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For my 40 before 40 book list, I read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I don’t read a ton of personal development books, but it resonated with me. I like her style a lot. She’s a truth teller and she doesn’t sugar coat. Most importantly, it’s not a big ole pile of woo. She has tons of research to back up everything she does. And I’m a girl who loves research and data and spreadsheets and lists. (Then color coding the data and putting it into labeled binders.)
In the fall, I heard Dr. Brown on a podcast interview. [Is Dr. Brown too formal? I don’t know her, so it seems presumptuous to call her Brene.] She talked about her new book, Rising Strong. I immediately requested it from the library. Then I waited.
Here’s my review of Rising Strong.
What is Rising Strong about?
Summarizing books is not one of my strengths, so here’s the blurb:
Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.
It is the rise from falling that Brown takes as her subject in Rising Strong. As a grounded theory researcher, Brown has listened as a range of people—from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents—shared their stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up. She asked herself, What do these people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through faith and mystery have in common? The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort.
Walking into our stories of hurt can feel dangerous. But the process of regaining our footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same: We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are.
Why did I want to read Rising Strong?
First, I liked The Gifts of Imperfection and wanted to explore her other books. Then I heard Dr. Brown on a podcast interview around the time Rising Strong was released. During the interview, she talked a lot about the book, but what stuck with me was when she talked about how we tell ourselves stories. Stories that aren’t necessarily based on reality. Stories that often cause us stress and anxiety.
This really resonated with me because I definitely do this. I’m guessing that everyone does this to some degree.
I was excited that the book came in during January. I’ve been reading a lot of personal development and business books, so the timing was great.
Did I like Rising Strong?
Once upon a time, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. After re-reading it, I decided it was my second favorite book of ever. I talked about it extensively when I appeared on The Happy Lawyer Podcast. It was a book that made me take action and was truly life-changing.
I think that Rising Strong may have the same kind of power in my life. It was the right book at the right time with the right message. It’s not preachy. It’s not woo. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Dr. Brown’s talks about things we spend a lot of time avoiding: shame, vulnerability, and failure. The fear and anxiety that go along with those emotions.
I am a perfectionist. I am incredibly type A. I am an overachiever. I’ve always put a ton of pressure on myself to excel and succeed.
And I’m deeply afraid of failure.
Like so many other people, I tell myself stories. I create a story about what I’m feeling and what is happening, but I don’t always want to confront my feelings or the root of what is happening.
Can we lean in to the vulnerability of emotion and stand in our truth? Are we willing to lean in to the initial discomfort of curiosity and creativity so we can be braver with our lives? Do we have the courage to rumble with our story? – Dr. Brene Brown, Rising Strong
I also get to the point where I will overanalyze the story to the point of analysis paralysis. It’s not productive and, oh man, the anxiety that comes along with it.
This book taught me that when I see this happening, I have to lean in to what I’m feeling. I have to get curious about it. What is making me tell myself this particular story? Is it true? It’s about recognizing the story, becoming curious, and working through it.
In the short time since I’ve read the Rising Strong, I’ve been applying the process. I stop myself and say, is this true or is this a story that I’m making up? If it’s a story, I take the time to explore it. I’m trying really hard to ensure that I don’t rely on stories that aren’t true.
And, yeah, sometimes it’s scary, but I feel like I’m really working on some of my bigger issues. (Like the perfectionism and the tendency to give in to analysis paralysis.)
As my coach, Natalie Eckdahl, says, do it scared. And even though this is scary on a lot of levels, I’m doing it.
The Happiness Project taught me that I have an active role in my own happiness. That things aren’t just happening to me. That I can actively pursue making myself happier.
I think Rising Strong will have a place with The Happiness Project as a book that helps me change and improve my life. It’s helping me understand how I react to certain things and, most importantly, helping me change those reactions so that I’m not as stressed and anxious.
Here’s how much I love Rising Strong: I read almost exclusively on my Kindle. I waited for months to get this book from the library on Overdrive. I liked it so much that I bought the hardcover to keep on my nightstand. This is a position that has been held by only one other book, The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte. (I only own The Happiness Project on my Kindle and I’m not sure it is one that I’d pick up to re-read a chapter when I need motivation.)
Usually, my willingness to pay full price for a book is the highest compliment I can give. I read this for free, then spent money on it and gave it a place of honor.
This is one I recommend wholeheartedly. (And anyone who has read her knows what I just did there with the word wholehearted.)