Book Club: Daring Greatly, Week 1

Kim W Freeman   |   November 5, 2014 

Daring Greatly

"Connection is why we're here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering." Daring Greatly, Page 8

I have to tell you that in writing this post, in a way, I feel like I'm entering into my own daring greatly. Those who know me well know that I have ideas. A bunch of ideas. All the time. And some are good and some, well... not so much. So when I had this idea for an IndiAanya book club I thought it was brilliant-- what a way to get into community and to really learn together!

Then, I knew I had to write this post and well, suddenly the idea became intimidating. What if no one shows up? What if all those folks who said, "I'm reading along with you!" don't. What if it totally flops?

Well. That could happen. But, as the book challenges me the further and further the more I read it, I decided, "Yes, it could flop. No one could show up. But I'm showing up because I love this book and believe that what she's saying is a message most of us need to hear." And yes, I just quoted myself.

So today, we're going to start our little journey into Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly. Over the next several Wednesdays we'll take it chunk by chunk or chapter by chapter, whatever we can digest, and hopefully have some discussion on what we've learned in the comments below. This is not a comment-heavy community, but I'm going to rely on you all to remedy that-- at least those who are reading along, if you're out there. Give us your insights, aha moments, questions, all of it's fair game, so kindly comment away!

This week I want to look at the Introduction and Chapter One. Those two alone are so full of so many nuggets that it's going to be hard to get them down to a short post.

In the Intro, if you don't know already, or haven't read anything about the book or Brown, in short, several years ago Brown became a shame and empathy researcher and Daring Greatly gives us her findings. As she says she, "spent six years developing a theory that explains what shame is, how it works, and how we cultivate resilience in the face of believing that we're not enough--that we're not worthy of love and belonging." (Page 8)

On the other side of shame is what she calls living "Wholehearted." She describes those who live wholeheartedly as being shame-resilient and are people who "engage with the world from a place of worthiness." Instead of feeling shame over mistakes, they feel guilt, which is healthy and necessary at times-- but that comes a bit later when she goes fully into shame and what it is.

In the Introduction she gives a list of "guideposts" for Wholehearted living. It's a list of ten things she suggests that can cultivate living a wholehearted life. If you've read along, you know the list. So if you haven't already, pause and look over the list again and see if there's anything on that list that stands out to you as an area in which you need to cultivate in order to live more wholeheartedly. For me, I know I struggle with Cultivating Self-Compassion because I have struggled with perfectionism practically all my life. In fact, I don't really hit the mark on more than three of those listed. Did any stand out to you as being areas you need to cultivate in your life?

Brown further describes what Wholehearted living is on page 10-- about cultivating courage, compassion and connection. She also then touches on the idea of vulnerability and states: "Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences." (Page 11) At this point it might be good to consider you own thoughts on vulnerability. What does it mean to you? How is it viewed in your family, culture or your community? 

Moving on to Chapter 1, because we must, it’s clear she is addressing an American audience specifically, but suggests her findings and research are true in any “shame-prone culture.” And by that she defines a shame-prone culture where there is a large number of people struggling with the issue of worthiness to the point it is molding the culture. (Page 27)

And I’m certainly no expert on India or culture, but I’ve heard enough prayer requests in Kid’s Church for success on exams to know that the pressure to achieve academic success and to “measure up” in that way (among several others) is strong here. My own children have witnessed the shaming of their classmates verbally—sometimes physically-- and I’ve heard stories from friends about the real pressures from family and teachers to excel and “be extraordinary” when they were in school to know that shame is a reality here and often used as a motivator to succeed.

Brown calls it the idea of Scarcity: the Never-Enough Problem. She then asks us to fill in our own word in the blank. Fill it in for yourself right now if you haven’t yet: Never ______ enough. Smart, good, extraordinary, slim, popular, ect. It could be any of those or perhaps even more than one. And it’s this idea of scarcity that drives our society because we are led to believe we are never enough—whatever that is for you, and it leads us to constantly compare ourselves to others. I’ve certainly done it to myself in several areas and could fill in the blank with more than one word.

The result of feeling like “I’m not enough” has been shame and feeling shut down inside. And for me, my go to move when I feel ashamed is to be sarcastic and overly critical. It’s much safer to point out the flaws on the sidelines and to disengage as a means of self-protection. Often because that’s the model I know or the one that has seemed to work best for me. Your method of dealing with shame probably looks different. But we all have some way in which we handle the feeling of "Not enough."

The idea of Daring Greatly, of living Wholehearted and cultivating shame-resilience is one I find deeply compelling and something I want in my own life. To live in such a way where I feel that I am enough—even if the projects aren’t completed by day’s end or the house is a wreck or the blog post isn’t perfect because my toddler was having a tantrum while I tried to write it-- I'm enough because I'm showing up and being seen. Brown says:

We’re called to “dare greatly” every time we make choices that challenge the social climate of scarcity.

Is this a challenge you want or need to accept right now? Will it be easy? No way. But will it be worth it? I completely believe it is.

Next week we'll try to get through Chapters 2 and 3. I say try because these are meaty and I don't want to gloss over them too quickly. So read ahead and show up next week here ready to share.

Now, it's your turn. What have you read that has made you think more deeply about shame, vulnerability and the culture of scarcity? Do you agree with Brown? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and impressions so far in the comments below.


Photo Credit: Melody via Flickr: cc

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Kim W Freeman is the wearer of many hats: a wife to Jon, mother of five, co-founder of IndiAanya, artist and writer. She has a heart to see women grow in their faith and do life together in authentic community. Her perfect day would include cinnamon cappuccino, scones, rainy weather and an inspiring conversation. She haphazardly blogs over at her own place about life, art and spiritual formation at She and her crew live in Charlotte, NC.

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One comment on “Book Club: Daring Greatly, Week 1”

  1. I like the way she connects narcissism to shame - the shame based fear of being ordinary. That the sense of entitlement and admiration-seeking is really a balm to soothe the ache of being too ordinary and inadequate. It's sometimes frustrating to see it around me and falling victim to it, just to feel adequate. It does take awareness, commitment and work every single day to push back against this sense of scarcity.The opposite of scarcity being 'enough' not abundance, the challenge is to be content.

    The guideposts I identified with was "Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting go of the need for Certainty", probably for the place in my life that I am in right now. And I just loved how this sounded "Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance", yup ...time to join the dance class 🙂

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