Follow by Email

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Daring Greatly

I'm seeing a shrink again, mostly for stress and anxiety, but she recommended a book called Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, which deals with vulnerability and shame. The title comes from a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "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, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Brown's thesis is that we need connection--it is what is essential to being human, and "Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." The key to shame resilience is embracing vulnerability: “We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us—that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough—and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame.”

So what is vulnerability? I imagine most people, including myself, think of the word in negative terms. But Brown argues otherwise. "Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement....Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly."

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path."

In my own life, I have not dealt wekk with vulnerability. I have always been reticent to go outside my comfort zone. I was never easily able to talk to girls, ask for help, or take leaps of faith. I'm sure, after reading this book, is that it was my feelings of shame--I felt unworthy. I thought I wasn't good enough for any girl, that by asking for help showed I was stupid, or that taking a risk meant the chance of failing. And I imagine I'm not alone, by a long shot.

Vulnerability, and shame resilience, is where creativity comes from. Think of someone like Andy Kaufman, who is the first person who comes to my head. Most of us would never in a million years stand up in front of an audience and try to be funny, let alone with the act that he had. But he, like many other comedians, actors, writers, inventors, and other creative people, essentially didn't give a shit what other people thought and went ahead, risking complete failure. I imagine Kaufman thinking, "I'll stand on stage and lip-synch to the Mighty Mouse theme." That takes shame resilience.

The book also deals with other issues, such as parenting, which is not an issue for me, but I find to be interesting. She basically says the job of a parent is not trying to make sure our kids are perfect, but that they feel connected and loved. When a child walks into a room, don't immediately focus on their shirt being untucked, but instead make them feel loved, act happy to see them. Then maybe you can mention the shirt.

I also found some parts that are relevant to our current political scene. "When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose." Does that sound like a current presidential candidate?

Daring Greatly was very enlightening for me. It won't cure me overnight of my shame, but parts of it will resonate with me. She paraphrases something that Woody Allen wrote years ago: “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”

No comments:

Post a Comment