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Under the Covers: Daring Greatly

Welcome to Under the Covers, an on-going series of book reviews to enrich the way we think, move, eat and connect.

Daring Greatly Book Cover

Wise Owl 5 RatingIn my Under the Covers book series, I will rate each book based on its “Life Wisdom” value (from 1 to 5 wise owls). I will review books that inspire, motivate and teach life lessons. Some of our greatest wisdom comes from those whose journeys may be quite different from our own.

When we escape into their world, we can learn from their trials, tactics, and courage. Through their wisdom, we add to our own.

One only needs to see the TED talk given by Brené Brown to fall in love with her. A social worker with a PhD, Brené Brown has devoted her career to studying vulnerability and shame. At first I was skeptical. What does it mean to study vulnerability? Everyone is vulnerable, capable of  being hurt, to some degree.

The goal is to overcome our vulnerability, right?

Read this researcher’s latest bestseller, Daring Greatly, and you might just put out a vulnerability welcome mat.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work.  Her 10 years of research on vulnerability, courage, shame and authenticity is reflected in her best known books, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.

Daring Greatly attracted the attention of Oprah Winfrey and Brené appeared on two televised Super Soul Sunday broadcasts on the OWN network. I enjoyed those intimate interviews so much I refuse to delete them from my DVR.  In fact, I have never wanted to claw my way into my television and pull up a chair so bad in my life!

I had to read Daring Greatly immediately. I recommend it for everyone, but especially young women.

Here are my favorite gems from the book.

We try and avoid vulnerability by  approaching life’s opportunities with an exit strategy.

Diving in fully committed  is scary because we are vulnerable to failure, displeasing others, or making mistakes. What accomplishments are never realized because one foot is pointed toward the exit?

Our society uses shame as a cure for a person’s inadequacies when it’s actually the cause.

Shame is often at the root of undesirable behavior. It can be counterproductive to tear down those we characterize as selfish, arrogant, and untrustworthy when shame is often causing the behavior in the first place.

Some people experience shame-based fear of being ordinary.

Many live in fear of being unnoticed. Never feeling connected with a sense of purpose. Do I matter? Am I ok?  How we seek answers to these universal questions reveals much about ourselves.

A great question to ask ourselves is, “What’s worth doing even if I fail?”

We can’t be courageous without traveling through vulnerability. Showing up is daring greatly. Bravery takes practice.

Too often we attach our self-worth to how others receive our work.

We hold back layers of creativity, fear trying on a new way of “being,” because it may not be validated by others. The solution is to not tie what we DO to who we are. Only then can we appreciate feedback and persevere with the understanding that mastery takes repeated effort.

We have a choice to embrace courage instead of recognition or approval.

When we are courageous, willing to be vulnerable, the worthiness comes from the doing. Shame, on the other hand, will suffocate our sense of worthiness. “We can’t equate defeat with being unworthy of love, belonging, and joy…. or we’ll never show up again.”

Avoiding shame and vulnerability in ourselves is reflected in how we treat others.

Pointing fingers, criticizing, and tap dancing on other’s misfortunes (frequently unspoken) is an attempt at diverting our own shame. “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you.”

We avoid joy by rehearsing tragedy.

When something good happens we prepare ourselves for what could go wrong. We will sacrifice joy to remain in a state of disappointment because it’s less painful than being in a state of joy and risking disappointment.

Using vulnerability is not the same as being vulnerable.

We may use our own vulnerability as protection by saying  “It isn’t worth it anyway.”  Ever know someone who seemed too cool to care?

We may over share to solicit a response or outcome we’re hoping for.  Trying to fill an unmet need by offering the information to others who haven’t earned the right to hear it.

When others “dare greatly” it provides an “uncomfortable mirror” on ourselves.

It’s easier to attack and criticize those who let themselves be seen because of our own fear that we don’t have the courage to do the same. (See my post on Practicing Mudita).

There’s a big difference between belonging and fitting in.

A wise quote from an eighth grader in the book: “Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.”

We crave belonging but often resort to “fitting in.”  No wonder there are about 250 million antidepressants prescribed annually. We crave connection but also want to stand out from the matter. We fear vulnerability and overexposure because our worthiness is tied to what people think of us. It’s safer to gain acceptance by keeping up with the Joneses, over sharing on social media, or joining in on a critical rant of others.

What was the greatest take-a-way for me from this book?

That we can’t live courageously without being vulnerable. Allowing all sides of ourselves to show up will churn up disappointment, failure and jealousy. But it will also lead to a life that is creative, authentic and compassionate.

Next time you get annoyed with the Facebook friend who over shares, or the arrogant co-worker who blames others at every turn, remember the words of Pema Chödrön, quoted in Daring Greatly, “Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Are you daring greatly in your life?

I recommend checking out Brené Brown’s well written, “The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto,” which you can download for free on her website.

Purchase book or Kindle version of Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown on Amazon. To browse all of her titles, click here.

"Don't try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer." Scott Stratten


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The Question To Command Your Life

The 10 Greatest Profits From Living Half a Century

The 6 Needs That Drive All Human Behavior

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