I work to not be this person, but I definitely have a touch of the “if everybody likes x maybe I don’t want to like x” stubborn streak. I’ve identified it as sort of a pointless attitude (I mean, I’m only hurting myself) and I strive to be more “let people live” but the overwhelming popularity of Brene Brown had me hesitate to pick up this book. That, and the fact that I was certainthat her writing was going to make me confront some things about myself I’d been avoiding, so I reeeeeally dragged my feet about opening up this audiobook. But when I finally did, I was annoyed and pleased to find that everyone, and most of all Brown, was right.
Brown loves talking about “the arena” and citing the famed Teddy Roosevelt quote which I’ll crib from, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…” Being IN THE ARENA is something that I have staunchly avoided in my life. In fact, I’ve jokingly said that my “plan” in life was not having a plan because if you DON’T have a plan, you can’t fail!! Herego, I have avoided taking a stance and having goals. Get it? It’s a joke. But true. (It was a big hit with my therapist). So Brown’s story of her TED Talk and vulnerability hangover really hit me where it hurts. I could talk about this book all day, she jams in so much well-researched nuggets of wisdom it is almost dizzying. But trust me when I say if you have a desire to be a little bit better as a person for yourself or for those you hold dear, there is something in this book for you.
The most memorable takeaway for me wasn’t even an observation from Brown herself, but rather a piece of parenting advice that she shared from the words of literary great Toni Morrison, as told to Oprah. “Let your face speak what’s in your heart.” Rather than launch into a litany of critical inputs when your children walk into the room, lead with the fact that you are happy to see them. That really resonated with me as I’m famous in my own house for not “reading the room” before barreling in with something that needs doing or fixing, and I’ve really taken Morrison’s approach to heart and am working to implement it in my own life.
And therein lies the genius of Brown. She has spent her life learning and researching and capturing the vulnerability and truth of others and then distilled it down for us, peppered with her own bits of vulnerability. If I’m honest I really just want to be mad at her for making me confront things, and learn, and show me what is possible if you really care and really commit. But instead, if given the opportunity I would (begrudgingly) thank her for going into the arena so that I could nudge myself even one step closer to the person I want to be.