on June 25, 2013
Last week I was sitting outside a coffee shop reading a book on my kindle when a youngish guy walked by carrying a coffee and a computer, looking for a place to sit.
Since all of the tables were occupied and he was looking a bit displaced, I offered him a seat at my table. Relieved, he sat down and expressed his gratitude. I promptly went back to my reading but I could feel his eyes boring into me as I anticipated the dreaded question.
"What are you reading?" he finally blurted.
Now I know this is neither a profound nor earth-shattering inquiry but there were two problems at hand here.
One, I'm terrible at summarizing books. Just awful. (Which you're about to discover.) There's just something about the vast amount of information that I'm pressured to wrap into one or two sentences that completely overwhelms and paralyzes me.
And two, I was reading a book about shame and vulnerability. Which ironically, I was ashamed to admit for fear of being vulnerable. Clearly, I had just started reading the book.
Part of me was tempted to lie to youngish guy by replying, "oh, it's just some silly novel."
But then it occurred to me how shameful it would be to lie about reading a book about shame and vulnerability instead of just being vulnerable. Besides, as I'm sure it's obvious--I could use the practice.
"I'm reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. It's about shame and vulnerability and how shame can truly only dissipate by allowing yourself to be vulnerable", I quickly blurted.
Allowing myself to be vulnerable led Patrick and I into a conversation for the next hour. Patrick, if you're reading this, c'était une joie pour vous rencontrer. (If this is wrong I blame Google translate.)
This moment of unabashed vulnerability with Patrick was the beginning of a major shift in my life. And I have Daring Greatly to thank for that.*
I've always been one to be honest and open but Brene Brown's writing in Daring Greatly takes openness to another level.
She reinforces what I've known all along but been afraid of admitting--that vulnerability leads to happiness. Or as Brown calls it, "wholeheartedness".
And I, and maybe you too, could damn well use some wholeheartedness in my life.
We're living in a culture of `never enough'. I'm certainly feeling it. Are you? I never work hard enough, I don't help others enough, I'm not successful enough, I don't eat healthy enough... and on and on.
These thoughts of `never enough' turn into feelings of shame and fear. How do we combat shame and fear? By being vulnerable and expressing gratitude, according to Brené Brown. And now, according to me.
Following Brene's advice and expertise garnered through her research and life stories, truly does work.
It was the reading of Daring Greatly that prompted me to finally divulge my long kept secret of my history with an eating disorder; which wound up being my highest trafficked blog post of all time. As Brown explains, we're drawn to other's vulnerability but repelled by our own.
Are you living with shame? Do you always feel an underlying itch of `never enough'? Do you find yourself disconnecting from people you love? If any of these questions ring true then I hope you'll read this book for yourself. Even if they don't ring true, read this book. It truly is a game changer.
Buy It Right. This. Minute. Sit your butt down for an hour, and start reading. I promise you won't want to stop. I promise.Then come back to me and practice your newfound vulnerability. I'll appreciate and love every drop of the real you. And eventually, you will too. That's the truth.
*If you'll note the vulnerability here in that I'm attempting to review a book, despite my fear of reviewing books.
on September 11, 2012
"Vulnerability is not weakness," writes Brown. In fact, "Vulnerability is the the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences." Without vulnerability, there can be no love, there can be no achievement, there can be no greatness. Unfortunately, instead of developing skills of vulnerability, we too frequently develop armoring techniques. We spend all our energy avoiding getting hurt, avoiding shame. But there's no surer way to not feel loved, not feel connected, not be fulfilled, than to practice the avoidance of vulnerability.
Brown is a vulnerability researcher. She sees vulnerability as the prerequisite to living what she calls the "Wholehearted life." The Wholehearted life is one of deep attachment to others, our environment, and our work. It's a life of being "really there," of being willing to fail. No one can avoid being actually vulnerable. We all are vulnerable every moment of our lives -- though some times more than others. But if we run from it, we lose.
Here's how she breaks it down:
1. Love and belonging is an irreducible need. We all need it.
2. Those who feel a deep sense of love and belonging... feel loveable. They believe they are worthy of being loved.
3. A strong belief in our worthiness doesn't just happen. It must be cultivated.
4. The main concern of Wholehearted men and women is living a life defined by courage, compassion, and connection.
3. The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection. The willingness to be vulnerable is the single most important factor shared among the Wholehearted.
It comes down to this: If we don't embrace vulnerability, we are destined to live a lonely, detached, unfulfilling life. But if we learn to embrace it in the right way, we can live a life of joy and connection. The crux is to understand that we are worthy of love. From the standpoint of this sense of worthiness, we are then able to open ourselves to one another and to the work that is before us.
A look at the table of contents gives a clearer picture of the argument of Daring Greatly:
- What It Means to Dare Greatly
- Introduction: My Adventures in the Arena
1. Scarcity: Looking Inside Our Culture of "Never Enough"
2. Debunking the Vulnerability Myths
3. Understanding and Combatting Shame
4. The Vulnerability Armory
5. Mind the Gap: Cultivating Change and Closing the Disengagement Divide
6. Disruptive Engagement: Daring to Rehumanize Education and Work
7. Wholehearted Parenting: Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be
- Final Thoughts
- Appendix -- Trust in Emergence: Grounded Theory and My Research Process
- Practicing Gratitude
Daring Greatly doesn't focus on the area of love and relationships, but it offers invaluable tools for deepening our love partnerships. For going deeper into vulnerability in the context of a romantic relationship, check out The Couple's Survival Workbook: What You Can Do To Reconnect With Your Partner and Make Your Marriage Work by Olsen and Stephens. More generally, if you're interested in Browne's concept of Wholehearted living -- the contextual framework of Daring Greatly -- check out The Gifts of Imperfection.
Daring Greatly is highly recommended as a primer for those who wish to step into the place they truly belong -- it's a place prepared for each person, but it has to be worked for. It's not altogether easy, but it's deeply relieving to understand that this essential skill is not about simply stepping out under a hail of deadly arrows. It's about leaving behind lonely and fearful self-interest, having courage that deeper connection eagerly awaits us.
on September 11, 2012
If you're not already familiar with Dr. Brown's work, you should definitely check out her three TED talks on Youtube or TED.com. Her videos are among the 10 most viewed TED talks of all time, and those will give you a great introduction to her work.
I was able to obtain an advance copy of Daring Greatly, and have also read Dr. Brown's other two books and her clinical curriculum. Daring Greatly is, I think, her strongest work to-date. It breaks down the core elements of vulnerability (which is NOT weakness), and how allowing ourselves to be open and vulnerable opens us to levels of creativity, connection, and joy that we would never otherwise be able to find. It also covers her earlier works on shame and how shame (which all of us have, and the less we talk about it, the more we have it) impacts our ability to be open and vulnerable, but also how it can numb us and prevent us from being able to experience emotion fully. Daring Greatly (and all of Dr. Brown's work) is based entirely on her academic research; she states in the book that she is not comfortable talking about topics unless backed by solid research, and that's a refreshing change from most other authors in the self-help/pop psychology field.
The book has appeal to multiple audiences; there are sections relating to vulnerability in the workplace, in relationships, in art, expression, and creativity, and, perhaps most importantly for many of us, in raising our children. Each chapter of the book builds on earlier chapters and makes a strong case for taking steps to be more open and vulnerable ourselves. It also speaks to the impact of numbing (the opposite of vulnerability) in popular culture, and the effect of social media, reality television, and other external influences on our self-numbing behaviors.
One of the reasons the book speaks to me so strongly is the openness and vulnerability with which Dr. Brown speaks of her own experiences. She's clear in describing herself as "a great mapmaker and a stumbling traveler" and I think it the descriptions of her own struggles with vulnerability that make the book so accessible and relatable.
While not a "how-to" book, Daring Greatly clearly describes the problems that shame and lack of vulnerability create, and how they come about, so that we can work to adapt our behaviors and learn to live more fully, vulnerability, and wholeheartedly.
Finally, for the scientific minded, Dr. Brown has included a lengthy and detailed appendix in which she describes her research methodology and the fundamentals of Grounded Theory research, the most rigorous and complicated of the qualitative research protocols. It's pretty technical, but if anyone has questions about the methodology, rigor, or valildity of the research upon which her books are based should find ample detail and explanation.
I have no financial or other ties Dr. Brown or her work, but I am passionate in believing that her work in shame resilience and vulnerability could make an enormous difference to society if it were more widely discussed.
on September 26, 2012
I am a recovering perfectionist. I have learned, since a child, to receive validation and my worth based on how others perceived me. I've always made excuses for it throughout my life, but Brene Brown slapped me in the face with this book and makes me want to be a more authentic and honest person. She gives you the understanding of how to develop your own self-worth and how important it is in order to live a beautiful life, and have beautiful relationships. She is inspiring b/c she struggles with the same thing, and that makes me feel understood. My favorite part of this book is how she defines so many of our emotions. This helps me understand mine and helps me walk my children through understanding their emotions. One of the greatest self-help books I've ever read!!!
on December 25, 2013
This book was recommended to me by a coworker I trust, but I really can't get past the sheer amount of "Brene Brown pimping" that takes the place of what could have been useful information. I wanted to tell the author to just STOP trying to convince me how much of an authority she is. Say it once, establish your credibility - then get on with the information. Use some of your research to illustrate points in the book - that's all well and good, but STOP repeating some variation of: "I'm an expert, perhaps you've heard of me, Brene Brown, the expert?" The author writes, over and over again, about how much research she's put into the subject and then she goes on to share anecdotes describing her own alleged therapy sessions, which she uses primarily for even more expository dialog describing (to her own therapist), once again, how much research she has put into the subject of vulnerability.
[and - as an aside - am I seriously supposed to believe that this woman sits in her therapist's office telling her therapist at length about her own 10 years of research about vulnerability? Why would she take up therapy time trying to convince a therapist who presumably already knows her that she is an expert in the very subject she is in therapy for?]
"If you don't know anything about me from my other books, my blog, or the TED videos that have gone viral online - let me catch you up. If, on the other hand, you're already a little queasy at the mention of a therapist, skip this chapter entirely and go straight to the appendix about my research process."
I guess I've either heard about her before from her books (many!), blog (popular!) and TED videos (gone viral!) - or else I must be the sort of person who can't stand therapists? What if I'm someone who hasn't heard of her, doesn't particularly want to read more about her, but just wants to get to the subject of the book?
Anyway, after getting off to that bad of a start at the beginning of the book I had a really hard time taking anything she said at face value. She seems rather in love with her own image and I can't figure out if there's any substance to her, or if she's just a woman riding a publicity high.
What I'd like to read about are real, tangible concepts. A clearly stated problem, some (preferably non-canned) examples to illustrate the issue, then some clearly stated possible solutions. Instead there's so much restating of the problem, as if half the book is dedicated to convincing me there is a need for the book in the first place. And even more real-estate is dedicated to convincing me that Brene Brown (gone viral!) has the authority to talk about the issue. Very little of the book describes a feasible plan for working on the issue.
In the end I don't feel like I've gotten much out of the book. I did end up watching the TED video (as I've heard it's gone viral...) and I feel like the entire book was very well summed up in the TED talk: Vulnerability is painful, but it's supposed to be - and it's necessary to develop relationships and connections, and it's even necessary for achievement in other areas of our lives and in our careers. Once you're convinced this is true, you can begin to pay more attention to allowing vulnerability in (undefined) appropriate ways.
All well and good, but not exactly a helpful how-to guide.
on July 2, 2013
I'll admit, this book sat on my shelf for some time before I felt the pull to read it. I wasn't familiar with the Roosevelt speech from which the book's title comes, and - like many, I suspect - I wasn't particularly drawn to reading about vulnerability and shame. But then I turned to Chapter 1.
Right on the chapter divider page came words that gripped me:
"After doing this work for the past 12 years and watching scarcity ride roughshod over our families, organizations, and communities, I'd say the one thing we have in common is that we're sick of feeling afraid. We want to dare greatly. We're tired of the national conversation centering on 'What should we fear?' and 'Who should we blame?' We all want to be brave."
Now *this* I could relate to!
Dr. Brown proceeds to debunk myths of vulnerability (namely that it's a sign of weakness) and the paradox around our desire for others to be vulnerable but our disgust when we see it in ourselves. With her extensive research and experience, she allows readers to embrace vulnerability by showcasing it in a new way: "Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage."
What I found particularly helpful was Dr. Brown's ability to shed light on ways in which we hold ourselves to a different standard, reminding me that we are often our own worst enemies. "Sometimes when we dare to walk in the arena," she shares, "the greatest critic we face is ourselves." I appreciated the triggers to watch for as well as the practical suggestions for moving forward in work and life with empathy, compassion, and strength.
* Boundaries rule. We can only truly be compassionate and connected when we have clear, honoring boundaries in place.
* Courage takes practice. The more we act courageously, the more we courage we develop.
* It's time to play big. By only "preaching to the choir" or doing what we think we can rather than what we're truly capable of, we're keeping ourselves small. Time to step out.
As an executive coach, throughout the book I found terrific questions and strategies to share with clients. Unexpectedly, I also discovered some excellent parenting tips! I love Dr. Brown's suggestion to replace the question "Am I parenting the right way?" with "Am I the adult that I want my child to grow up to be?" Talk about perspective!
I highly recommend Daring Greatly both for its affirmation of who we are and its practical, research-based strategies for moving towards who we wish to become. I left the book ready to dare greatly!
on May 21, 2013
This book does a good job of summarizing the concepts of Dr. Brown's talks that are available for free online. Apart from that, there is not a lot of new material. This book is written with the struggles in the American culture in mind, which makes sense, since she is writing to an American audience. If you are from a different culture, where the day to day struggles are different, you may find it difficult to relate to parts of this book as I did. The feelings of shame are cross-cultural, but the causes are not :).
on December 1, 2012
Please note: This review is for the unabridged audiobook version, not the hard copy. Amazon lumps all reviews from all versions into the same set of reviews so I have no way to break out this review from the physical editions.
I "read"/listen to my books in the car during my commute to and from work in audiobook form. I was really excited about this book after seeing Brene Brown's TED talk and reading a bit about her. The book seems to be written pretty well, but this review is about the narrator Karen White and Gotham Books the recording studio.
The narrators voice in the audio version is extremely weird. There are a couple things that just make it so I can't stand listening to this audiobook (and I tried over a couple days in the car).
1. The quality of the recording is off. The narrator sounds like her mouth is right up against the microphone because the sound is compressed so much. It's not a natural recording at all.
2. The narrator herself uses the strangest inflection and meter I've ever heard on any audio book. She empasizes words at really unnatural places in the sentences and uses an inflection that made me question whether it was just a computer reading to me or an actual human. Imagine if you were to take a natural human voice and then use auto-tune to make it weird and funny. This is what it sounds like, hour after hour.
I made it part way through the book but was having such a hard time listening to it I had to stop and am returning this to Amazon. I'll just have to find another of Brene's books that are narrated by a different person or produced by a different studio because the combination of these two things makes the book to difficult to listen to for me.
on June 12, 2014
The message of addressing and overcoming shame is very important in today's society. In fact, it is truly one of the most important issues we encounter in life. I found the language Brene Brown uses in her books too colloquial and at times, excessively coarse. I understand that she is trying to speak the language of the people, but not all people express themselves like this.
She spoke of choosing to use this sort of language in order to increase acceptance among her audience - I felt alienated by it and often struggled to understand what exactly she was getting at, wading many times through colloquialism after colloquialism. There is a clear difference between how she communicates when she's up on the stage and in her books. After hearing her talk and reading many rave reviews, I decided to give this book a try, but was put off by the language she used as it often convoluted her message.
I also believe that she herself has not fully come to grips with this issue nor does she fully understand it; this becomes clear when you listen to a few of her talks and read the book carefully. The message here of overcoming shame is important, but the steps on how to develop shame resilience are incomplete. I feel that cultivating stillness, deep contemplation and even meditation are missing in her approach as this would create more of a lasting impact as opposed to a frantic attempt to yet again break out of a cage created by an overactive and restless mind.
on November 4, 2013
I truly enjoyed this book. The author is well spoken for the most part, and the concepts surrounding shame research are sound. Technically, it was an easy read that flowed well from page to page.
However, the book felt overtly emotional to myself personally. I think this is a book that will bode well with those who tend to be emotionally inclined. I have a suspicion that I think this way not as a result of some underlying unresolved emotional baggage, but because I simply tend to think less emotionally than the average person. As a result, I am drawn to logical sequencing and concrete steps much more than intuitively feeling out situations. The problem for myself is that this book is targeted towards the former personality types much more than the latter. For those familiar with MBTI terms, it's targeted more toward xSFx than xNTx types.
Additionally, I think the author tended to underplay the degree of discretion that should be used when showing vulnerability to others. The impression I got from the book was that it should be an almost ubiquitously spread concept at most times and most places in society. There is frequent talk of a need to change society's perception that vulnerability is shameful. I'm not sure that I agree with this fully. While shame seems to be an imperfect response, too much vulnerability too soon isn't positive or even appropriate. Take the lonely fellow who shares his life's story with his first date, for example. It's very offsetting and not always admirable or brave. In my opinion, this type of powerful connection should be reserved for those who have earned seeing our vulnerable sides, e.g., loved ones, close friends, and family. Reticence is also a human universal for a reason, which is a factor that was largely overlooked in the book.
All in all worth the time and the money for a broader perspective, but not extremely applicable for the more logically inclined, and the reader should maintain a healthy sense of skepticism regarding the ideas within.