Daring Greatly

Published on the Deaf Auntie website on 19th July 2013, a website by Laraine Callow.

Brené Brown is a researcher of shame and vulnerability. In Daring Greatly, she explores the idea that shame underpins much of our social interaction, self-esteem issues and working relationships. She investigates the ways that shame shows itself in different ways, hiding behind various types of emotional armour and thriving in our silence; and she reminds us that everybody struggles with it. She puts forward the idea of vulnerability, courage and ‘wholehearted living’ as a way to combat shame.

Brené Brown’s definition of vulnerability is daring to show up and show ourselves, to risk rejection, failure and inadequacy. Being unafraid to accept our experiences, emotions and mistakes, and not linking self-worth with the mistakes we make. For example, she points out that guilt and shame are two very different things; that guilt is ‘I did a bad thing’ and shame is ‘I am bad,’ or ‘I am worthless’. She discusses how we are often our own worst enemies, listening to what she calls ‘gremlins’, the voices in our heads that tell us that we aren’t good enough: another way that shame expresses itself in our lives.

Vulnerability is not being afraid to be open and having the courage to risk rejection.

Brown has discovered that self-worth comes from understanding that you are enough, now, and that you are a whole person (worthiness). She identifies the idea of ‘wholehearted’ living – approaching life in a way that promotes courage, compassion and connection. Instead of measuring ourselves against impossible yardsticks, such as imaginary physical perfection, macho masculinity, coolness: we need to accept that vulnerability, instead of being weakness, takes courage and connection.

Self-worth and ‘wholehearted’ living comes from accepting we need to have courage, compassion with ourselves and others people, and connection.

The author, in particular, focuses on the idea that shame creates disengagement. Disengagement from life, from relationships, from enthusiasm for our work. She argues that disengagement leads to destructive and dangerous behaviours, from addiction to oversharing: there is a danger of oversharing, a one sided relationship that doesn’t create connection (such as celebrity culture or some types of social networking). Vulnerability instead is about both sharing, and being open and listening to other people: daring greatly to connect and be open to possibility.

Listening to others and creating connections by meaningful sharing means we are at less risk of disengagement from life.

Daring Greatly is a timely reminder of the need to talk about shame, and how we deal with it in society, relationships, families and at work. It offers guidelines and tentative solutions for how we can manage shame – becoming ‘shame resilient’: being clear about the difference between shame, guilt and humiliation, and finding ways to recognise when we are shaming ourselves or others, or when others are shaming us. A difficult read, but worth the time.

An important reminder of how much we need to recognise shame and how we deal with it in society, relationships, families and at work.

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