Here’s the review of Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, by Brené Brown (2021) that I promised recently. I think I am growing tired of self-help books or something, because this one didn’t impress me as much as some others I’ve read.
There were good parts to this book, which consists mostly of a discussion of a wide range of human emotions, which it turns out there is no agreed-upon number of nor many firm definitions. I enjoyed learning the difference between envy and jealousy, as well as pride versus hubris. Pride can be good. Hubris is not a good thing to have. You think you’re great, people think you’re awful, but you don’t care. Sound familiar?
I was disappointed that some of the emotions didn’t get much discussion. I would have liked more information on many of the complex ones. It felt like Brown just stopped at random points, inconclusively.
Anyway, the last part of the book is about a new grounded theory of meaningful connection. I’m all for meaningful connection. Combined with her concept of “near enemies,” Brown defines how to develop grounded confidence, the courage to walk alongside others, and practice story stewardship. The last is interesting to me, as it has to do with listening, believing and acknowledging, without giving advice, taking over people’s stories, or putting others down.
I think this is useful, but not as earth-shattering as it has been made out to be. A lot is common sense. Oh well, it’s helpful information, but it came across like a PowerPoint presentation not a full-fledged explanation. I’m being nit-picky.
And one more thing. A whole lot of the book is quotes from her earlier books. It seemed a bit like padding. But hey, it’s on really nice paper and has lots of colors. I like colors.
I’ve been reading Dare to Lead, a book by my favorite self-help author, Brené Brown (it’s the book I reviewed the horrible workbook for back in March). It was my suggestion for our work book club at Planview. What’s annoying is that I keep leaving the book in Austin, so I hadn’t been able to keep up, but I finally remembered to bring the book back with me last time I went, so I was able to read the correct chapter for today’s meeting.
I sure am glad I did, too, because some of the things she has us thinking about in the “Living Our Values” section helped me focus on not only how to effectively deal with coworkers, but also how to deal with the people around us during this pandemic.
Brown stresses that it’s important to know what your personal core values are, because they will affect how you make decisions, work with others, and treat yourself. And you only get to have TWO of them (though she lets you pick sub-values, too). I already had a set of guiding principles I live by:
Treat others how you’d like to be treated
Assume good intentions
But, I’d never chosen a mere two words to be my core values. So, this was an interesting exercise to me. I ended up with these:
Making a difference
Kindness was easy. I have always tried my best to be kind, and feel unsettled and weird if I realize I’m not being kind (usually it’s when I find myself being judgmental, and I have to snap out of it).
I had a little harder time figuring out that making a difference was the correct second value. I thought about my past career choices, both paid and volunteer, and I easily saw that what tied them all together was that I wanted to somehow make life easier for others and/or make a genuine contribution to society with what I did. I’ve helped build educational databases, taught college students, helped mothers breastfeed, gave organizations and individuals websites to spread their messages, written documentation and made e-learning for software companies, etc. In all of these, I’ve been wanting to make a difference to people.
When the time came to do our book club meeting, the three of us who’d made choices of values had all chosen kindness as one of them. I guess I’m not as original as I thought, or people who choose kindness tend to join book clubs! I really enjoyed talking to the other three women who were able to attend today, and am almost glad it was a small group, because we were able to share in meaningful ways. Thanks, Zoom meetings!
Other parts of the little chapter I read hit me very close to home, too. Brown included a discussion of keeping this in mind when you are providing feedback:
“…everyone is doing the best they can.”
It helps me with the judgmentalism I need to worry about so much in myself. And it’s my core belief that I need to assume good intentions. And like Brown’s husband Steve pointed out, even if it’s not true, things sure work out better if you just go ahead and make that assumption.
Hmm, can you try to do that with people on the other side of the mask wearing issue? Of the other political party? I find that to be a very interesting exercise, and one that I wish I could share further. It’s not that, “Oh, why can’t everyone just get along,” plea. It’s more of a, “Where are the people I disagree with coming from, and can I use that information to better understand them, or to talk to them productively?”
I’d really like to talk with more people about these core values and how they inform our lives, and these really helpful attitudes toward other people. Feedback is welcome!
Oh, who hasn’t had a rough relationship with love? (Not a surprising UU Lent word, is it?) If you haven’t, count yourself as fortunate and give yourself a big hug. Wait, everyone else, also give yourselves big hugs. And now for some brutal honesty.
My issue, like so many of us, has been with romantic love. I was always a big fan. And boy oh boy was I full of it. Those happy hormones it kept pumping into me were my drug of choice. I kept seeking it out, even when I had perfectly good relationships. This here was my biggest failing, because I repeatedly did really inappropriate things in my quest for my love drug.
And, what did that do to me? It made me love myself less. And that led to the feeling that I was worthless if nobody loved me, so I did more unhelpful things to try to get the people I loved to love me or continue to love me. I worked way too hard for my Dad’s love, which spilled out to romantic relationships.
That led me to like myself less and less. My inner monologue consisted of, “No one likes you…you have no friends…you are so fat…you are a failure…” I’m surprised I could get up every morning and go to work, take care of my kids, or volunteer constantly.
Do you see a downward spiral looming? I sure do, in retrospect. I ended up with the pathetic tendency to do just about anything to get love, romantic or otherwise. I was one of those people you read about who change themselves to try to be the person their object of affection wanted.
Note: That does not work.
It never occurred to me that it’s very hard to love someone who doesn’t love themselves, and I certainly didn’t love myself. I needed to learn about other types of love than romantic love, obsession, and sex hormones.
I did it! Was it easy? Nope. I had to admit a lot of icky things about myself (see above) but thanks to a good therapist, I was able to figure out what led me to end up the way I was, and forgive my past self. I was able to see that all those past actions were leading me to current wisdom and peace.
Learning to love myself has let me love others in so many ways without having to have all that hormonal stuff mess with my mind (I still have hormones; I just recognize them for what they are).
What I Can Do Now
I can love my family without expecting anything in return (thank goodness, since one of them seems to not love me back at the moment). And I can appreciate their love without basing my self esteem on it.
I can love my friends and be okay if they go away or have a problem with me. If they want to work it out, I’m there to do so. If not, I’ll love them from a distance.
I can love people I don’t know. For all I know, my loving vibes may be helping in some way I can’t be consciously aware of.
I can love all my animal companions and enjoy their love back.
I can love my planet.
Will I have bad moments? Will I get jealous or envious of someone else’s relationship, or hurt when things don’t work out? Yep. But I’ll pick myself back up and keep going.
I’m grateful to everyone I’ve ever loved and hope you got some good out of it. And I’m sorry for those I hurt.
I’m grateful for my spouse, his patience, and his ability to love me as I am.
I’m grateful to Victoria.
I’m grateful to Brené Brown. Even if I generally find self-help books annoying, her conversational style and repetition of the same point in different ways helped me break through and shut my inner voice up. Go read a Brené Brown book.
I just can’t stop laughing, so I have to share. This will be brief. I went to Amazon to write a review of the Dare to Lead workbook I “read” yesterday. Of course, I had to read the other reviews. That started my day off right. There was ONE positive review, and it was written in exactly the same psueudo-English that so many of the spam comments that come into our blogs show up in. Let me get you an example:
Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea
The rest of the folks join me in universal rejection of this poor little booklet, which by the way was “Independently published (January 18, 2020).” AHA! I shall never again overlook those words!
Reviewer Kevin agreed with me: “It is chock full of misspellings and grammatical errors so much so that I believe an 8th grade English teacher would give this paper an ‘F.'”
This review is my favorite, so I screenshotted it:
Be very careful what books you order, especially if you haven’t heard about them. Remember that some self-published books, like my future series Suna Blathers On, will be just fine. Many are scary. Also, read the reviews. That can be quite entertaining for bad books and enlightening for good ones.
Want the real resources for Dare to Lead? You can find them right here, a read-along guide and a glossary. Oh boy, I hope “rumble” and “lean in” are in the glossary! (That was sarcasm folks; I’m steeling myself to wade through the jargon to find the good parts in Dare to Lead.)
*This is a chapter title in Workbook for Dare to Lead.
We all make mistakes, right? Well I’m about to admit to making a big mistake. I spent $8.99 on a “book” that is only a book by virtue of having pages, a cover, and some printing. I had good intentions!
The work book club is going to read Dare to Lead, by my buddy Brené Brown. When I went to pick up a second copy (because I hid my first copy when I pitched a fit about how many times she said “lean in”), I saw there was also available a study guide for the book. I thought it would be great to have some questions and ideas to talk about when we have our meetings.
Today the books showed up. Coworker Maggie said, “Hey that’s a printout of a PDF; they always have those ugly rectangles on them.” I told her to check out the inside. There’s no author (unless the Review Press is a person), little publishing information, and no blank pages. You just jump right into a table of contents.
Then you keep going, or you try to. OMG, the whole thing is in “books for the visually impaired” size type, and it’s conveniently both right AND left justified. And because the huge print makes the lines quite short, the gaps between words can create not rivers, but entire seas within the paragraphs.
As I read the first part of the book, it because clear that it is a book report penned by a 14-year-old in the UK (there’s a “Lessons Learnt” chapter) trying to get the paper long enough to fit the teacher’s requirements. Poor Brené is referred to as “the writer” endlessly, and poor Dare to Lead is repeatedly called a novel. If it’s a novel, the character development and plot both suck.
But Wait, There’s More
The book report, replete with listings of the names of each section and verbatim content from Dare to Lead, mercifully ends after 22 zippy pages. Then ten pages of quotes from the book are kindly shared by, um, let’s call them “the author.” These are dizzily presented centered, but still full of huge gaps. And for fun, one’s occasionally left aligned. (I’m a hack writer too, though, how many adverbs ending in -ly were necessary in this paragraph?)
I guess “the author” got tired after picking out those quotes, because the “Conclusion” section slides into a description of the organization of the book and the names of chapters. Riveting. After carefully detailing Part 1 (though alternating on using and not using quotation marks around chapter/section titles), everything comes to a screeching halt:
“Haven discussed all the sections in part one, the writer further divided the book to part two, three and four and termed it living into our values, under section two the writer stated that giving and receiving feedbacks is one of the biggest fears at work…”
the author, Workbook for Dare to Lead
They then finally take a breath and give one sentence for each of the rest of the sections Brown so carefully put LOTS of concepts in. It’s okay, the author had to save space for the lessons learnt and workbook pages. I don’t think I’ll be using any of the workbook questions in the book club, though I could play connect the dots using the dotted lines between pages.
To Conclude My Most Excellent Review
I actually hadn’t intended to write a book report of this book report, but it just came pouring out, and was probably good for me in a cathartic sort of way. I realize someone wrote the study guide quickly to get something out there to make money. I was silly not to look carefully and see that it was from a self-publishing purveyor.
Mainly, I want to beg and plead with any of you who plan to self publish books or know someone who does:
Please, please, please have someone look over your content before you send it in.
Amazon is NOT gonna do it. They’re going to print copies of your PDF on demand and send them to innocent people who want to read an actual book.
At least glance at other books and see how they are set up. Large print and small pages are not a good combination. Most important, while Microsoft may say what appears at right about justified text, it helps to have professional typesetters and to use hyphenation. You might want to take note, too, that centering works best in very small doses.
Of course, you or someone else should proofread; “have4” is not a word, but it’s in the study guide. I forgive using semi-colons for colons in introducing lists, since whoever wrote this was trained in the British style.
One More Thing
Some very good books have started out self published. I am proud of some of the people I know who wrote them. Not all self published books are embarrassingly bad, but caveat emptor and all that.
On the other hand, I wonder if I should just PDF up every year’s worth of my blogs and offer them for sale? Suna Blathers On, Volume 1, and so forth. I could use some money, and I did write this all by myself, errors and repetitious phrases and all. I guess I’m a writer after all! Maybe I’m creative!
I’m gonna do the whole thing in Comic Sans! That’s pretty!