I don’t read as many “self-help” books as I probably should. I like to learn. Scratch that, I LOVE to learn, and in many ways books traditionally shelved in the “self-help” department are meant to help us do just that. So why stay away? Because of the other types of books that inhabit those shelves. The ones that are all touchy feely or tell you to “let go and let God”. (Yes, thank you, I’m aware of that, now what?) When I decided to do the Read Harder Challenge and saw that Task 24 was read a self-help book, I shuddered. More than reading a short story collection, more than reading a book published before 1850 (I’ve already read a bunch of the heavy hitters), this was the one that put pause in my step. I tried to funny my way around it, and really didn’t like the book I initially chose (The Fabulous Girls Guide to Decorum) so when NTE wrote her profoundly great and personal review of Rising Strong by Brene Brown, I knew I probably needed to suck it up and read this book. Right now.
I was not familiar with Brene Brown at all when I purchased the audio version of this book. For those of you similarly unaware, Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and her primary fields of study are vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Hello, this is a researcher I need to be spending more time with. I, like I’m sure many of you, struggle deeply with those four topics. Brown is also the author of several books including The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. I’ve not read those yet, but she refers to them throughout Rising Strong, encapsulating their lessons and I have added them to my to read list.
As I mentioned, I did this book the audio route. In some ways this was good, I was forced to spend about 45 minutes at a clip listening to and processing what Brown was telling me. It also had the bonus of feeling like a sister-friend was just chatting with me in the car about the bigger ideas and obstacles in life. We all need these people, and I’m lucky enough to have a few. I was able to have some definite “aha” moments, including that we can’t love someone for who they could be, we have to love them for who they are, with the understanding that they are doing the best that they can. This kicked my ass, and had me looking at all of my major friendships and relationships and thinking “am I seeing them for who they are or am I forecasting onto them who I want them to be?” Big, tough questions.
The main thrust of this book though is not these nuggets. Brown is laying out the process and practice that helps people get back up after a fall, whether its major (chronic illness, grief, failure) or the more everyday (that dingbat in the office just sent you another nasty email) that will help us get through these things healthily. She talks about how we process emotions and thoughts via story, so we need to deal with the story we are telling ourselves when we are metaphorically face down, and really unpack what’s happening. For me, this got me to admit, out loud, to myself that I resent having to share the holidays with my stepfamily. This for me was a big first step, and it is reflected in my shitty first draft (a Brown term) about the story I am telling myself about their involvement. I rationally know that 10 years in we all have had to learn to maneuver around each other, but that doesn’t prevent a part of my brain from being angry that the only major holiday I spend with my mom and brothers, I also have to share with them. Now to figure out how to go through the next steps, and that’s where I wish I owned this book in hardcover, so I could refer back to dog-eared pages and highlighted sections.
If any of this sounds like it could be useful to you, pick up this book.