Author: Brene Brown
Age Range: Adult
I’ve done a lot of reading lately and have a slew of book reviews and mentions I’m hoping to post in the next little while but I wanted to start with this one that I read a few months ago as part of an online book club. It literally changed my life. I have been dealing with many other things, as I’ve mentioned, and have not been in a place to let what I read affect my actions yet but I’ve thought about it and re-read it and foisted it on others and am finally getting to the place I need to be to begin to make some changes.
Brene Brown is a social worker, research professor and more whose recent research has focused on guilt and shame. There’s a lot in here but it basically boils down to the idea that much of our society runs on perpetuating feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes we do it to ourselves, through self-talk, setting unrealistic goals or trying to live up to others’ ideals. Sometimes it comes from outside sources like the media, our families, co-workers, and strangers and can including more obvious situations like bullying and teasing, or simply exasperated exclamations from our parents like “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Anything that plants the seed that tells us that we aren’t enough (old enough, skinny enough, smart enough, rich enough, _____ enough) creates feelings of guilt and/or shame which eat away at our vulnerability.
Brown posits that vulnerability shouldn’t be equated with weakness, as it so often is. Rather it is “the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable.” (33) When our vulnerability is attacked we close ourselves off to opportunities to love and create and feel joy.
She shows us how to recognize our own guilt or shame triggers and learn to combat them, how to allow ourselves to be more vulnerable and as a result, experience what she calls Wholehearted Living. In a previous book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she introduces Wholeheartedness and defines ten guideposts for wholehearted living. (There are brief mentions of them in DG and the concepts overlap but they’re given the spotlight in this first, smaller volume. It’s also a fantastic read.) They cover ideas like letting go of what people think and perfectionism, learning to trust faith and intuition, cultivating gratitude and joy, and learning to make room for laughter, song, and dance. They’re all relatively simple in scope but powerful in application (and therefore a little more difficult than it all seems at first glance.)
I was amazed at how truthful everything she said seemed. Generally when I read a self-help type book there are parts I agree with and parts I don’t, things that are applicable and things that don’t come anywhere near my own experiences. Of course, not every example she used mirrored my own life but the principles all struck me to the core. I especially appreciated the sections where she talked about how we could use the ideas of vulnerability in our roles as co-workers, leaders, teachers, parents, basically in any relationship. It wasn’t just about transforming our own lives (which is the first step) but using the tools and teachings to touch the lives of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis. Sometimes ‘self-help’ seems so self-centered, no matter how true or helpful it may be. For me, it’s nice to have an external excuse for improvement, not just an internal one. The motivation to make the changes and the likelihood that it will stick improves greatly when it’s not just about me.
If you’re looking for a fascinating psychological insight, something to shake up your perceptions a bit, and maybe improve your life in the process, give this book a look. You won’t be disappointed.