I was all set to recommend something different today. Then I finished Rising Strong and changed my mind. I’ve been going through some deep soul searching this winter — thinking about my creative life, my job, my heart and what happens next. It’s natural for me in times like these to read books about the kinds of things I’m thinking of. I like to see what other women are thinking about the kinds of things that sometimes feel too personal to talk about.
You know already (if you’re one of our regular readers) that I’ve recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up for creatives who are stuck, struggling or just need a boost. In some ways Rising Strong is the same kind of book, in others it’s quite different. Yes, if you’re a creative, this book will feel very personal to your process, but honestly it’s for everybody.
We live in a culture that prioritizes perfection, getting over it, “happiness” and “letting go.” To hear folks talk about this stuff, you’d think it was a matter of simply choosing differently, but anybody who’s actually done the work to try any of that knows it’s a struggle. And let me tell you, my lovelies, Brené gets you. Rising Strong is all about getting up from the fall and in Brené’s terms, “rumbling” with your soul. It’s about getting in there, risking vulnerability and learning how to stand back up and try again.
Frankly, this is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life. You might think it’s common sense to know how, but honestly there’s so many messages about the “justs” (just eat clean! just let it go! just repel negativity! just! just! just!) that we can start feeling pretty downtrodden when we can’t just climb back up again. You know what I mean; you could be going through anything from a tough day to losing your job and you check in with Facebook, only to find that someone has some “just do this” quote posted in your timeline and you JUST want to lose it all over the place. Cultivating well-being is hard work and there’s no “just” about it.
Building resilience is an ongoing process. In Rising Strong, Brené Brown shares years of research, wildly funny personal anecdotes and a wealth of ideas about how you can keep getting up, dusting yourself off and use vulnerability and empathy to pave the way to keep on going. Not for a second do you feel like she’s telling you to “just” anything. Brené makes it pretty clear that the rising strong process is an ongoing journey, that you’re going to forget how and have relearn (that she forgets how and has to relearn) over and over.
I think that the thing that makes Brené Brown’s work so much easier to process is that she’s so damn real. I read a lot of self-helpish books because I like having tools and frameworks to turn to when times get hard. I like knowing how other people deal with their problems because it helps me pave my own way. I am always wary of anyone who writes a self-help book from the perspective that they have their shit (forget my language) all figured out. When I start hearing that smug tone of “let me tell you what I know because I’ve been there and I’m just not there anymore” I dump whatever I’m reading lightning quick.
This is what I love about Brené Brown. Yes, she’s got a process figured out, but never does Brené lead you to believe that she’s got it perfected. In fact, she tells story after story about how she gets smug with herself about aspects of the process, only to find herself face down again. I realize that might feel a little discouraging to hear, but it shouldn’t be. It’s authentic. We’re going to keep failing at big and little things, no matter how good we get at cultivating well-being, it’s unreasonable to think we won’t. We can’t learn not to fail or to avoid grief, trauma and pain, those things are unavoidable, but we can learn how to bounce back.
We like to hear stories and read self-help books that promise that if we just do what the author says, we’ll be alright. In our hearts, I think we know that’s not true. We buy these books, we try the the “process” out, feel better for a while and then slip back into old habits. There’s no easy fix to anything, there’s just a toolbox or belt or whatever you like to get out when things get broken or leak. I think if you’re ready to do some renovations on your heart, or you’re confronted with the fact that failure and “face down” moments are a part of life that will happen again and again, Rising Strong is for you.
If you’d like a little taste of Brené’s work this episode of Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert gives you a sneak peek of what she’s all about. Or watch the book’s trailer below, which includes narration of the Rising Strong manifesto.
Allison Carr Waechter is calling Brené Brown “Brené” in this post because she’s spent weeks listening to her work on audiobook, TedTalk, etc. and Brené’s started to feel like a wise friend.