I’m going to start this post off with two confessions:
- I had never read anything by Brené Brown prior to deciding to pick up Rising Strong. I’d barely even heard of her. This now feels like an egregious oversight on my part.
- I hesitated before deciding to read Rising Strong. The title and description kind of made it sound like this book is for a time when you just got fired, or are going through a divorce, or some other kind of major heartbreak or life upheaval. I’ve certainly experienced life upheaval, but as I didn’t feel knocked down at present, was this a book I would benefit from reading right at this moment? (Spoiler alert: yes.)
Rising Strong by Brené Brown is like having thousands of dollars of therapy sitting on your bookshelf, for $27.00. It’s a book for everyone. People who feel criticism deeply and struggle with not letting it define them and stop them from creating or contributing. People flat on their backs from major failures. People who make up stories about why people behaved in a certain way to them, stories that are unverified and do nothing but cause us personal distress. It’s about the every day struggles we all face if we’re alive, trying our best, and being vulnerable. It’s about how to take ownership of these stories, reckon with them, and work with them to make us stronger, more whole-hearted, and happier.
There are so many lessons and examples to love in Rising Strong. One of my favorites is her exploration of the question “Do you believe that, in general, people are doing the best they can?” Brené Brown describes her own experience wrestling with this question, and coming to terms with it. I love her husband’s answer:
Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”
I’ve wrestled with this one myself, often. I’ve found I’m happiest and most at peace when I assume others are coming from a good place, and are doing the best they can. When I imagine the factors in their day or their lives that could be contributing to their actions that I first perceived as malicious or purposeful. I’m happiest, and more compassionate, when I stop ascribing intent.
Here are more great passages from Rising Strong:
“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.”
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
“…sometimes when we are beating ourselves up, we need to stop and say to that harassing voice inside, “Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now.” ”
“The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”
“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to go read everything else Brené Brown has ever written.