Rising Strong

Life Lessons from Brene Brown's Rising Strong

In her book Rising StrongBrene Brown uses a powerful phrase that resonates as much for me as advice from the Gap and the Gain. Brown, a shame researcher, talks about falling down and finding the courage to reset ourselves so we can get back up again.

Anytime we feel exceedingly vulnerable when asking for what we need, she suggests using the phrase: The story I’m telling myself… Read on to find out more about how to use her line to move forward.

Brene Brown’s Lake Travis Story

As an example of how this line works, Brown shares a story about swimming in Lake Travis with her husband Steve. In it, she tries several times to connect with him on a deep, spiritual level, without getting the desired (i.e. expected) response.

The fiction she creates in her mind is that she’s too slow. Or that her husband doesn’t like how she looks in her swimsuit. Perhaps he no longer felt connected to her after years of marriage.

Meanwhile, his own story involves dwelling on a recent nightmare about losing the kids in a boating accident. While he is preoccupied with trying to remain the strong, capable, heroic man he thinks she wants him to be, she’s trying to connect.

When they finally talk about it later, she uses the phrase, “The story I’m telling myself…” It signals that she feels vulnerable, tentative, and aware that she may have created a false narrative.

They both share their own interpretation of the moment. As a result, they weather the rough spot with greater understanding and appreciation for each other.



A Tool for Reframing Your Story

Brown’s story unlocked something for me. I tend to avoid confrontation. I also realize that I tend to see things in black-and-white, all-or-nothing, or even tell myself my own version of the truth based on my own filters rather than facts.

Her phrase is empowering. Using it allows us to take ownership of the narrative we’re telling ourselves and voice it aloud. By sharing it with another person, we can learn whether our stories are close or if we have completely missed the mark.

I’ve used this with my daughter and my husband. Each time, I’ve gained more clarity and learned how often the story I’m concocting has some incorrect “facts”. Imagine having such a powerful tool that we can clear up misunderstandings. This reframing phrase can be that tool.

An Example of Rising Strong

One of the recent opportunities I had to use the phrase revolves around expectations. As a personal trainer and coach, I expect that when I schedule a session, the person will show up on time, ready to work. Likewise, when I make an appointment, I arrive on time and expect the other person to be ready for me. When I show up and the practitioner does not, the story I tell myself is that I don’t matter, that I am “less important” than whatever else is going on. Or worse, that I am simply forgotten.

If we can recognize those interpretations as mere interpretations, not based on fact, but simply stories we’re telling ourselves, we can become more compassionate toward ourselves. We can step back and look for facts. For the truth.

In the above example, not only am I usually wrong, but the problem is NOT between the two of us, but rather, a problem with technology. My phone had issues sending and receiving texts.

Since the other person texts exclusively, we kept on missing each other. The new, true story based on facts became “My technology needs updating.” That was something I could control, change, and act on.

That discovery led to owning and discussing the problem, apologizing, finding a better way to confirm future appointments, backing up data on my old phone, and ordering a new one that doesn’t have the same problem. We both experienced a win-win and kept our relationship intact.

The Takeaways

The next time you find yourself becoming upset, take a moment and take three deep breaths. Think about why you are getting emotional. Ask yourself several times, “Why does this matter?” so you can get to the heart of what’s bugging you.

Then, talk with the other person or people involved. Use the phrase, “The story I’m telling myself…” or, another phrase I love from Dale Carnegie, “I may be wrong, I often am, but…” so that you own your thinking, rather than pointing a finger at another person.

Finally, examine the facts – those truths that hold for everyone involved – and show curiosity. “You were late” becomes “We agreed to meet at 1:30 and it’s 1:43. What happened?” Avoid using “why” or “you” as these may become forms of aggression. Own your emotions, own your thoughts, and then share them as honestly — and vulnerably — as you can.