This week I read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Focused on vulnerability, the front cover says:
How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
It was a great read, and I wanted to share 3 points that I took away from Brown’s work.
Here is a video of me discussing this book!
Vulnerability double standard
We have two perceptions of vulnerability. In others, we admire their ability to authentically display their emotions and expose themselves. We see strength in their ability to honestly and openly express their feelings with us. In ourselves, we see vulnerability as a synonym for weakness. We feel ashamed and embarrassed at the thought of sharing our true feelings. It’s a complete double standard and I think it’s important to be aware of it. We can’t expect others to be vulnerable and honest with us when we fear this quality (yes, I consider vulnerability a quality). Guys, we especially struggle with vulnerability because society has defined men as stoic, powerful and therefore we’ve masterfully trained ourselves to create the façade that we don’t have feelings. Any behavior that doesn’t fit this limited and irrational mold of a man threatens our manliness. It’s such a complex topic and I urge you to check out a documentary on Netflix titled The Mask You Live In.
Here is the trailer:
Shame vs. Guilt
These two words are used interchangeably, but it’s important to distinguish them, as they have different meanings. When I say You are a liar, I am shaming you. I am defining you as a person. I am attacking your character. When I say You lied, I am making you feel guilty. I am saying that in a specific moment you were not honest. The key difference is that through shaming you I am attacking you as a person, but when I employ guilt, I am merely attacking your actions. Now, you might think that it doesn’t really make a difference. But, if people consistently use words of shame or you conduct shame-based self talk for years, that will start impacting your self-esteem. Shame is the #1 killer of a growth mindset. When we listen to shame, we lose accountability. We start thinking I am a loser, I am stupid and my actions will not change that. The correct approach is I lost, but I’m not a loser. I am still in control of who I become and I can grow. This doesn’t only refer to negative attributes. If you keep hearing you are smart, you are a winner, we can become overly confident and arrogant. We might start thinking that regardless of our actions we will always be successful and that is just as dangerous. It can lead to an entitlement and the notion that the world owes us something, which it doesn’t.
Effectively receiving relevant feedback is a balancing act. On one end of the spectrum there is the approach of ignoring everybody and simply doing what you want to do. The problem with this approach is that sometimes we need feedback to help us improve. The approach on the other end of the spectrum is to listen to what everybody says and this leads to us being defined by what others think and say about us. Both ends of the spectrum are dangerous, so it’s important to find some sort of middle ground. Brown has two tips for us. Firstly, she suggest we focus on feedback from people in the arena. This means people who are in your field or trying to do similar things. Essentially, listen to people who are at least confident enough to throw their hat into the ring. It’s easy to criticize from the outside looking in. For example, if you’re trying to become an MMA fighter, and some guy in the crowd is criticizing your technique, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Now, if after a fight you start a conversation with a fellow aspiring MMA fighter, you should at least be more willing to listen to their thoughts, since they are in the arena with you. The second piece of advice Brown shares on this topic is to create a feedback VIP list. This means you should take the time to identify 2-5 people in your life whom you value their opinion of you. Once you have carefully selected these people consider actively seeking their feedback since you have determined that you value their ideas and thoughts. Essentially, you don’t want everybody’s feedback but you also don’t want to ignore feedback altogether. Consider employing these tips to effective receive feedback.
I really appreciated and respected Brown’s writing style. As this book focuses on vulnerability, I was hoping that Brown would offer authentic first-hand experiences and she definitely delivers. I value the fact that Brown shares personal stories to illustrate her points. Another positive is that this book really goes into detail on the topic of vulnerability. Brown delves beneath the surface and tackles a variety of topics related to vulnerability. One of my favorite sections is her detailed discussion on both men and women’s distinctly different challenges when dealing with vulnerability.
I had to think hard to find a negative to mention. My only criticism is that at times I felt that the first part of the book was slower to get into. Once I got halfway through, I really started picking up more tangible advice that I could implement into my life. With that being said, I appreciate the fact that Brown used the first few chapters to describe key words and discuss more basic issues.
Who should read this?
If you’re someone who struggles with self-esteem and expressing your feelings with others, I highly encourage you to read this book. I also think parents should read this book as there is a lot of valuable information in here related to raising children. Although this is not marketed as a parenting book, the quality of Brown’s information for raising children is invaluable. Finally, I think men should read this book, because there is a societal taboo and stigma regarding men and emotional expression.