Book review of Take Back Your Brain by Kara Loewentheil


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Before creating her popular podcast Unf*ck Your Brain, Kara Loewentheil was already ambitious and accomplished: Her accolades include a degree from Harvard Law School, a clerkship for a federal judge and a job as a litigator for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “I had it all,” she writes, but “the problem was that my brain did not seem to share this understanding. . . . I felt like I was being held hostage by a voice that was a cross between a middle school bully and a disapproving English governess.”

Through working with a life coach, Loewentheil learned cognitive behavioral techniques to challenge her unproductive thoughts and emotions, but even after getting certified as a life coach herself and coaching other women for years, something was still missing. “What we needed to really change our lives—and therefore change the world—was feminist coaching.” Loewentheil’s literary debut, Take Back Your Brain: How a Sexist Society Gets in Your Head—and How to Get It Out, examines how sexist and patriarchal messages impact women’s thoughts and emotions and undermine our self-esteem and self-confidence. What’s more, she offers practical advice for living well despite those long-standing messages.

The book’s first section, “Reclaim Your Brain,” walks readers through the ways pervasive, sexist beliefs play into unconscious emotional and mental cycles. Loewentheil offers a written exercise called the “thought ladder” to help readers move from a negative or debilitating thought to a neutral or even positive thought. The book’s second section, “Reclaim Your Life,” covers body image, self-esteem, romantic relationships, money mindset and time. Each chapter is grounded in cultural and social history or reportage—for instance,the beauty and wellness industries—and offers practical exercises and prompts. Throughout, Loewentheil shares anecdotes and quotes from clients, as well the missteps and successes that make up her own story.

While some of the book’s cognitive-behavioral techniques may be familiar to readers who’ve seen therapists, the feminist framework is a welcome approach for our still-evolving 21st-century society. And Loewentheil is an engaging, straightforward guide.


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