“There is no vision without vulnerability.”

"Daring Greatly" by Brené Brown

“Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown

(Book review #3 – original post @ Cannonball Read 8…I’m a little behind in my blogging because of work and life, and the fact that this wasn’t as fluffy as my last book/review. But I’m still truckin’!)

I try, whenever I can, to dare greatly. I didn’t think of it this way until I started reading Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly: How The Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”. She opens with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” that explains where she got the idea for the title of the book:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…

It reminds me a lot of folk singer Harry Chapin, and how during concerts he used to talk about how his grandfather explained that there are two different types of tired…good tired and bad tired:

“Ironically enough, bad tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people’s battles, you lived other people’s days, other people’s agendas, other people’s dreams. And when it’s all over, there was very little you in there. And when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn; you don’t settle easy. It’s that good tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost, but you don’t even have to tell yourself because you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy, you sleep the sleep of the just and you say ‘take me away’”.

This book made me good tired. It took me far longer than I expected to read, as I borrowed it from a good friend about a year and a half ago. Thing is, this isn’t one of those books you tear through. It’s not a thrilling mystery that you want to race to finish so you know whodunnit. It’s not a sweeping romance that you devour until the inevitable end when they go all meatcutie and finally fuck at last. And it’s not an easy, breezy beach read that spirits you away somewhere for a few hours. It’s intense.

You know you’re in for a soul-searching ride when a book tells you it’s going to explore the following questions on page 2-3:

  • What drives our fear of being vulnerable?
  • How are we protecting ourselves from vulnerability?
  • What prices are we paying when we shut down and disengage?
  • How do we own and engage with vulnerability so we can start transforming the way we live, love, parent, and lead?

From there, we dive right into answering those questions, delving into narcissism, feeling not good enough or just plain “enough”, and how detrimental using shame, comparison, and disengagement are to daring greatly and ultimately growing.

These are things that hit home rather hard to me, especially lately, as I’ve been having issues with feeling insecure in a burgeoning relationship and have been falling into the comparison trap quite a bit, which has been leading to some self-shaming and disengagement. The plus side is because of this book and years of practice and reading about polyamory, I know what’s happening and am able to mostly correct it. Well, mostly with help.

I’m working hard on becoming more “wholehearted”, as the author talks about:

The opposite of scarcity is enough, or what I call Wholeheartedness…there are many tenets of Wholeheartedness, but at its very core is vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing I am enough.

Which all makes sense but is hard as HELL to really adapt into your life and feel on a regular basis. And this is only page 29, y’all. It gets heavier and harder from there. She goes into gender stereotypes and how each of the genders is fucked in it’s own special way with the thoroughly screwed up messages we give people, debunks vulnerability myths, teaches us how to understand and combat shame, how to build a “vulnerability armory”. As if that wasn’t enough, she then launches into how to put all these lessons into practice in the workplace, in education, and in your own families.

This is not a book that you can just gobble up, put down, and forget about. It’s helping me be a better boss, a better partner to the people I’m in relationships with or could be, a better friend, and a better person overall, I think. Brené has a way of making you feel not so alone, as she includes a healthy dose of personal anecdotes to drive her points home. She is not perfect and freely admits it, but she continually strives to improve and become more wholehearted and that’s my goal, too.