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Brené Brown - Daring Greatly

DARING GREATLY by Dr. Brené Brown is about courage, vulnerability, becoming more productive, and increasing confidence to work towards personal goals. Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, has a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Work. She has spent more than 20 years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. I became aware of her because of her excellent 2010 TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability. The last time I checked it is still one of the top five TED talks in the world with over 48 million views. Since then, she has written 12 books, but Daring Greatly and her TED talk helped boost her career and notoriety.

One has to understand that the shame messages or experiences we carry and the fear of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable hinders us in achieving our life goals. Dr. Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” We must, she says, allow ourselves to be brave, uncertain, and emotionally exposed. For example, many of us have a tape running in our heads from past negative experiences that holds us back from taking a risk like asking your supervisor for a raise or quitting a job where you feel stuck and bored. Or, you may be confused about why you have an issue with impulse control–anger can be a defense mechanism for shame.

Dr. Brown does an excellent job of normalizing shame and reframing vulnerability showing that it is a strength that we can use to improve what she calls our shame resilience. She defines shame resilience as the ability to live by our values and, when we experience shame in a given situation, to courageously work through it. As a result, we can experience pride in ourselves because we are a stronger person now than we were before.

One of her conclusions from 20 years of research “is that men and women are equally affected by shame. The messages and expectations that fuel shame are most definitely organized by gender, but the experience of shame is universal and deeply human." When she asked women what their definition or experience of shame was the first one she listed “Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less than that is shaming." The number one answer on her list for men when she asked them the same question was “Shame is failure. At work. On the football field. In your marriage. In bed. With money. With your children. It doesn’t matter-shame is failure.”

If we are carrying shame with us in our daily lives, Dr. Brown encourages people to open themselves up to being vulnerable. If you have a significant problem(s) from your past or in your present life that you are not sharing with someone, do you think it will it affect your current happiness and productivity? As you allow yourself to be more vulnerable, you start setting boundaries with people, you give your opinion in groups, and you are willing to listen to the critics with an open mind. Strengthening your vulnerability includes having a crucial discussion with a significant other or an important person at work; it is admitting you are wrong. Vulnerability is the courage to not fear failure. Dr. Brown defines vulnerability as “not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in”.

“Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.”


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© 2020 by Sophie Gilbert