Book Review: Brené Brown’s "Daring Greatly"

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I might be terrible at book reviews because I almost always want to write “Read this! Read it!” and this time won’t be an exception. I’m obsessed with self-help as a generality, but I rarely read self-help books, as it turns out. I go to therapy on occasion and have very smart friends, so that’s probably why. ;-)

A friend gifted this “Daring Greatly” to me years ago and I started it a few times but admittedly just don’t think I was in the headspace to really take it in. A few months ago, after something that actually came up at therapy (I love therapy, guys), it seemed like the right time to actually dive in. I ready.

The tagline of the book gives you a pretty solid indication of what to expect. She writes that Daring Greatly is “How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead” so I think that’s a pretty clear insight.

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

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Brené dives right into the topics of vulnerability and shame and how these things can keep us from living a wholehearted - or wholly real, authentic, vibrant life - and of course, what to do about them. She talks about how the “scarcity lie” leads to most trouble - the fear that we will never be good enough, rich enough, successful enough, thin enough, safe enough and before long we’re talking about building trust in relationships.

In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.

She wants us to understand shame and the connection to vulnerability, and uses loads of real examples from her studies that we can all relate to, then explains those normal feelings and the moment where we can turn them around.

Our fight or flight strategies are effective for survival, not for reasoning or connection. And the pain of shame is enough to trigger that survival part of our brains that runs, hides, or comes out swinging.

The thing I love about her approach is that she backs it up with her scientific data and research, but she’s easy to follow, and most importantly, she gives you steps to actually begin to make changes. She makes copies of these available for free on her website, whether you have the book or not (though I think context is probably better if you read the book). Hallelujah!

I think most of us want to be a better person, feel open to love and intimacy, and be clear in our values. We want to live life without shame and learn to respect our vulnerabilities without bowing down to them. Or as Brené says, most of us would choose to live a wholehearted life if we had the tools - and the courage - to get after it. This book is a pretty damned good start.

I’d loan you mine, but I’ve dogeared about half the pages that need some revisiting…

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