This book was a little bit of a strange experience for me. Two years ago I watched Brene Brown’s two TEDTalks and they really blew my mind and touched me in a deep way. At that time was living alone at a new job and my worldview was shifting around, sometimes in dramatic ways. I suppose you could say that I was feeling really vulnerable and therefore her work, in the form of presentations, really resonated with me. Reading the book now, in a more stable emotional state, is a different experience. I wasn’t bowled over with the ideas presented because I already knew her general thesis and had heard anecdotes from her TEDTalks and other podcast interviews featuring sister Brown (I think she just feels so close to many people she might as well be a sister to us all).
Unlike Being Wrong and The Righteous Mind, two books also focused on psychology but in a substantially different way than Daring Greatly(DG). DG is not a heady book full of facts, mechanisms, and quotes from beloved dead philosophers. So, I think part of my initially disappointed experience in reading this now has to do with my expectations and comparisons to other books focusing on some other aspect of human psychology (Being Wrong and The Righteous Mind). As I continued to read I found deep resonance in situations or roles that I am currently very concerned about, like parenting (final chapter FYI).
Rather than being about the mind, DG is a book about the heart, it is about how we feel and how we connect or how we so often fail to feel and connect. We fail to feel and connect because to do so is to be vulnerable—and being vulnerable is not comfortable. Often we don’t thrive but we survive through playing roles we think others want us to play or through numbing ourselves, through one means or another, both of which (filling roles and numbing) protect us from being vulnerable which is what is needed to connect with our true selves and others. One quote about students in school describes what I think we often do to just get through work, the day, or just life.
“There are times when you can ask questions or challenge ideas, but if you’ve got a teacher that doesn’t like that or the kids in the class make fun of people who do that, it’s bad. I think most of us learn that it’s best to just keep your head down, your mouth shut, and your grades high.”
Does that feel all too familiar? Doesn’t life suck if it is a constant coping mechanism rather than authentic living? I think so.
It is a strange thing to me that we expect people, and ourselves to be characters rather than just who we are. We need to be the good girl, the tough guy, the smart nerd, the successful man, or the tender mother—and the list goes on and on. To me none of those characters or roles that I listed are inherently bad. I think it is just fine to occupy those spaces and personas, even often. The trouble is when our culture and our own self perceived model of ourselves ONLY validates those roles and we feel like we have transgressed some unwritten law when we step out of place expressing our real feelings.
This recognition leads us to vulnerability, which has become intensely popular due to sister Brown’s TEDTalks and this very book. So popular I think that sometimes it gets used as an excuse to “let it all hang out” there. We need to be real but for many of our most vulnerable moments need to be intimate with a select few who have earned our trust as we have earned theirs. This is one reason why I think reading the book is so important and surpasses the utility of the inspiring TEDTalks. The talks get us to think these ideas of vulnerability and authenticity are important, and the book guides us in how to do it and how not to do it.
FYI, the very act of reading DG is an act of vulnerability. That is if you read it, let the ideas and examples sink in, and self-reflect on yourself. It is uncomfortable to self-examine and it is probably easier to just keep our heads down and muddle through. But like going to college or sticking to exercise routines—hard things are often good for us.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead (p. 187). New York, NY: Gotham Books.
 Ibid. p. 45-47