Awhile back a friend watched me discipline my son. The most delicate way to describe my attitude towards him in that moment might be "exasperated". She looked at us amusedly, him whining, me exhausted and said "Thank you so much for not making it look easy. I really appreciate that you don't pretend it's easy." I think some people might've taken the comment as a backhanded compliment. The kind of snipe that's emblematic of the so-called Mommy wars. I didn't. I knew my friend was sincere. I've treasured that compliment deep in my heart because it brought me comfort to remember that our imperfections can have the same redeeming qualities as our strengths. After reading Dr. Brene Brown's book I think she would agree. Her book Daring Greatly discusses the power of vulnerability, arguing that our avoidance of vulnerability does not help us to avoid disappointment and pain but rather to miss out on opportunities for love, connection, creativity and triumph. At the risk of sounding melodramatic I'd like to state for the record that I would recommend this book unreservedly to anyone and everyone. It is changing the way I see myself, my loved ones and the people who populate my world. It will be a classic that changes the way we understand vulnerability, fear and shame.
Dr. Brown is a reasearch professor in Social Work and has investigated shame and vulnerability over the past decade. Her book balances academic rigor, practical advice and compelling personal stories. While reading this book I wanted to cry and take notes at the same time. It was a very inspiring and unique reading experience.
I could tell you more specifics about the book but I think the following story will tell you all you need to know. Almost immediately after finishing this book I experienced a very difficult and charged conversation that left me dazed. The details of the conversation are not important but vulnerable seems to soft a word to describe how I felt afterwards. I was so upset with myself that I took a walk to collect my thoughts. I ended up jaywalking across two streets directly towards a policeman on a bike. Understandably upset by my blatant disregard for safety/the law/common sense the policeman proceeded to rip me a new one at the stoplight (there were a ton of people around to watch. Bonus!) "What were you thinking? The way you jaywalked is so dangerous AND it doesn't even save any time. What is WRONG WITH YOU?" As he sat there berating me publicly all I could think was "Man, if you only knew. Everything is wrong with me today."
The upside was that the wretched day became a useful pop quiz for practicing the tools in the book, which is exactly what I did after I extracted myself from the policeman's fury. And I don't mean that I did some mumbo-jumbo "affirmation" exercise and then watched TV. I mean that I literally went home after my disaster of a day, sat down with my book and started following the precise instructions of how to deal with the fallout. I struggle with perfectionism and I've often found that the kind of mistakes that led to my no good, very, bad, terrible day land me in a state of paralyzing fear. Not this time. This time I'm doing my best to remember that growth is often uncomfortable and not to fear the discomfort. I'm trying to remember how terrible it is to be the one in the wrong and to remember to be more generous and kind when I'm disciplining my child. I'm trying to be corageous and not run away or obesses about the valuable criticism I've received. Most of all though, I'm remembering that there is a very important action item for each of you: read this book.
This is a paid review for the BlogHer Book Club. All opinions expressed are my own. To join in on the group discussion on Daring Greatly click here.