Viola Davis has spent years building a dazzling career, first moving away from a past of poverty and trauma, and ultimately coming to terms with that past. The actress’ artistic achievements as the first African-American to win the Triple Crown for acting, with an Oscar, Emmy and Tony to her name, were thrilling at first, but she eventually realized that the past always haunted. She decided to stop running and question her history to understand her present and embrace her own story.
Davis embarked on a hero’s journey of self-discovery like the one depicted in The hero with a thousand faces, which she referred to in her interview with Oprah, saying, “By following this path of transformation, by really trying to become your ideal self, you are going to meet the part of yourself that you do not want to be. You will see all your faults; you will see all the things that cause you pain. You’re not going to see God; you will see yourself. And then you hope that when you meet that self that you no longer want to be, you have two choices at that point: you can just stay there and be swallowed up, or you can move on. I choose to move forward. I didn’t want to be swallowed.
Here are five books that have inspired her along her journey. What they share is the importance of looking within, as Brené Brown says – to identify your feelings and return to core values through the discovery of your true and authentic self.
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atlas of the heartby Brene Brown
Brené Brown’s groundbreaking latest book draws on her more than 20 years of pioneering research to explore and expand the vocabulary of feelings. Brown says emotions are multi-layered and include biology, biography, behavior, and backstory. Through the revelation of these emotions, it is necessary to establish a meaningful human connection based on your values.
The purple colorby Alice Walker
It’s been nearly 40 years since Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was published. Oprah called it one of the “national anthems for female empowerment”. In it, Celie is separated from her sister Nettie and suffers at the hands of her husband in rural Georgia. The women in The Color Purple, among them Sofia and Shug Avery, fight against misogyny and racism; through their friendships and support, women are resilient and triumphant. In this American classic, Walker drew complicated, tragic, fierce and inspiring women.
brave the desertby Brene Brown
Brown emphasizes the key practices of “true belonging.” She says we can reconnect with who we really are by standing alone and strong in an increasingly distracting perfectionist world. A key factor? Embrace nature.
The hero with a thousand facesby Joseph Campbell
Inspiring many, including filmmaker George Lucas, The hero with a thousand faces was first published in 1949. Joseph Campbell introduced the “monomyth” in it, which focuses on the idea that every myth follows the same structure. It refers to the archetypal hero, who appears in most mythologies, core stories, and religions. Through separation, the person leaves their familiar condition to embark on the hero’s journey. During initiation, the hero discovers new experiences and trials, and must find his inner strength to get out of it. Upon returning, the hero is transformed and serves others through the transmission of knowledge and sometimes through sacrifice. Individually, we need to take a spiritual journey, leave behind what is comfortable, and challenge ourselves to discover our true potential.
The power of the presentby Eckhart Tolle
Tolle teaches what most therapists embrace, which is to be fully present in the present. He writes that giving too much weight to the past can paralyze and hinder your journey. The same goes for living in the future and not acknowledging your current situation. By acknowledging and then calming our thoughts and fears, and not letting our ego derail us, we can find the path to true fulfillment.
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