In 2017, when I read the book by Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, I’d only planned to read it because some colleagues suggested it, and I’d heard a few clients mention her Ted Talk (The power of vulnerability). Because I thought it could be useful to be able to talk to my clients about what they got out of it, I popped onto Amazon and ordered a copy as well as copies of her other books that were out at the time just in case I liked “Gifts”.
I expected a short, hopefully palatable, self-help style book that would not necessarily stand out from the rest of the surface skimming stuff that is floating around out there. In case you didn’t pick up that subtext, I’m not a super-fan of self-help. Ultimately, it took me a month to read it cover to cover because of how deeply her words impacted me. Spoiler Alert: It hit me in “all the feels”.
I was absolutely not ready for the impact her book would have on me. Yes, it was short. Yes, it was palatable. No, it was not surface skimming. It was deep and exposed emotional raw spots that I did not know were still unhealed. Those emotional raw spots felt like sunburns that were being covered in aloe periodically throughout the process of reading each chapter; it stung at first and then felt sticky, then felt okay.
Up until that point in life, I’d become accustomed to only describing my emotions as “Happy”, “Pissed off”, or “Fine” which we all know can mean 14 or more different things based upon pitch, tone, and facial expression. I had learned that my emotions were not acceptable (other than happy) and that people weren’t actually supposed to share their feelings. This concept of being vulnerable and then expressing my feelings was a lot to take in (ironic being a therapist, but hey, we’re human too). Whenever I reached a point in a chapter that touched on one of those sunburns, I caught myself saying aloud, “Shut up Brené Brown!” and setting the book side. Each time my husband would ask what was wrong and I would say, “This damned book” or “That damned Brené Brown is hitting me right in the feels”. Inevitably, I would pick it up again in a few hours or the next day and, still talking out loud, would say, “Okay Brené Brown, what next?”.
After a while, I was unable to escape a chapter without having a hard cry. The more I allowed her words and work to permeate my emotional walls, the more I realized that I could not un-know the things the parts of me that were uncovered. That I (and my relationships) could benefit from my learning to be vulnerable (with boundaries). That I had to do something about what I’d learned about myself. I have been inspired by, learned from, and experienced such tremendous growth because of Brené Brown’s work. I have learned that vulnerability with boundaries is possible. That the practice of courage over comfort may cause some temporary butt pain, AND it ultimately brings more peace into my life. I am inspired daily to dare greatly.
I’ve used her work not only in my own work but have also incorporated it into my work with clients. I’ve found that it pairs beautifully with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), SE (Somatic Experiencing), and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). In short, what she has to offer is not just another self-help schtick.
Dang, Brené Brown… please NEVER shut up. Never stop learning and sharing your knowledge. You are a wonderful light in our world. I am and will be eternally grateful for the impact you have had on my personal and professional selves.