Taking advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday, I spent a little time away from work and read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, I recommend you check out Brown’s TED talk on the same topic. I find her message to be powerful and compelling – especially in today’s world, where amidst our gadgets and fast-paced life it’s easy to forget to be human.
First let me say that I did enjoy the book. I think Brown is a good writer and explains her topic well (although frankly, the back half of the book was a little light on content). There is one point, however, where I disagree with Brown when it comes to her core topic of vulnerability.
Throughout the book Brown says that she hates vulnerability and she hates being vulnerable. She went so far as to say that she’s never actually watched her own TED talk – which has become one of the most popular TED talks of all time – because she doesn’t want to see herself being vulnerable.
This seems somewhat incongruent to me. I’ll explain why.
Brown states that the reason that many people are afraid to be vulnerable is deeply tied to the notion of shame. Shame is defined as the fear that people will find out things about you that will make you unworthy of love and belonging. Unworthy of human connection.
Counter to Brown, I actually love vulnerability. I love hearing and sharing stories about feeling scared, outclassed, intimidated or otherwise uncomfortable. The reason I love vulnerability is precisely because it makes me feel connected to other people. I know that everyone has felt the flutters of butterflies in their stomach prior to a big presentation. I know that public speaking makes everyone feel nervous and at some point in everyone’s life they have felt inferior and unsure of themselves.
Brown states that these feelings can make people feel shameful, but I find them motivating. Knowing that the most successful people in the world felt the same way as I did when they gave their first big presentation makes me feel inspired to embrace my feelings of vulnerability, lean into the curve and aspire to the same greatness as those who have overcome before me.
Brown opens and closes her book with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Daring Greatly” speech:
“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.” Teddy Roosevelt
Since I first read this quote I often think about it just before I enter into a situation that’s outside my comfort zone. I find that it calms my nerves. It shows me that it’s okay to take a chance and gives honor to failure.
In some small way, just evoking this quote gives me a bond with everyone who has ever tried something not knowing if they were going to succeed or fail.