Posted in Books, Reading

Book review: ‘You Are Enough’ by Mandy Hale

A few posts ago I reviewed Mandy Hale’s book Beautiful Uncertainty.  Her newest book, You Are Enough: Heartbreak, Healing, and Becoming Whole, is the subject of today’s post. If you have read Beautiful Uncertainty, you could not ask for a greater contrast between that book and this new one, and perhaps even wonder if this book is by the same author – indeed it was a big surprise to me.  But I felt that the beauty about both books was not found in comparing them or judging whether one was better than the other, rather it was found in the reality of Mandy’s words and the raw emotion, maturity, wisdom, and passion which has developed in her life since she wrote Beautiful Uncertainty.  Clearly, life-changing things have happened to her in the years since that book, and deciding to write about her experiences to help others was a courageous thing to do. 

What initially struck me about this new book and Beautiful Uncertainty, even before I opened it, was the difference in covers.  It is said that you should never judge a book by its cover, but looking at them in this case, the tone was set from the very beginning.  It is dark-coloured with big, bold, chalky font that is in your face.  None of this frou-frou girly, fluffy, pink stuff.  No fairy floss here, my fellow MuSinGers.  There is, however, a picture of a single yellow sunflower poking out on the side, giving us a hint that there is hope to come – or is there?  Perhaps that sunflower is meant to be you, silently emerging from the dark?

I found the book confronting in many ways, probably because I had just finished reading Beautiful Uncertainty and I enjoyed the comforting positive quotes and prayers in that.  This time however, the author was revealing a much darker side to her life and heavy personal news, including a family tragedy.  It felt more serious because it just was. 

You Are Enough opens our eyes to the often painful path of any change or challenge, and exhorts us to not give up on ourselves or life.  We observe the author coming to grips with major life events and multiple rejections.  Through her experiences and lessons, she is asking us to realise just how amazingly resilient and brave we humans really are, if we don’t give up.  You may feel lost, but you will find yourself again.

From Mandy’s words came a truth that many of us don’t want to talk about or deal with (especially if you are single and the years are passing you by) – life can hurt like hell and sugarcoating it won’t work.  In fact, dancing benignly through everything can make it worse.  Sometimes you just have to call it out and get real.  It is only then that true healing can begin.

She emphasises the importance of community and how connecting with other people can literally save your life.  I have found this to be so true.  If I did not have my church, my service through the music, and regular interaction with people who are on my wavelength, I would feel completely lost in life.  Shutting yourself away and being isolated is not what humans were created for, especially when you are going through tough stretches.

Facing transitions – whether it is leaving a job and treading a new unknown path, or realising that a ‘sure-thing’ relationship has disintegrated, or whatever your ‘then and now’ scenario is – feels like you are shedding old skin.  The person you were is not the person you are now.  You were once there, and now you are here.  You see yourself from a distance, almost like an out-of-body experience, and you wonder who he or she was.  You may even feel that you have lost your identity.

Our souls are affected.  We get shaken up.  We are rattled.  We may sink into a hole and never feel like getting out of bed.  We wonder if we are a waste of space.  We see others who are glowing with new love, or can easily find a great job, or are admired, or seem to be successful in all of the ways which we are not.  We may think, “When will my time come?”  But what we often do not see is the past pain that such people mask with great skill.    

We live in a time when so many of us are silently suffering from mental issues and depression more than ever before.  That sense of connectedness, wholesomeness, trust, and community seems evasive.  However, Mandy always comes back to those three words: You Are Enough.  You cannot connect with others unless you respect yourself first.  You cannot keep putting yourself down and keep pleasing others or pine for someone to rescue you.  You need to get real and love yourself.  You need to turn to God because He loves you too.

On the surface, Mandy Hale appears to be a woman who has everything, but her story shows that we simply do not know the truth about our fellow human beings when we pass them in the street.  Our eyes cannot see our hidden stories.  Many of us are walking around this planet dragging around our sufferings like a ball and chain.  The only real difference between us all is that some people are better actors than others.  We are scared of acknowledging our torments and helping each other to let it out and let it go.  I often think that if everyone allowed each other to truly feel this for one day, the earth would be flooded with our tears.  But linked together, we could all float to the top as one and never drown.

While the words ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ do not appear as often in this book than in Beautiful Uncertainty, and this may feel disappointing (it was to me initially), it is important not to harshly judge the author, or indeed anyone going through a difficult period.  Even the most apparently devout or holy people among us may at times feel lost or abandoned by God. Mandy’s faith is still there, and it becomes apparent in my favourite chapter when she discusses her church hopping travels on her way back to the God she has always loved.

I won’t reveal more lest I spoil the ending; suffice to say that it is packed with advice for all of us on this sometimes rocky road of life.  If you are coping with mental illness, depression, self-doubt, rejection, and disconnection with life and other people, I would urge you to read this book.  It is filled with hope for you.  Even if you are in a happy space in your life right now, it is one to keep on your shelf for those times when your cross feels too hard to bear.

In my review of Beautiful Uncertainty I said that if it were a cake it would be a “giant three-tiered fluffy sponge, with pink and white icing around every edge, cream” etc.  Well, if You Are Enough were a cake it would be covered with straight-up dark chocolate and no decorations – and possibly half a cup of rum thrown in there too.  It would not be covered smoothly with that glossy dark chocolate look, but would be peppered with pockmarks and flaws.  Yep, this cake is brutally honest.  When you cut it open you get chocolate oozing out of the middle (can you tell I am writing this while hungry?…I digress…) and the rules are that you have to eat it all with your fingers only.  Messy, candid, and real.  No prissy napkins.  There is nothing cute about the process.

I have since had reason to read this book twice – the first time was with my inquisitive, analytical hat on, to find out about what Mandy had gone through – more like a catch-up with the author.  The second time I plunged into the book was because I actually needed it – to reach out for words of reassurance after, yet again, going through an experience which left me angry, rejected, and mistrustful of people and their sometimes selfish agendas.

While this book is a powerfully different side of Mandy from what we have learnt in her previous writings, it is a beautifully genuine story which emerges from the depths of despair.  Our hearts and minds need constant reminding that we are, each and every one of us, precious and ENOUGH.

Image Credit: pixabay.com

Author:

I enjoy musing, observing, reflecting, singing, writing, gardening, exercising, and dogs - usually not all at once. My Catholic faith and church is an important part of my life. Check out my blog, The MuSinGer, at musings.music.blog

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