Brené Brown showcases her singular gift for merging New Age thought and rigorous research to guide readers to greater self-compassion.
Brené Brown offers a distinctive combination of research-backed insights and pure empathy. Her presentation “The Power of Vulnerability” is the fourth-most viewed TED Talk worldwide. Though often lumped in with lesser self-help intellects, Brown’s intelligence, willingness to face the tough interior questions and refusal to pander place her far above any genre.
My goal for this book is to slow down the falling and rising processes: to bring into our awareness all the choices that unfurl in front of us during those moments of discomfort and hurt, and to explore the consequence of those choices.Brené Brown
Brown, founder and CEO of The Daring Way and a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has a unique gift for touching something deep within her readers. They respond to, anticipate and support her fundamental theme: being emotionally honest and vulnerable and facing your mistakes and shortcomings bravely and without self-blame will bring wisdom and personal evolution. Practicing this candid openness, she teaches, will enhance your ability to connect to people, to love and to accept love.
Greater Good magazine chose this New York Times number one bestseller as a Favorite Book of the Year. The Huffington Post said that Brown’s “research and work have given us a new vocabulary, a way to talk with each other about the ideas and feelings and fears we’ve all had but haven’t quite known how to articulate.” Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, noted, “It is inevitable – we will fall. We will fail. We will not know how to react or what to do. No matter how or when it happens, we will all have a choice – do we get up or not? Thankfully, Brené Brown is there with an outstretched arm to help us up.”
Faith and Reason
Brown doesn’t regard faith and reason as oppositional. She offers evidence from sociologists and discusses how art speaks truth about the human spirit. This approach frames her thesis that truth is where you find it.
Brown suggests a three-step strategy for dealing with upheaval, failure, setbacks or trauma. First, coping with blunders and “facing hurt” starts with embracing what you feel, not denying it. Second, you must wrestle or “rumble” with the stories you create about your struggles. Brown says only rigorous, courageous self-examination – no matter how painful – grants healing insight into your true desires and identity, so you must check the truth of the tales you tell yourself.
I believe that vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is the only path to more love, belonging and joy.Brené Brown
To come back from hurtful or chaotic situations and thrive again, weave what you’ve learned into your daily activities. This calls for change, an internal “revolution.” If you examine yourself and your actions bravely, Brown maintains, you will respond to new challenges as a different and stronger you.
Brown cites Star Wars’ Yoda as her exemplar of getting up after being knocked down. While Brown wants to convey that you will find darkness both inside yourself and outside, that you may turn on yourself in times of trouble, and that resilience is a primal virtue – the little fellow is a cliché, an unfortunate choice of metaphor that undercuts the power of her message.
She describes “the cave in Yoda’s swamp” as a place where you hide from yourself those feelings or actions you’d rather not own. Or, worse, it’s a place where, in the face of a failure you tell yourself negative stories that undercut your self-worth. As Yoda would, Brown urges you to leave that mind-set – not to “try but to do.” Taking positive action involves separating the negative swamp messages from the true reality of your life. When you recognize that the voices attacking you are telling lies, you can rebound from loss.
Brown proves bravely willing to expose her insecurities, shortcomings, vanities and flaws. Seeing the world as a no-middle-ground dichotomy once made Brown feel righteous. Yet, she learned that this attitude blinded her. To avoid resenting those who wronged her, Brown learned that she had to curb her self-righteousness. If she didn’t get what she deserved, she now asks, whose fault was that? Today, when something makes her uncomfortable, she makes a conscious effort not to “numb” herself. She wants to know what she feels and why, and she offers that as a path.
Brown connects her desire to support others with her desire to avoid asking for help. If you attack yourself because you need assistance, she says, you unconsciously attack those who come to you for help. If you build your self-worth around being the person who always helps others, she cautions, be careful that you don’t undermine your sense of self-worth when you are the one who must ask for help. She compassionately explains that accepting help requires courage and empathy, just like asking for help.
“Gifts of Imperfection”
Brown closes the book with 10 guideposts for living. The list showcases her singular – and best-selling – genius for combining New Age codas and research-driven fact. The middle ground she finds between the two grants her astonishing credibility and makes her advice seem reasonable and worth following. This is a rare genius and helps to account for Brown’s success and the loyalty of her readers.
In her 10 rules, Brown urges readers to cultivate authenticity, self-compassion, resilience, gratitude and joy, intuition, creativity, play and rest, calmness, meaningful work and laughter. She urges you to dismiss others’ opinions, to reject perfectionism and insecurity, and to avoid confusing your value with your output.
Brown seems a great deal more sincere, dedicated and rigorous than many best-selling authors who specialize, as she does, in feelings and spiritual evolution. She thinks and writes on a profound, yet accessible level. At times, Rising Strong reads like an extended magazine article, and it can be repetitive. But Brown’s combination of folksy tone and insightful advice extends a hand to anyone seeking to recover from difficult times.
We all want to show up and be seen in our lives. This means we will all struggle and fall; we will know what it means to be both brave and brokenhearted.Brené Brown
Brown’s other New York Times bestsellers include Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, Braving the Wilderness, Dare to Lead and I Thought It Was Just Me.