Rising Strong by Brene Brown

by Rita Nguyen

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book called Rising Strong. For those of you who do not know who she is, you MUST watch this incredible TED talk about the Power of Vulnerability. Amazing.

She has several books that are all worth reading but this newest one is probably my favourite. While it stays in the area of human resilience, Rising Strong focuses on the times when you have fallen flat on your face, trying to find a way to breath. This is best described by her words:

We much prefer stories about falling and rising to be inspirational and sanitized. Our culture is rife with these tales.

We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending. I worry that this lack of honest accounts of overcoming adversity has created a Gilded Age of Failure.

But embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause, or the complex journey that underlies rising strong, is gold-plating grit. To strip failure of its real emotional consequences is to scrub the concepts of grit and resilience of the very qualities that make them both so important—toughness, doggedness, and perseverance.

Yes, there can be no innovation, learning, or creativity without failure. But failing is painful. It fuels the “shouldas and couldas,” which means judgment and shame are often lying in wait.

At one of my lowest points I asked a wise friend why people kept betraying me and she told me something similar to this next part and now I think I finally understand.

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.

A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

The whole book is a powerful read and those people who live their life in the arena, versus taking pot shots from the cheap seats will relate. If you take nothing else away from the book, keep this close to your heart.

One final quote from her (though I literally want to cut and paste the whole book, it’s so good)…

Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being.

How true this is.  But the transformation does not need to be negative, it’s all about how you rise strong and come up swinging again.

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