Sometimes we all need a little extra motivation. Life can get busy, even overwhelming, and it’s easy to lose sight of your goals or values when you’re just trying to get through your to-do list.
For many women, this list can include job-related work, household tasks (we tend to do more of those than men do) and caretaking of kids or elderly parents. Not to mention social activities and any time you take for yourself. Women’s lives are often filled to the brink.
Whether you’re feeling mentally stuck or you’re craving inspiration, reading a motivational book can be a great way to give yourself a push. Or, a motivational book can be that life-changing magic that helps you rethink your priorities so you can determine how to make your life fit more in line with what truly matters to you.
Some women look for motivational books on a particular topic. Some are more interested in the real stories of trailblazers who paved unique paths for themselves. Whatever type of motivational book you’re seeking, check out the following best motivational books for women and you’re sure to find one full of practical advice that will speak to you on your self care journey.
Understanding motivation and self doubt in your personal life
Before jumping into the books, let’s dive into what motivation actually is. There are two distinct types of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic, and one is more effective than the other to sustain lasting progress toward your goals.
Extrinsic motivation comes from the outside: It’s characterized by external accolades and pressure. Some examples are feeling motivated to avoid the guilt of not meeting other people’s or society’s standards and people-pleasing, which is the desire for approval from other people. This kind of motivation is only sustainable for so long until you feel burnt out.
Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, is the motivation you find within yourself. Determining your specific “why” for making a change or accomplishing a goal will keep you motivated for far longer than doing something just for the sake of fitting in or keeping others happy.
Why is reading motivational books effective for inspiring change?
Motivational books typically center on helping you discover your intrinsic motivation. Reading books can provide you with actionable tools from experts about how to accomplish your goals, maintain motivation over the long term and understand what really makes you feel aligned with your values.
Not only do books give you the tools, but they can provide you with real life stories from other women who have made major life changes, tackled their goals or found paths to personal happiness. This can boost your own self-esteem, and help you realize that the “why not me?” question is not silly after all. Reading their stories (both their highs and their lows) can inspire you to blaze your own trail, embrace your best life, and make overcoming self-doubt much easier.
Finally, motivational books and some of the personal essays within can be constantly revisited while you’re living life, and as you’re working on finding yourself or your life’s purpose. You can read them again and again to help you better understand yourself and what truly motivates you.
Motivational books for finding self love
We grow up with various images of what society expects from us and many times these images transform into pressure to be perfect, or have it all, which is not possible. Working on yourself to find out who you are beyond these expectations, which can come not just from society but from your family or partner or workplace as well, can help you live a more true-to-yourself life. Your own little happiness project awaits!
Here are some of the top motivational books for women for finding self love:
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
In this New York Times bestselling book about finding true self acceptance, esteemed shame research professor Brené Brown outlines ten lessons that can help you embrace change and create self compassion.
As you work through each chapter, you’ll be presented with interactive prompts to help you grow and shift your perspective on yourself. If you like Brown’s style, she has a number of other motivational books, including ones geared toward the workplace, that you can read for further inspiration.
Be Unapologetically You: A Self Love Guide for Women of Color by Adeline Bird
According to author Adeline Bird, self-love is not something that just happens, it’s a process that takes determination and acceparance. Geared toward black women and women of color, this inspirational book about self confidence asks readers to stop judging themselves and become more self aware of the gifts they possess inside.
With this book, you’ll learn how to celebrate yourself for who you really are and discover a deep confidence that’s unshakable, even in the face of setbacks and disappointments.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
With its no-BS, witty tone, this book has become a favorite in the female empowerment self-help category, especially for those who appreciate straight talk.
Written by success coach Jen Sincero, this motivational book is divided into 27 short chapters of inspiring stories, practical exercises and smart life advice for erasing self doubt. If you’re looking for a motivational book that is edgier than what you’d typically see in the self-help category, try this one.
Motivational books for love, relationships and sex
Whether your goal is to be more connected to your partner or be more in touch with yourself when it comes to sex and relationships, there are a number of motivational books for women that can help.
The following recommendations focus on relationships and sex, guiding women to become the authority on their bodies and themselves, as well as understand new ways to relate to their partners and help their relationships thrive.
The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Harriet Lerner
This book by respected relationship expert and psychologist Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., can help motivate you to find your voice within your relationships and learn how to communicate in a way that will make you feel truly heard.
By inspiring you to build confidence in how you approach tough conversations, this book not only helps you better understand yourself but also better understand your loved ones so you can truly connect with each other. Instead of shutting down when you’re feeling the most vulnerable, this book can help you express yourself in constructive, kind ways, helping you strengthen your relationships in the process.
The Queen’s Code by Alison A. Armstrong
Geared toward male-female heteronotmative relationships, The Queen’s Code dives deep into the narratives society presents us about the opposite sex in an effort to debunk the narrative that pits women and men (and, as a result, husbands and wives) against each other.
By inspiring readers to be the “queens” of their own lives, this book can motivate you to examine your relationship and the way you relate to your partner in order to create a more equitable, loving union.
By encouraging readers to understand and embrace the differences between women and men, this book will inspire you to find the closeness and connection you crave in your relationship.
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel
If you’re looking for the motivation to breathe new life into your long term relationship, and sex life, this book is the key to finding excitment with your partner. Written by psychologist Esther Perel, who has twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, this book discusses the complexities of sustaining desire over the long term within a monogamous relationship.
Perel explains that with the right tools and mindset, couples don’t need to be stuck in the mundaneness of domestic life—it’s possible to have a long, happy union that’s both fun and playful, too.
Come As You Are:The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski Ph.D.
Esteemed sex expert Emily Nagoski is the authority on modern human sexuality. By descibing the actual, groundbreaking science behind sex, her book explores the myths and social expectactions many women have internalized about sex and their bodies, encouraging readers to release shame they might have about their sexual expereinces and desires, as well as their bodies.
The takeaway from this book is that you’ll be more motivated to connect physically with your partner after you can understand your own unique sexuality. If you’re ever struggled sexually, this book can inspire you to cultivate confidence and find joy in your sex life.
Motivational books for finding your life’s purpose
If you’re looking for a more career-focused book on motivation, the following suggestions are geared toward finding your purpose and building the best possible creative life for yourself. By guiding you to embrace your strengths and listen to your gut, these motivational books can give you the jumpstart you need to ask for that raise, start that company or simply believe you are worthy through positive thinking.
When you’re struggling with your career path or want to become more assertive in your everyday life, these books might be just the beginning, and provide the push you need.
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Finding, and maintaining, confidence is a crucial part of career success, according to authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Motivating yourself to work on your self confidence isn’t always easy.
This book breaks down how to find that inner self love using science-backed strategies, great advice and real life examples of confidence at work. There’s also an accompanying journal that goes with the book so you can practice the ideas the book preaches.
Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life by Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema
Written by renowned psychologist Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, this motivational book for young women and established professionals alike centers on how to change your thought patterns to work for you, not against you.
She argues that over-thinking can lead to sadness, anxiety and depression in women, showing research that verifies the downside to over analyzing everything from your emotions to your life circumstances.
This book will motivate you to shift your thinking into more productive habits and process negative thoughts in a healthy way.
You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want (A No F*cks Given Guide) by Sarah Knight
Self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist Sarah Knight encourages readers to embrace who they truly are and find the motivation to go after what they really want in life.
Part of a series of non-preachy, inspirational self-help books, this one is about silencing self doubt, being less judgmental and accepting yourself and others for your unique qualities. One of the big themes of this book is harnessing intrinsic motivation and not looking to others for approval (or worrying about their disapproval, whatever the case may be) and searching inside yourself for the push you need to succeed at whatever you put your mind to.
For many women, reading the stories of inspirational people can be even more motivating than reading a straight self-help book. The following books all have a ton of interesting advice and wisdom from trailblazing women, however the message is presented more in personal story than in how-to format.
By diving deep into these memoirs, you can find inspiration, camaraderie and motivation to apply what these women went through, and learned, into your own story.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Writer Cheryl Strayed details her journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, solo and with no prior training, in this bestselling book, which juxtaposes her adventure with stories from her life. She writes about losing her mother, losing herself to addiction and unhealthy relationships and how she was able to find peace, and ultimately herself.
This is a book for anyone who’s ever lost their way or tried to tap out of life and needs to find the motivation to heal. You may be inspired to take a journey of your own after reading Strayed’s story of self discovery and acceptance.
The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou
This book is an anthology of writer, poet and activist Maya Angelou’s personal works, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes and A Song Flung Up to Heaven.
These motivational stories span her lifetime, touching on a number of her personal experiences, including the bird of her son and her involvement with the civil rights movement. Not only are her stories inspirational, her words are poetic and stay with you long after you finish this book.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
In Untamed, bestselling author Glennon Doyle inspires readers to break free of the confines of their lives and embrace their true selves. Her story is about divorce, finding true love and realizing that her children need a mother who lives authentically, not a martyr who suffers in silence for their sake.
By empowering women to “untame” themselves from what’s holding them back from living their lives to the fullest, she encourages them to find their own happiness. Doyle has two other memoirs, Carry On, Warrior and Love Warrior if you connect with her story and want to read more of her work. She also just released Get Untamed, the Journal if you’re looking to go deeper in your quest for authenticity with writing prompts.
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
As the creator of beloved television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Shonda Rhimes knows a thing or two about motivation and success. She’s notorious for her groundbreaking storytelling skills and her ability to create iconic, strong female characters. In her memoir, she details what happened when she spent a year saying “yes” to anything that scared her, as well as the challenges she has faced to get to where she is today.
Whether you’re feeling stuck in your career or in life in general, her message of saying yes is both powerful and motivational.
Discovering what truly motivates you
Reading a motivational book is just one way to develop your intrinsic motivation and work from within to harness your inspiration, both in your personal and professional life.
Whether you’re a self-help book devotee or prefer to read a personal story to find motivation, one of the books from this list can help you on your journey toward confidence, self-love and a drive to succeed at your goals.
As you continue on your motivational journey, you might find times when you’re feeling less inspired. When this happens you can come back to a book (or pick up a new one) to regain your focus. Finding motivation isn’t a static goal to check off a list, it’s an ongoing evolution of your way of thinking.
Once you’re on the path, however, you’ll be on the right track toward sustaining that inspiration over the long term.