My favorite thing to do in life is read books. And once in a while an important book, a book I know I need to read, falls into my lap (or onto my Kindle) but, I wind up avoiding it. I push it off to the side and read something like Twilight instead. I think it’s my subconscious way of saying “Sorry I’m just not ready for you yet. I’d rather just relax and read about handsome vampires for a bit. Thanks.”
I’m reading a book like this now. You may have read it already but, I’m going to talk about it anyway: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. And holy hell, you guys. Holy. Hell.
JB made the mistake of asking me how I was enjoying it last night in the car. Ten minutes of talking at him, crying, and then collecting myself later, he simply said “Um, wow. Glad you’re enjoying it.” But to say I am enjoying it is an understatement. I’m not even done with it yet and I want everyone else on earth to read this book so we can all sit down and talk about it together. And cry. And hug.
Here are some of the general ideas:
1. Connection and love are why we are all here.
2. The difference between those of us who feel connection and love and those of us who struggle for it, is that those who feel it believe they are worthy of it, and those who struggle for it do not.
3. The commonality between those who are successful at connectedness is that they are open to vulnerability and resilient to shame.
4. Shame wreaks havoc on all of us, we are never ______ enough.
5. Shame is universal among all of us but organized by gender. (This part was really impactful. The things we do to each other are whack, you guys. It made me want to hug everyone. Everyone.)
6. We can build our shame resilience by sharing our shame and fear with people we trust, and also by withholding our judgement and stopping ourselves from shaming others.
7. We should build our shame resilience because the alternative is to numb out. And when we numb out to avoid all of the uncomfortable feelings, we also numb out all of the good stuff; our joy, love, enthusiasm and connection. We numb the reasons we are all here because we cannot numb our human experience selectively.
Oooooof. Are you as emotionally exhausted as I am yet?
Brene has a PHD in social work and has spent the last 12 years researching vulnerability and shame. 12 years of research and data have brought her to the conclusions above. That is a lot of data.
I’d always thought of being “vulnerable” as kind of a sappy, woo woo term, if you will. It gave me the heebie jeebies. As a society, we tend to think of vulnerability as weakness. It never really occurred to me that facing the things that scare us, the uncomfortable parts of the human experience, is exactly what vulnerability really is. And it’s not a bad thing. Being vulnerable is not the same as weakness. In fact, Teddy Roosevelt would argue just the opposite, and who would argue with that guy? Not me, not with that mustache.
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.
He’s saying that being vulnerable is courage, that putting yourself in the arena and daring greatly means living life to the fullest. It’s courageous, not weak, and it makes me wanna watch Gladiator.
Just read some of these responses from Brene’s research participants to the question “What is vulnerability?”:
- Calling a friend who’s just lost their child.
- Telling my CEO that we won’t make payroll next month.
- The first date after my divorce.
- Saying I love you first.
- Waiting for the results of my biopsy.
- Helping my 37 year old wife with stage 4 breast cancer make decisions about her will.
- Signing my mom up for hospice care.
- Initiating sex with my wife.
- Telling my family I was laid off.
- Starting a new business.
- Getting pregnant after the second miscarriage.
None of this being vulnerable business sounds like weakness to me. It sounds like bravery, courage and connection instead. There are so many things we go through in life that require this kind of vulnerability in order to fully live. And it’s those of us who dare to be vulnerable and are open to experiencing the pain and discomfort fully, who will also get to feel the joy of a life lived to the fullest as well.
Oh man, now I need a nap.
You should definitely read this book though, or at the very least, check out her Ted Talk. Then let’s discuss. Let’s discuss after my nap.