Today’s post will be part of a Mother Talk blog tour discussing Arianna Huffington’s On Becoming Fearless . . . in Love, Work, and Life. I’ll just be up front about the fact that I kind of suck at book reviews, so this will be less of an overall description of Becoming Fearless and more of a discussion about some of the topics she brings up.

I should also admit I didn’t really know who Arianna Huffington was before receiving the book. I’d heard of the Huffington Post, but I had to do some research to get the full picture of Huffington’s impressive background. I don’t have any affiliation with her political or business choices, but it’s clear she’s a very accomplished woman.

Becoming Fearless is probably not something I would have picked up on my own. Here’s another blogger’s apt description of the book:

“Huffington wrote this book (her forst foray into the self-help genre) as a sort of guidebook for her teenaged daughters who were starting to become overwhelmed by the same fears that nearly overwhelmed her as a teen. The are the same fears that plague (and often paralyze) so many women – fears that they are not attractive enough, not loveable enough, not smart enough, not good enough. So Huffington combined essays from well known figures such as Diane Keaton and Nora Ephron with her own story to encourage her daughters, and the reader, to face their fears head on. She tackles fears surrounding body image, love, work, parenting, money, ageing and illness, god and death, leadership and speaking out and changing the world.”

Nothing against the genre, but I’m not usually interested in self-help books. Also, I didn’t find myself relating to the term “fear” with regards to the issues Huffington tackles, until I read this section at the beginning of her book, under “How Fear Limits Us”:

“To live in fear is the worst form of insult to our true selves. By having such a low regard for who we are—for our instincts and abilities and worth—we build a cage around ourselves. To prevent others from shutting us down, we do it for them.”

That perfectly captures some of the unproductive thinking I get bogged down by. Example:

1. I would like to publish a book
2. But I’m sure no publisher would buy it
3. And I probably couldn’t really write an entire book, anyway
4. So I might as well not even try

I know I can be my own worst saboteur, and to think of it in terms of fearfulness is uncomfortable but accurate. I fear rejection and failure, so I often avoid taking steps towards my own dreams.

The book is comprised of several chapters, each dealing with a specific area of fear. Body image, love and partnerships, parenting, work, money, aging, etc. Some of these were more interesting to me than others. Some, like the chapter on body image (“Fearless About the Body”) seemed to offer nothing more than the same platitudes we’ve read time and time again (celebrate yourself and embrace your flaws, but do take care of yourself for your own health and well-being, etc), mixed with breezy anecdotes and some commonsensical advice.

In the chapter titled “Fearless in Parenting” Huffingon touches on some challenging issues like working outside the home, dealing with super-mom myths and expectations, guilt, fear for our childrens’ safety, being a single parent. I found this chapter unsatisfying at first because it seemed to offer no unique perspective, but it was definitely worth reading for the following quote (attributed to psychotherapist and “relationship expert” Heide Banks):

“If you look at the best research on parenting, it comes down to one thing and one thing only. Not what you teach your children or how much time you spend with them, or if you read to them or not. What it comes down to is who you are, because we teach who we are. You read, your child will read. You watch too much TV, your child will. You do service in the world, your child will do service in the world. So the best way to get past all the worries is to be the best you that you can be. And forgive yourself when you are not. […] Be an example to yourself that your child can be proud of.”

That right there is something I’d like inscribed in needlepoint and hung on my wall. I find the entire statement both inspiring and soothing, and to consider the truth in it helps turn the volume down on my internal Guilt-O-Meter that constantly questions whether I’m completely shitting the bed in the parenting department.

While I wouldn’t say Becoming Fearless is the most inspirational thing I’ve ever read, overall I enjoyed it—not because she provided answers but that she provided the venue for me to consider the questions. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in the book, but it contains some good messages that are worth taking the time to consider.

The one area where I parted ways with the author was in the chapter on spiritualism, titled “Fearless About God and Death”. She writes, in part:

“Here’s the bottom line: […] if you believe that there is nothing but an accidental, indifferent universe, it’s going to be incredibly hard to move from fear to fearlessness because, after all, the essential characteristic of fearlessness is trust.”

Huffington goes on to argue that while the form of spiritualism isn’t important, there is a need for some sort of faith, so we can then distinguish between “transient day-to-day concerns and that which is eternal and immutable.”

I agree that being connected to something greater than yourself gives deeper meaning to your own life, but that connection can be made in so many ways: through friends, family, activism, work, the list goes on and on. I don’t believe having trust in our potential and our abilities has to hinge on a spiritual belief system. I don’t believe my choices are limited or misdirected as a result of living in a Godless universe.

All in all, I think you’d probably find it an interesting read, so check it out if you get a chance.

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