A friend in my book club hates self-help books. (I love them.) So when I suggested we read Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, I expected her to immediately object. But instead, she started raving about how much she loves Brené Brown and how she doesn’t consider her books to be typical self-help fare. She’s right.
Brené is real, digs deep, and makes you realize you are not alone. Some of you may be familiar with Brené through a TED talk she gave that went viral, and her subsequent national recognition. But for those of you who don’t know her and her work, I hope you will take the chance to do so. Quite simply, her work is transformative.
In her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené goes to the heart of what many of us think, but never talk about—the hidden shame we feel about ourselves in various aspects of our lives and the reluctance to be vulnerable about sensitive topics. She also goes on to teach that it is only by daring to be vulnerable that we can truly be honest with and kind to ourselves, as well as connect deeply with others.
What I liked most about this book is the “I feel that way, too. It’s not just me!” feeling I had as I read it. Brené normalized all of my awkward feelings—because thinking about shame and all of the ways I think I fall short IS awkward and painful. Most of the time, I don’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole. But as I was drawn into this book, I felt compelled to look at shame, at myself, at others in my life, and I came away with more patience and compassion for all of us.
I was astounded at how pervasive shame is in our culture, the damage it does, and how many of us are oblivious to it and unknowingly use it (including myself). But when we name something, we have power over it, and this book gives us the name. I also learned how vital vulnerability is to good relationships and how I must have the courage to open up more. I really liked the reminder that we mustn’t live our lives to please the people in the stands. It is the people who are in the arena with us, the most important people in our lives who help us slay our monsters, who really matter. By being vulnerable with them, we open ourselves to true connection.
I have a son who has always been “the hard one.” As I read this book, I was horrified to discover just how often I unconsciously shame him—even though I have been actively working to improve our relationship and have good intentions! As I have learned how to recognize this pattern and have worked to change it, I can honestly say that our relationship has gotten better. I still catch myself falling into old habits, but at least I can recognize and change them now. This is truly powerful stuff!
This book talks about it all: marriage, parenting, the workplace, societal expectations, body image, everything. It is raw (“I can’t believe she just said that!”), real and unfiltered. I do wish it taught more thoroughly how to rise above shame and how to hold others accountable without shaming them, but that may be an entire book in itself. In that case, I can’t wait to read the next one.
*Note: Brené often uses colorful language and in one part, talks about sex within the context of shame. If you are listening to an audio version of this book, you may not want children in the same room.
**This article was originally published at www.powerofmoms.com
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