In the self-development world, Brene Brown is a name needing no introduction. If Louise Hay is considered the mother of self-help, then Brene Brown is the golden child. Her TEDx Talk on The Power of Vulnerability has become a viral sensation. In her Book Club video, Emmy describes Brown as having “the most compassionate way of viewing the world.” She thinks Daring Greatly is such a special book she gave all her clients a copy for Christmas.
Daring Greatly – How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, is all about leaning into our vulnerabilities so we can live fuller lives.
It sounds intense, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is but as Emmy states, fearing vulnerability and feeling shame is a commonality amongst humans, not only reserved for those in recovery or needing to manage their mental health. The difference I found with this self-help book, compared to many others I have read, is that the findings are backed up by years of extensive, clinical research. So the content is heavy, however, the delivery is relaxed and compassionate making it extremely relatable.For me, vulnerability used to have such a provocative and often weak sounding connotation. Brown wants us to embrace vulnerability and welcome it into our lives. If we don’t we are at risk of missing out on so much in life and love. We may think shirking vulnerability is a way to keep us safe. But it’s simply not true. Brown explains we use several armours to shield ourselves from vulnerability, but by doing this, we’re also stopping joy, hope, love and so many other positives entering our lives. As she so devastatingly writes, “numb the dark and you numb the light”. Before we to learn to show up and lean into our vulnerability we have to be aware of the ways in which we are avoiding it.
There are several blocks or armours we use to shield ourselves from vulnerability, which includes foreboding joy, numbing, as previously mentioned, and one that resounded with me, perfectionism.
I have come across several schools of thought around perfectionism including the particularly unhelpful one that perfectionism, is simply procrastination or laziness masquerading. It feels attacking to me. I find it confronting. A much gentler and more helpful take on it is Brown’s explanation; “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimise the painful feelings of shame, judgement, and blame.”If you’re already using perfectionism as a way to shrink yourself, for that’s what happens, please don’t beat yourself with another stick named lazy. You’re not. Brown wants you to move from the thought “What will people think? to “I am enough.” The endless pursuit of perfectionism will keep us from becoming the people we are meant to be.
Let’s not confuse vulnerability with oversharing.
I always thought I was good at being vulnerable. Facing frequent rejection as an actor is par for the course so I figured vulnerability was something I was already nailing and learning to embrace. This is true for many in the creative world, who express and expose themselves through their work and their art. As Brown says;
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”
“I don’t know how you do it” or “I just couldn’t handle that level of rejection” are phrases I hear on a regular basis. Especially when I’m working at my reception job in The City. I smile to myself and see it as a badge of honour. How brave I am to experience and survive frequent periods of uncertainty. Bravery and courage are not options in any creative profession, they are musts. However, this next startling concept hit me like a tonne of bricks; “Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust.”How have I failed to distinguish this?! And here’s where the vulnerability/oversharing continuum comes into play. “Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.”Oversharing is commonplace amongst actors. I witnessed the perfect example of this the other day. I was in a casting waiting room and an actor stormed in, she was wearing a short arm-cast and someone asked how she broke her arm. She offered, to the tiny waiting area, that it was the result of running in heels, culminating in a two-month partying spree as she was going through a divorce. Fine. A well-intended fellow actor asked if she had a divorce lawyer yet because if not, she could recommend a good one (casual) her response was “no thanks, I have one and it’s pretty straight forward. No shared assets and I’m accepting blame as I’d slept with other people.” Cool, cool. I have to state, I have ZERO judgements here. I can relate. I have both overshared and been on post-break-up partying sprees! (A potential overshare right there). But the point is we should share appropriately, meaning we chose who we disclose certain things to based on mutual respect, otherwise “vulnerability without boundaries leads to disconnection, distrust, and disengagement”. I have never liked chatting with other actors before an audition. I’m allergic to small-talk and I find it much more helpful to focus on the audition in front of me. However, I have always unwillingly played along when someone wants to chat, ignoring my own instincts. Now, when I am in a casting waiting room, you will find me being that actor. Eyes closed, maybe meditating, maybe ignoring the chit chat but most likely managing my thoughts of you’re not good enough. Feeling vulnerable and noticing the power in it. This for me is one of many ways I intend to keep practising vulnerability and learning to show up.
Like many powerful self-help books, you will keep dipping in and out of them for guidance and reminders.
I’m certain I will do this with Daring Greatly, but I also intend to re-read it in its entirety. To make certain I am practising vulnerability. To get to that place of “I am enough.” If this is something you want to practise, you will find no greater book.