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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17 years ago

This topic is really timely for me right now. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention and for the completely non-sucky book review.

17 years ago

i have to admit i didn’t actually read your entire post (but i will, i promise! this book sounds like JUST what i need) because i’m supposed to be working *ahem*.

but i have to say, Dollface, if you were to write a book, i would be one of the first ones lining up to buy it! you’re amazing! you’re wonderful! and if it weren’t totally creepy (and geographically inconvenient) i’d TOTALLY stalk you!

please. pleasepleaseplease write a book.

17 years ago

What a particularly salient post for me right now, having just found out I am pregnant. (And, no not married. Boyfriend? Well, let’s just say he’s *considering* sticking around.) My life is comprised solely of fear, doubt and worry right now.

Fear that I will not be able to raise a child on my own. Fear that I will end the pregnancy out of fear. Fear that my life, my plans are gone. Just a general crapload of fear and self-doubt.

So, thanks.
Reading this has helped me take a deep breath for the first time in twenty-four hours.

Oh! And, of course, your book WILL be a rockin’ hit. (Even with the zombie crowd!)

laughing mommy
17 years ago

You have nothing to fear with writing a book. Your writing is amazing, and your books would fly off the shelves.

17 years ago

Sundry, you will find some way other than the antiquated needlepoint to inscribe that credo in your life. Or you will somehow make needlepointing cool. You’re just smoove like dat. The truism reminded me of another I just heard at a conference: “Children rarely take their parents advice, but they rarely fail to follow their parents example.”

While my own spirituality informs so much of what I do, and while I do believe that God is all good, sometimes I think I may have more fear about things than the non-believahhhs do. N’ah mean? I don’t think I could be bold enough to tell someone that they’ll have letting go of their personal fear if they didn’t cling to something Higher!

coffee stained
17 years ago

Thank you so much for this review. Reprinting that quote was worth it for me. I needed to read that today.

17 years ago

I have that exact same four-step mental process every time I think about writing a book. Thus far, it has not helped me write a book — a shock, I know. Nor has it helped me get over my feelings of blind rage and jealousy when other people — people I don’t even know, mind you — write and publish their own books. It’s possibly the dumbest cycle to put myself through, yet there it is.

It’s time to push those thoughts away — AWAY, I SAY — and do it.

And I KNOW you can do it, and you will succeed brilliantly.

17 years ago

Nothing holds us back like the fear of rejection or worse..fear of being outed as the ‘fraud’ we think we are.
I quit Law School because I was a nervous wreck thinking somebody would sooner or later discover I shouldn’t be there. That fear that someone would tap me on the shoulder and say ‘heyyy stupid, how’d you slip through the net?’. So I failed one test, proved myself right and quit the next day. Can you say doofus? Of course now I look back and wish wish wish I had mustered the courage to stay. It all happens for some sort of cosmic undefinable reason, and I truly am happy with here I am in life but still…I could have been HERE with a damn law degree.
As for you..write the book. Seriously. Worst case scenario – noone publishes, noone buys it..VERY unlikely but even if that does happen, you can still say ‘hey, I wrote a book’.
I saw a saying once and seared it into my brain…
“When you are old and gray and laying on your deathbed, you will never regret the things you did do, only the things you didn’t”
Write the book…

17 years ago

I read it because I got it free at Blogher last year. I’d say you’re pretty good at book reviews.

17 years ago

I am not a fan of Huffington but she may be on to something with this fearlessness and trust issue. Based on the brief quote you gave, I think Huffington uses the word “trust” not so much to mean trusting in ourselves (our potential and abilities) but trusting and having faith that we are put on this earth for a greater purpose and trusting that God is always there for us. I don’t live with a lot of fear in my life and I absolutely know that it is because of my faith in God and belief in the Bible. When fear comes up, I can face it head-on with prayer and read whatever God’s word has to say on the subject, trusting that I will ultimately be okay, I’m where I am supposed to be, etc. A lot of people scoff at this type of belief system as if Christians are stupid or blind to reality. Whatever, man – all I know is that life is good and I have no doubts about my purpose in life.

Self-help books are always about trusting in yourself, believing in yourself, you can accomplish anything, etc. And there is nothing wrong with having confidence in your ability to accomplish great things but the bottom line is – you are not in control. The only thing that we are in total control of is ourselves – the rest is up to God (at least in my book). Outcomes and consequences are not ours to control if other people are involved in any way. The only way that I can be fearless in that kind of world is by trusting God and striving to live in a Christ-like manner. Much as I hate to say it, Huffington has a point.

You should write a book. If you feel like you are supposed to do it, then by all means, do it. And trust that if it is meant to be published, it absolutely will be. You just have to do the footwork – and have faith!

17 years ago

I like your review; it gives me a really good idea about what the book is like. And it sounds like I wouldn’t agree with the author. Just for starters, I don’t think our children DO turn out to be like us or to do what we do. Probably they emulate us in some ways, but I don’t think in general people end up being copies of their parents. And thank goodness for THAT, is all I can say after a day of eating brownies and accidentally swearing.

I also think that whether or not faith is a useful thing to have, it isn’t something that can be deliberately acquired: either you believe or you don’t, and it’s pointless to say someone “should” believe.

But I liked your review of the book I probably wouldn’t like!

Monkey Boxer
Monkey Boxer
17 years ago

On getting published… To my complete surprise, my first novel is coming out next year. I think the trick is to just write because its a worthwhile undertaking, and not to worry too much about acceptance. In the arts there is substantial inherent uncertainty – you can deterministically become a successful accountant but there is no sure way to be a good or successful writer. Just throw yourself into it…

17 years ago

That is such an amazing quote, and it really does make me feel better about myself and my parenting. At the same time, it’s so inspiring without being pushy and all “you’re not good enough” the way you are about it… I definitely have to check out Heide Banks now!

17 years ago

Please write a book. Anyone who pulls off “saboteur” and “shitting the bed” in the same post has true talent. I mean it. Even my husband, the most cynical man around, reads your site. You can get him to laugh and scratch his head in consideration. But not necessarily at the same time.

You have a story that needs telling, of that I’m certain. One thing I need to clarify before I buy it though . . . will it contain zombies? Because I’m totally (unreasonably) afraid of zombies.

Does “Becoming Fearless” address zombie fear?

17 years ago

Please write a book. Do it now. Right now.

17 years ago

A book reccomendation for you: Pick up Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers (subtitle is “Surviving and Thriving as a Writer”). I’m about halfway through this collection of essays, and there’s a lot here I’m taking to heart. I think you might like it. And it’s not overly self-help-y. And it might be the kick you need to actually start writing a book, which I am firmly in favor of.

17 years ago

Like a lot of people, I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time now, and am sure there would be a lot of interest in any book you might write. No news there! But I’m chiming in to say, have you considered self-publishing? Because then you can skip the whole “But I’m sure no publisher would buy it” bit. With a service like (which I’ve been using for personal photo albums, but it has a lot of other uses) you can write your book in Word, and then upload and make it available for sale on-line for free. Put the link on your blog and wait to see how many people decide they have to own a copy… Lulu gets a cut when you sell, but if you don’t sell, you don’t owe them anything. Perfect for someone with trepidations…

16 years ago

very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

14 years ago

I’m now 19 and experiencing being a dad. I must say although it feels good it’s still hard. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but to be honest, the hard part is having to balance time. My daughter is great and makes managing her never dreadful. -Teen dad

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