Book Review #1: Kristen’s 5-min Book Review: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

I read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown this week and wrote this quick book review for anyone who wants to or has already read it. I include things like: who I think should read the book, my three big takeaways after reading, what I think Brown’s call-to-action is. It takes about five minutes to read. Enjoy!

Who I think would enjoy Daring Greatly

Because I think most, if not all of us, value human connection, I think most everyone can find value in this book. Daring Greatly explains how to achieve deep and meaningful connection by drawing from 20 years’ of Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability.

Why read Daring Greatly

By the end of the book, I think you’ll know how to connect meaningfully and authentically with others, and why it all starts with you. What was most helpful in this book was that it used unique metaphors to explain abstract concepts, like shame and fear, in concrete and memorable ways. 

About Brené Brown and why I read Daring Greatly

Photo by: BBeargTeam

Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher with 20 years of experience at the University of Texas, Houston. I was first introduced to her work when a friend showed me her viral TEDtalk. As I’ve worked more on this blog, I’ve come across more of her work.

Why the book is called Daring Greatly

The phrase “daring greatly” comes from a passage of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech called “Citizenship in a Republic.” In this speech, Roosevelt argues that change starts with the individual taking everyday risks to fight for a better country. In her book, Brown advocates for her version of a better country, which is a more connected and supportive one, and about taking the everyday risks that she believes will get us there. Taking these risks is what she calls “showing up and letting ourselves be seen” or being vulnerable.  

3 Big Takeaways from Daring Greatly

1. Vulnerability is the human experience.

Everyday life is full of “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure” that we can’t escape, even if many of us want to. Brown argues that the best way to respond is to engage with it 100% and this is what she calls this “daring greatly.” 

Brown says that daring greatly is hard because we live in “a culture of scarcity.” We value unachievable perfectionism and “being cool” over being vulnerable. Brown wants us to start valuing vulnerability more, which is sometimes risky (a.k.a. sometimes awkward and imperfect) but creates healthier and more supportive communities where creativity and connection thrive. 

2. Vulnerability is the antidote to shame. 

Brown’s research says that shame is “fear of disconnection” and “intensely believing that we are flawed and unworthy.” It’s universal and disconnects us from each other and the less we talk about it, the more power it has over us. 

So we need to start acknowledging its presence and Brown believes that vulnerability is the way to do that. She calls the process “shame resilience.” It involves recognizing shame and its triggers, practicing awareness, owning one’s story, and asking for help. But we can’t do that, Brown argues, unless we shed the “vulnerability armor” that we have developed as adults. 

I won’t go over Brown’s “vulnerability armory” in detail, but some of them are perfectionism, fearing happiness, and numbing. For each piece of “armor”, Brown also explains how to “take it off” and expose oneself to being vulnerable. 

3. We can only create vulnerability communities if we ourselves become vulnerable. 

I found this to be the most powerful and motivating lesson in the book: We can’t give what we don’t have. Brown calls this “minding the gap”, or recognizing how well we model the behaviors we want to inspire in others.

Brown believes that one of the most powerful ways to do this is to pay attention to whether we frame daily conversations according to the values we want others to live up to. This is what she calls “engaging” and we can do it by providing feedback at work and by modeling behaviors that embody the values we want the people around us to live up to. 

If this book had a call-to-action, I think it would be to…

Engage wholeheartedly with the world around you. If you don’t know where to start, observe your reactions to shame and vulnerability. From there, you’ll have opportunities to practice “shame resilience” and shed your “vulnerability armor.”  

At work, normalize discomfort. This will make it easier to share feedback and new ideas. 

At home, live by the values that you want your kids to live by.

No matter what, remember: “You can’t give what you don’t have.” 

I hope this was a helpful summary and I highly recommend reading the book because…

I believe that Brown’s anecdotes and metaphors are worth taking the time to read. They’re relatable and I thought they clearly illustrated difficult concepts like vulnerability and shame. I think you’ll find the book worth reading!

Feel free to share your experience with Daring Greatly as well! 

If you haven’t read the book yet, you can also post questions about it that I’ll do my best to answer.

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