Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
by Brené Brown, LMSW
The idea of enhancing your self-esteem by learning to be more vulnerable kind of seems like an oxymoron. Vulnerability is a word people often associate with weakness or timidity. The truly strong are believed to be impenetrable, unfeeling forces of self-confidence. Brené Brown contradicts both these notions in her book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.”
Brown bases much of her research in social work studying what enables people to pursue what she calls “wholehearted living.”
“Wholehearted living is about engaging 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 if left undone, I am enough. It’s going to be 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.”
Brown outlines ten guideposts to help people pursue wholehearted living. Three of them have to with how people relate to one another:
1) Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
“Frenemy” is a fairly new addition to the modern lexicon, but it’s not a new concept. For as long as people have been forming relationships, some people have formed unhealthy attachments. Making friends is hard, and sometimes people settle for companions who don’t necessarily have their best interests at heart, just because it’s easier than to keep looking.
It may seem ludicrous, the idea that a person would settle for friends who don’t treat them well, rather than look for people who will actually care about them, but sometimes people simply don’t think they deserve better. This is not vulnerability but rather insecurity.
This is why Brown says vulnerability takes strength. One of the most frightening prospects in life is opening yourself up to the criticisms of others. And that’s what being vulnerable entails. It necessitates revealing that part of yourself you regard as most ridiculous, and hoping for the best.
2) Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
It takes all kinds of people to make a world, and, yet, we convince ourselves that, unless we are living lives that measure up to an artificial standard based on the lives of others, we don’t deserve to be here. The irony is that the people we compare ourselves to probably don’t think they’re measuring up either.
It’s helpful to acquire role models for yourself who embody values you aspire to emulate. The best way to learn how to do something is to mimic how a more experienced person does it. It is not helpful to hold up these individuals as a rule by which to measure yourself. If you’re looking to them as a role model, it can be assumed they’re better at this skill than you are, which means that trying to compare yourself, as a less experienced person, is just going to lead to disappointment.
Another pitfall comes in comparing your progress on the “road to success” to that of others. People often assume that progress through life follows an upward linear path, when, in reality, it involves a lot more wrong turns and stumbling through valleys. God’s plan is different for everyone. Just because someone else has it “all figured out” by a certain age, doesn’t mean that you have to.
3) Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and ‘Supposed To’
Brown’s second and third guideposts go hand-in hand. A lot of our compulsion to compare ourselves to others as baseline for whether we’re “on-track” is rooted in where we feel we’re “supposed to be” in life. We define so much of how we live our life based on how social expectations of how people are supposed to live. They’re supposed to go to college, get a good job, marry, have kids, etc. And all by the relatively young age of 30. It gets even worse when you look around at see people who have gone above and beyond, accomplishing ground-breaking technological or scientific discoveries, performing great humanitarian feats, or significant works of art.
We bypass opportunities to try something new, or pursue a dream, because we worry it will interfere with the track we’re currently on. And maybe it will, but is that necessarily a bad thing. As Jim Carrey said during a 2014 commencement speech, “You can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.”
Christian Counseling for Embracing the Unknown
Pursuing Brown’s guideposts for “wholehearted living” takes vulnerability– a willingness to be criticized or not succeed on the first try or shake up your comfortable routine. And vulnerability takes courage.
It is so much easier to stick with what you are used to, and never risk anything. But that often means losing out on opportunities that could bring greater fulfillment in the long run. They will help you understand what feeds your fear, and how to keep it from controlling your life. A professional Christian counselor will use biblical principles and therapeutic techniques to help you find the courage to be vulnerable.
“Man alone in a crowd,” courtesy of yorgunum, CC0 Public Domain License, pixabay.com; “Reaching Out,” courtesy of HebiFot, CC0 Public Domain License, Pixabay.com