The Southern Belle introduced me to Brene Brown’s work our sophomore year. She showed me Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability after a long talk about how we both deal with our emotions (spoiler alert: on my end, usually not well). Ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for more of Brown’s work. When the Commodore and I finally made it to a local bookstore she’d been telling me about for ages (where I promptly set up a frequent buyer account and spent far too much money), I scooped up my own copy of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Like Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (a book that changed my life), Daring Greatly brings devalued parts of our thinking to light. Brown takes readers through the various strategies we use to avoid vulnerability, many of which were familiar to me (especially numbing). And then she explains how dodging vulnerable moments adversely affects us. It turns out, frustratingly, that while we avoid vulnerability out of fear of disconnection, vulnerability is necessary to truly connect with those around us. We’re stuck, then, between the exposure of being vulnerable and the isolation of the very disconnection we were trying to escape.
Even as Brown outlines this uncomfortable truth, she admits that she’s frustrated with it too. Which is comforting.
The title comes from a Theodore Roosevelt quote about being all in, about the arena of life and who really wins and why, about the people who “strive valiantly.” Roosevelt says that “there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” which is something we don’t like to think about. We’re supposed to make everything look effortless – our makeup, our fitness level, our accomplishments at work, our homes. But when we’re vulnerable, we can admit that we’re actually “daring greatly” and that life is scary, but it’s worth it.
Brown describes years of conducting research and interviewing people who live “Wholeheartedly,” as she puts it, identifying trends in their behavior and attitudes that allow them to recognize the importance of being vulnerable. She even gives examples from her own life, times when she shied away from vulnerability and times when she embraced the discomfort in order to live more Wholeheartedly.
My academic brain, trained as it is in editing and workshopping, wished for a bit more flow to the general style (the writing was sometimes choppy and the organization unclear), but other than that it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. There were several parts that made me set the book down and stare at the wall as I absorbed the truth of what I had just read, parts that made me think, “me too.” Teetering as I am on the edge of a new phase of life, I think this will be a book worth revisiting.
4/5 stars on Goodreads
Have you read Daring Greatly? What did you think? Do you think Brown’s work will change anything about the way you live your life or try to interact with others? Share your thoughts below!
The theme for JPL’s 50th anniversary was “Dare Mighty Things”
Yep, that’s the speech Brene Brown quotes for her title! It’s a good one.