Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is in my opinion one of the most relevant epic tomes of this day and age. I am not easily moved to tears but I found myself with wet eyes at various times whilst reading this book. Shame and vulnerability are no easy topics especially when viewed through a lens of the self and this book helps to walk you through the journey thereof. It will no doubt be a book that I keep coming back to in order to inspire myself to dare greatly as the name suggests.
There have been many times in my life when I was unsure of how to process my emotions. After a while it began to manifest itself creatively in the form my writing. An Attempt to Fill the Void is aptly named because that’s exactly what it was, my attempt to fill the void. A void that for some reason I have constantly felt all of my life. A void that has kept chasing me all of these years and just when it seems like I have escaped it, bam! There it is right around the corner. For years I have taken prescription medicine to try to numb the effects of the void, but all that managed to do was make me lie down while it hovered above me and drained me of important energy that I should have been putting to better use. I still don’t fully understand the void but after reading Daring Greatly I have a better set of tools in my toolbox that has given me the strength to stop, turn around, and face the void head on. It is ugly, it soul sucking, but it has been and possibly will always be with me.
The picture above is a concept from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. It depicts a Dementor feeding on Harry. I picture my void a lot like a Dementor. I have accepted that the void is a part of me. I have cut it off from its ability to zap me of my energy at will and now it only subsists on the energy that I allow it to have. Also, like in Harry Potter it helps me if I eat chocolate after a Dementor encounter. It was a revolutionary epiphany when I realized that this world is full of other people that have their own form of void that follows them around. Some people I see running from theirs and others I notice have also gained the strength to turn and face theirs. For the ones that are still running, I encourage you to never give up. Grab a hold of your void and own it, if you are lucky then perhaps you can learn how to draw energy from it as well.
Daring Greatly is a phrase taken from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic. The speech was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23rd, 1910. Here is the passage that made the speech famous:
Brené has opened my eyes to a way of life known as wholehearted living. There is a sentence from the book that goes like this, “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 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.” I couldn’t tell you how many times I have kicked the shit out of myself for failing to complete things. I have a habit of making lists and then I attempt to complete the lists in an unrealistic time frame. Furthermore, I could forgive others for not meeting certain expectations at times but when it came to myself I gave no quarter. According to Brené’s research the Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection. Brené debunks the myth that “vulnerability is weakness.” She goes on to say that, “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light., positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be Vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.” Brené also states that, “Shame resilience is key to embracing our vulnerability. We can’t let ourselves be seen if we’re terrified by what people might think. Often ‘not being good at vulnerability’ means that we’re damn good at shame.” There is an exchange in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that happens to be one of my and Brené’s favorite exchanges in the film series. There is a scene where Harry was worried that he might be bad because he was angry all of the time and had dark feelings. Sirius told Harry to listen to him carefully, then he said, “You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” Brené goes on to add that, “We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us—that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough—and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame.” Needless to say at this point, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Remember to dare greatly, dare alone, and dare together.