I gulp down self-help books at any opportunity, always devouring at least one bite-sized gem of wisdom and sometimes a whole smorgasbord of pertinent advice.
After being moved by researcher and storyteller, Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, I read not one, not two, but four of her books.
Like so many other volumes on personal development, there are many quotable aphorisms and key lessons. Some pages are almost entirely covered in highlighter! However, what makes Brené Brown’s books different is the embracing of seemingly contradictory ideas.
In her TED talk, Brené Brown said that she didn’t want to believe that living with joy, grace and meaning is only possible if you also accept vulnerability. Diving deep into the almost absurd nature of life and love gives these books an extraordinary quality rarely found elsewhere.
Here are three paradoxical takeaways from Brené Brown’s books…
1) Vulnerability is a Strength, Not a Weakness
Although vulnerability is associated in our culture with weakness, it is actually inextricably linked to courage. Somewhere along the way, we have been taught to do everything except show our vulnerability as we assume it makes us look fragile. In fact, vulnerability is the main building block of bravery.
When you see others show up for their chemo appointment, start their side-hustle or ask for help when the kids are out of control, what do you think? These are all vulnerable actions. They require grit, determination and risk. They are as far from weak as you can get.
2) We Say We Want Joy But We Fear It
We say we want to live a happy life but joy can have fear attached. Thoughts such as ‘it won’t last’ and ‘I don’t deserve this’ can swarm during our happiest times.
Appreciation is the antidote to this “foreboding joy” but practicing gratitude can be a vulnerable act. We think that if we acknowledge how thankful we are for our fortunate life, we will invite disaster.
We must find a way to tolerate at least some of the discomfort of vulnerability to whole-heartedly soak in gratitude. The best way to get over the scarcity fears attached to gratitude is to practice, practice, practice. Thank your bed when you wake up, give appreciation to whoever puts dinner on your table and say thanks at any opportunity throughout your day.
3) Compassion Means Strong Boundaries
One of the most paradoxical takeaways from Brené Brown’s books is that the most compassionate people are the ones with the strongest boundaries. A well-highlighted passage reads: “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.”
How does this look in real life? It is showing up when you would rather hide. It is getting back up after a faceplant moment. It is being our imperfect selves regardless of what others may think. It is believing – no matter what – that people are doing the best they can. And that includes extending that compassionate belief to yourself.
It is being both fierce and kind – the most succinct paradox of living, loving and parenting I think there is.
A Collection of Collective Nouns
Brené Brown’s books dance with contradictions. Three paradoxical takeaways are vulnerability actually being a strength, our fear of joy and compassion involves more, not fewer, boundaries. These ideas provoke discomfort and take a lot of work to absorb into daily living, but as noted in Brené Brown’s books, to feel the most alive we absolutely must move out of our comfort zone.
On the 9th of August it is Book Lovers Day. A day to celebrate books. I can’t think of anything more worthy. Did you know there are at least three collective nouns for books? They are a ‘shelf’, ‘library’ and ‘pile’. I personally think ‘stack’ should be in there too.
It has made me ponder what the collective noun should be for Brené Brown’s books? At first, I thought of a ‘wisdom’ or an ‘inspiration’ but now I am thinking a collection of Brené Brown’s books, without doubt, should be called a paradox.
Brené Brown’s Books
The Gifts of Imperfection –Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Daring Greatly – How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead
Rising Strong – The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.
Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Brené Brown’s Vulnerability TED Talk
Book Lovers Day Blog Posts
If you liked my blog post then you will love these other posts celebrating Book Lovers Day from my Mastermind Blogger friends…