with kindness and compassion, first because I feel so much better when I do, and second, because I want my children to do the same.

I want my children to stand in front of a rock wall knowing that a high five is waiting, whether they conquer the wall or step away before even reaching for that first handhold. {42 Ways to Make Your Kids Feel Absolutely Loved}

But more importantly, I want them to be sure enough in themselves that they don’t hang their worth on anything, especially not something as inconsequential as an artificial rock wall on wheels. 😉

So it’s for both myself and for my kids that I’m forever trying to reinforce my kinder inner voice and shore up my reservoir of self-love. 

If you’re right there with me, then I hope you enjoy this self-love reading list—a collection of books that dip into authenticity, vulnerability, courage, and of course, self-love. Happy reading!

8 Books to Inspire a Kinder Inner Voice: A Self-Love Reading List

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It – by Kamal Ravikant

When Kamal Ravikant found himself at rock bottom, he decided to start practicing some life-changing self-love and to never look back.

I especially love the audio version, because at only 56 minutes long and with the personal touch of his voice as the narrator, it feels like a friend laying himself open, sharing what he did to turn his life upside down.

“Love yourself with the same intensity you would use to pull yourself up if you were hanging from a cliff with your fingers. As if your life depended on it. Once you get going, it’s not hard to do. It just takes commitment.”

The Power of Vulnerability – by Brené Brown

No one I know of writes better about loving yourself than Brené Brown. She writes about wholehearted people—people who never put their worth on the table, no matter how many times they fall. She writes about living inside our own stories instead of hustling for our worthiness. She writes about vulnerability and courage—and how much those two concepts interplay.

My absolute favorite work of Brené’s is The Power of Vulnerability, which is a recording of her speaking. You get a sense for who she really is by listening to her voice and her jokes and by hearing her interact with her audience. (FYI, there is a lot of overlap between The Power of Vulnerability and The Gifts of Imperfection, so if you’d rather read than listen, go for that one.)

Love Does – by Bob Goff

I swear someday the stars are going to align and Bob Goff and I are going to become the best of friends. He sees the world and faith and love just the way I want to see the world and faith and love.

The book is a collection of engaging stories (like the time he got rejected by his first love or the time he accidentally became an ambassador) that perfectly illustrate each lesson he took away.

I think everyone takes something different away from a book, but more than a year later, what *I* remember taking away is that living with your eyes open to wonder is the happiest way to live.

Carry On, Warrior – by Glennon Doyle

I enjoyed this book so much that I immediately gave a copy to my sister. It’s essential reading for any of us who are tangled up in the roles of mother, wife, sister, friend but still want to remember that under it all, we are just ourselves.

I couldn’t have said it better than the Amazon intro: “Glennon’s writing invites us to believe in ourselves, to be brave and kind, to let go of the idea of perfection, and to stop making motherhood, marriage, and friendship harder by pretending they’re not hard.”

Scary Close – by Donald Miller

Although to my memory Donald doesn’t talk directly about self-love in this book, it is filled with stories about knowing yourself, living authentically, and the risk of being known. (So basically, all of my favorite subjects.)

One story in particular has stuck with me from this book: Donald tells of his friend who had a traumatic brain injury and forever afterward said whatever he thought, without any filters. (Oh and he also started dressing like an artist.) What would it be like to have no inhibitions?

The Highly Sensitive Person – by Elaine N. Aron
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking  – by Susan Cain

I’m including the two titles above because… it is so much easier to love yourself when you know yourself. Simple as that. If you’re easily overwhelmed by noise, smells, busyness, and your own thoughts, The Highly Sensitive Person may be for you. And if you find yourself retreating when you need to recharge, Quiet might be for you.

“When we try to suppress what makes us who we are, we risk losing the gifts that come with our temperaments.” Daisy Gumin

Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration – by Meera Lee Patel

Known for her stationary and textiles, Meera Lee Patel used her vibrant style to create this journal / workbook, designed to help readers find more clarity in the chaos of life. I own a copy and find the prompts to be insightful and the illustrations and quotes so inspiring! (This would also make a beautiful gift!)

What books would you add to this list? 

photo credit: Tevi Hardy Photography


  • Reply
    August 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Some parenting books I like which help with a kind inner and outer voice are Peaceful parent, Happy Child and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children.

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      August 23, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      Yes, books that support a kinder voice for both kids and parents? I reallllly like those. 🙂 Great suggestions, Heidi!

  • Reply
    Rachel Thueson
    August 23, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    So proud that I actually read one of these books! 🙂 Thanks for sharing with me. You (and these words) inspire me!

  • Reply
    Linda Sand
    August 23, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Anything by Robert Fulgham. His very short stories make me see the world in so many different but accepting ways; I tend to spend all day processing each story. Like: in kindergarten we all think we can sing but by middle school we don’t–could we change that for our kids? Or: if you take off your watch then strap on a compass what changes?

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      August 23, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      What beautiful and thought-provoking questions, Linda! Thanks for pointing him out to me—I’ll look him up!

  • Reply
    August 29, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Nonfiction was tough for me to read during summer break (I need more focus than I do with typical fiction)- so I’m hoping to get to some this fall. I have a couple of these on my list, plus a handful of parenting books, so fingers crossed I’ll get to some! I’m really interested in the audible ones you shared- I might have to try those first. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      August 29, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      I think sticking to fiction in the summer would be a super great way to make your summer feel a little extra special—different from the rest of the year. I might have to try that next summer!

      And YES, nonfiction DOES take a lot of focus. Like I mentioned, I’m way more likely to listen to nonfiction than to read it, because I can multitask.

      Thanks for the comment, cute girl! I told a couple of my friends about your SF ice cream crawl – I want to recreate it!!

  • Reply
    felicity bent
    September 7, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    “Choosing Happiness” and “Everyday Kindness” by Stephanie Dowrick

  • Reply
    October 17, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Those are some excellent suggestions – thank you for sharing.
    I’d also recommend Brene Brown’s ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ in which she addresses shame, vulnerability and ultimately loving yourself to live a Wholehearted Life.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Oops – my bad you did reference this book. Thank you again for the fabulous list.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    this is my first time here and i like the line in your post about chipping away at our self love. so many of us are discouraged by negative words. thabk you for sharing

    • Reply
      Erica Layne
      March 29, 2018 at 7:46 pm

      I’m glad that resonated, Cathy! Thanks for reading!

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