Thursday, September 20, 2012

Self Help with a Side of Tawny Kitaen

 "Daring greatly means finding our own path and respecting what that search looks like for other folks."

Any self help book that can manage to successfully work in both a Whitesnake quote and several Harry Potter references within about 10 pages has me as a fan. Now I know that pop culture references do not a successful self-help book make, at least not just on their own, but Brene Brown's new book, Daring Greatly, is written in a way that makes it both approachable, relatable, well researched and effective. After twelve years of social science research, Brown has written a book that helps explode the myth that vulnerability equals weakness and reveals that through being vulnerable we can transform all of the key relationships in our lives.  Another excellent book choice that I'm happy to have the chance to review for Blogher's Book Club. (I was compensated for this review but the fawning, favorable opinions expressed here are all my own.)

This book is exactly what I needed to read when I devoured it on Labor Day. I read it in one sitting after a frustrating family gathering that left me irritated with myself for being too chicken to figure out a way to communicate some messy feelings. So I sprawled on the living room floor in the late afternoon sun with a fan and an iced coffee to ward off the 100 degree temperatures. I underlined constantly. I folded down corners. I made notes and comments in margins, like "Oh, that hurts it's so accurate." and "Ha ha, oh, Snape!" and "Why am I still doing this at 37?"

I cried a bit. I called myself out on things I do that Brown explains so clearly as defense mechanisms or ways we protect ourselves from the pain of shame and humiliation, the myriad creative ways we keep people away from our soft, real tender insides so we won't get hurt. So they won't stop loving us. So they won't see we aren't perfect. So we can receive their approval. Brown uses stories from her research, her own life and the lives of her friends and family to help illustrate the ways our struggle for perfect, for more likes on Facebook, for more attention, more empty notice, more distance, simply keeps us from finding real connection with other people. Or using this gorgeous Leonard Cohen quote,

 "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 

We aren't perfect. Life will hurt us. People may not like us. They may laugh in our faces, but the only way to have bold, daring lives is to be comfortable showing our real selves to those around us, those who deserve it.  And that's key, those who deserve it. Boundaries are important in Brown's book. She isn't advocating you run out and share your most personal painful memories with your cab driver. Instead she says,

 "When it comes to vulnerability, connectivity means sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to hear them- people with whom we've cultivated relationships that can bear the weight of our story."
So I finished the book. I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew what I needed to do. I made a list of what was bothering me after my irritating family get together and what steps I could take in my personal behavior to change it. It was a good list. It's working so far. I'm saying what I feel more often to those who deserve to hear it, to those who will understand. And I have Brene Brown to thank for that.

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