‘Daring Greatly – How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.’
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time researching the topic of shame and vulnerability. It is a curious topic; the more I dig beneath the surface, the more I become completely fascinated and consumed by it and the more I recognize it every day in day to day situations. It was also one of the reasons why I had my own new year’s resolution around being more authentic in my day to day transactions, which would mean digging deep into my personal values and then living by them, no matter what kind of confrontation or awkwardness it may present. I can assure you now, it is harder than it sounds and it can often take a lot of courage to live authentically. I readily admit, there are times where I simply fail.
Shame and vulnerability
‘Daring Greatly’ is a book that really delves into the topics of shame and vulnerability. It is a book so full of ‘aha’ moments that you could read it now, feel inspired, read it again in 12 months and pick up on so many things that you missed last time because something has happened that now made some of those points you missed now leap off the page at you. Brene Brown has spent much of her life studying and researching shame and vulnerability, so the points that she discusses in the book are not only presented through her own experience but through the correlation of countless interviews.
Quite honestly, you could write an extended review around each chapter in this book, so really what I am touching on here is going to be bullet points of some of the topics in the book.
…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…
The book begins with Theodore Roosevelt’s speech ‘Citizenship In a Republic’ which is where the book gets its title from. The concept of the ‘man in the arena’ comes back throughout the book; are in you in the arena putting yourself out there or are you sitting on the sidelines watching and throwing comment?
Courage, Compassion and Connection
For Brene Brown, the objective is about ‘wholehearted living’, where you embrace courage, compassion, and connection. Courage is all about putting yourself out there regardless of your flaws and fears, and in the process, being capable of inspiring others. Brown comments that ‘Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.’
There is the paradox of vulnerability where Brown observes how we admire other people’s vulnerability but we struggle with being vulnerable ourselves as we frequently view it as being a weakness. The reality is that it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable, to be real, to allow yourself to be seen warts and all.
Brown explores compassion; looking at how everyone falls short and we all struggle with different things. Brown also looks at connection because this is what makes us feel a part of something. She defines it beautifully; “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
The difference between shame and guilt
Where I have experienced Brown’s work before is around her work on the topic of shame and guilt. I learned early on from ‘Daring Greatly’ that shame cannot survive being spoken and greeted without judgment. Brown let’s us know that the best ways to combat shame are to practice courage and reach out to those who have earned the right to hear your story, to talk to yourself in a way that you would talk to someone you love who was in the midst of a meltdown, and lastly, to simply own your story.
Within all of this, Brown clearly defines the difference between shame (I am bad) and guilt (I did something bad) and also highlights how we ‘shame talk’ each other. She uses her own examples of the way in which she spoke to her children growing up and reflects on how her words would’ve contributed towards the creation of their own beliefs around themselves. Within this, Brown talks about building a shame resilience to help us be able to bounce back from those moments where our shame wants us to believe that we’re not good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, sexy enough, rich enough… whatever ‘enough’ you feel you’re not.
‘Daring Greatly’ explores a lot of different environments and our interaction within them, from the school yard to the kitchen table and back via bullies in the workplace. You can’t help but read this book and realize how many people you know just like that in your own world – and that’s the point, we are all like that. We all do carry around with us some residual pain and discomfort from our childhood that holds us back from getting into the game in the arena. In many ways, I believe that ‘Daring Greatly’ should be mandatory reading for everyone as it will not only help us understand others but also allow us to be closer to our authentic, vulnerable, imperfectly perfect selves.