Have you ever picked up a book, not knowing a thing about it, and then found yourself mesmerized? Have you found yourself astonished at the writer’s ability to know exactly what you are thinking? This was my experience with Brene Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Having been a faithful reader of Dr. Brown’s blog, Ordinary Courage, I was familiar with Brene’s straight forward, insightful writing style. I knew I often connected with her posts, and found myself commenting often. It wasn’t until I came up for air after blazing through the first two chapters, “Scarcity: Looking Inside the Culture of ‘Never Enough’” and “Debunking the Vulnerabilty Myths” that I realized how aligned my heart and brain really were with hers.
Brene is not only a prolific writer, researcher and professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social work, she is also a wife and mother. For me, this just added to her genuineness and made her words golden. Basing her book and research on Roosevelt’s speech ‘The Man in the Arena’ of 1910, she establishes the position that to live “wholeheartedly”, one must “engage in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
Daring Greatly is not a touchy-feely-I’m-going-to-fix-your-poor-pathetic-soul kind of book; in fact, that would go directly against Brene’s beliefs. She doesn’t assume to have all the answers, but what she does do is ground her theories in hard research and personal life experiences. That’s what made this book so real for me.
The first chapter on scarcity spoke right to me. “We all want to be brave,” she states in the introduction. In my forties, I’ve found this to be oh-so true. Past the stage of wondering how I could ever be ‘enough’ as a working mom, I realize now that bravery, in many forms, is how I grow as a mom and woman. Living life with a lens of scarcity, that we are never good enough, perfect enough, successful enough, or safe enough, gives us exactly what we wish for. Not enough. Like Brene, these are questions my husband and I have to confront all the time. How much do we stand up for what’s right, what we believe in, even when no one is watching. Brene says, “We’re called to ‘dare greatly’ every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of scarcity.” And that’s how we grow.
Throughout the book, Brene works through the concepts of vulnerability, shame, change, engagement, and wholehearted parenting. This last chapter, “Daring to Be the Adults We Want Our Children to Be”, brought all her concepts full circle. Motherhood is my most vulnerable position. It is much easier to take the easy route of parenting, to not confront what is hard or awkward. It is much simpler and more pleasant to look past how we wish our children would be, instead of push forward through the muck and towards what they could be. When I read her chapter, I realized this is my greatest challenge and my place of deepest bravery. If I want for my children as Brene does, to ‘live and love with their whole hearts”, then I must be courageous and model this.
At the end of her book, I found my eyes welling with tears as I read her “Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto” and the words, “Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable…I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.” I realized that shared experience of motherhood connects us, that why I get up each day, push myself to grow, learn, and experience things that make me uneasy, is really for this. For my children to see me, their mother, and learn if I dare to live greatly, they can, too.
This is a paid review for Blog Her Book Club, but the opinions expressed are my own.