It’s not often I give a book it’s own review, usually saving them for my reading round ups but sometimes a book comes along that not only blows your mind, but as soon as you hit the last page, you fly back to the start to relive the epiphanies you experienced between the pages.
I first found Brene Brown when one of her Ted talks popped up on my recommended for you, it was about listening to shame. Shame, to me, has always been that red faced, can’t get your words out, embarrassment and begging the world to open up and swallow you. I’ve always run away from shame, why would I knowingly put myself in a position of vulnerability? Am I really that crazy?
Turns out, it’s not that crazy. Shame and vulnerability are the keys to wholehearted living. Vulnerability is not cowardice, it’s not weakness. Putting yourself out there, your image, your ideas, your work, your words, showing the world how you live your life, that is not weak, that is pure, unfiltered courage. It’s exposure, it’s uncertain, it’s a nerve wracking daily occurrence, but it is brave.
But to understand vulnerability, we have to understand shame. We have to understand why we feel shame, where shame comes from and we have to learn how to become shame-resilliant. We have to learn how to take those instances of shame and vulnerability and turn them into little secret weapons against the world.
Long intro short, I have too much to say about this book so here’s 5 things it’s taught me (or consider this 5 reasons why you should read it!)
- Wholehearted living - Ten points on what to cultivate in life, and what to let go of. Example; cultivating play and rest - letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth. I could write my own book on how that one point has changed so much of my thinking already. One more? Cultivating self compassion - letting go of perfectionism. Resonating with you yet?
- The ‘never enough problem’ - How many times do you tell yourself you are never good enough or never smart enough? How about never certain/safe/sure enough? These answers come so easily to me when faced with something that takes me out of my comfort zone. And they snowball. I see nerves as scarcity, instantly jumping to the conclusion that something won’t come about because I am not enough in some way, when really, I am. I am more than enough, I’m just nervous, I’m just avoiding vulnerability.
- Only heed the words of those in the arena with you - It’s all too easy to take a negative comment on a blog post or a record low number of likes on an Instagram post to heart. Anonymous trolls crawling the internet ready to jump on you for no reason what so ever, to hurl abuse from the safety of a screen whilst you just stand there and take it. Fact is, you don’t have to take it. One of the best things Brene says in this book is, as a creator, you are not the jackass whisperer. These people will try to shame you for the content you have created, the art you have laboured over, and no matter how many times you try to address or appease them, the more attention you draw to it, the louder the trolls can get. These trolls are not in the arena with you, they are not putting themselves out there, they are not putting their ideas, work or words out into the world, they are not being vulnerable. Therefore they deserve no attention, apology or appeasement. They can quite swiftly jog the hell on.
- Perfectionism is NOT self-improvement - I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist, but a striving one. In any and all areas for as long as I can remember, I have been caught up in the please, perform, perfect cycle. From school into adulthood, it’s all been about wanting to do things right, to be seen to be doing it all so perfectly and I’ve dressed it up as self improvement and the road to happiness. Perfectionism is self destructive. Perfectionism is a shield that we use to protect ourselves from shame, judgement and blame. It does not exist. Perfectionism is unattainable. And I’m going to learn to be OK with that. I’m going to learn that I do not want and/or need to be perfect. I just need to be me.
- Sometimes you just have to show up - How many times have you talked yourself out of a situation, thinking that you aren’t ready enough so there’s no way in hell you’re going to go along with it - you’ll only embarrass yourself anyway? I know I’ve been guilty of doing JUST that. If I’m not going to win, if there’s a chance I won’t get it right, if there’s a chance I could fail, bollocks to putting myself in that situation. Have I been wrong all this time? Yup. Sometimes you’re not suppose to win, you’re not supposed to be perfect, sometimes you’re just supposed to show up, have a go, enjoy yourself and that really is enough.
I could go on and on about this book but then you wouldn’t read it for yourself now would you? It’s not a self help book, it’s not self improvement or personal development, it’s understanding. It’s really understanding how shame and vulnerability can actually empower us. It’s about not letting the myths of shame and vulnerability hold us back, it’s about moving forward and living as full a life as possible.
Do yourself a favour.
Until next time,