Brené Brown is a woman, wife, mother, teacher and, in bringforth’s view, groundbreaking researcher. Brené is so because she dares to talk about and name all of those things that so many us feel we dare not discuss in polite company. The things that makes us feel shame, less than and vulnerable, and by bringing those things into the light, she releases all of the shame, hurt and stigma that comes with the territory of, well, being human. Brené has found a way to make vulnerability okay and, in fact, she has made it courageous; an act of sheer bravery to admit to imperfection and humanness.
So, while Brené did not have time in her epicly busy schedule for a bringforth one-on-one she was kind enough to send along some press Q. & A. she put together for her latest book “Daring Greatly“. We thank Brené for doing that and for so, so much more!
What does it mean to “Dare Greatly?”
The phrase ‘Daring Greatly’ is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, Citizenship in a Republic. This is the passage that made the speech famous:“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . .”
The first time I read this quote, I thought, “This is vulnerability. Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”
Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose.
Why do you think we’re living in a culture of “never enough?”
Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants. The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.
After doing this work for the past twelve years and watching scarcity ride roughshod over our families, organizations and communities, I’d say the one thing we have in common is that we’re sick of feeling afraid. We want to dare greatly. We’re tired of the national conversation centering on “What should we fear?” and “Who should we blame?” We all want to brave.
Our culture of scarcity is defined by this sentence:
It only takes a few seconds before people fill in the blanks with their own version:
- Never good enough.
- Never perfect enough.
- Never thin enough.
- Never powerful enough.
- Never successful enough.
- Never smart enough.
- Never certain enough.
- Never safe enough.
- Never extraordinary enough.
The three components of scarcity are shame, comparison, and disengagement. To transform scarcity we need to Dare Greatly; we need to cultivate worthiness, a clear sense of purpose, and we need to re-engage.
What are the greatest myths about vulnerability?
I define vulnerability as exposure, uncertainty, and emotional risk. Yes, feeling vulnerable is at the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief and disappointment, but it’s also the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
Myth #1: Vulnerability is weakness
The perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous. We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid that our truth isn’t enough – that what we have to offer isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing, and impressing.
Myth #2: “I Don’t Do Vulnerability”
Regardless of our willingness to do vulnerability, it does us. When we pretend that we can avoid vulnerability we engage in behaviors that are often inconsistent with who we want to be. Experiencing vulnerability isn’t a choice – the only choice we have is how we’re going to respond when we are confronted with uncertainty, risk, and emotional disclosure.
Myth #3: We Can Go It Alone
Going it alone is a value we hold in high esteem in our culture, ironically even when it comes to cultivating connection. The vulnerability journey is not the kind of journey we can make alone. We need support. We need folks who will let us try on new ways of being without judging us.
Myth #4: Trust Comes Before Vulnerability
There is no trust test, no scoring system, no green light that tells us that it’s safe to let ourselves be seen. Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement. The research participants described trust as a slow-building, layered process that happens over time.
What do you think the key to combating vulnerability is?
The courage to be vulnerable means taking off the armor we use to protect ourselves, putting down the weapons that we use to keep people at a distance, showing up, and letting ourselves be seen.
As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection —to be the person whom we long to be—we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen. In Daring Greatly I talk about going inside the armory to identify the shields we use to protect ourselves and provide some strategies that can help transform the way we live, love, parent and lead.
What is one of your favorite examples of how you or someone you know has “Dared Greatly?”
I hear and see examples of daring greatly everyday. Sometimes people think that “daring greatly” means parachuting from a plane or climbing a mountain. Practicing vulnerability is about raising your hand at a PTO meeting and asking a tough question. It’s sharing an innovative (and seemingly strange) idea at work. It’s setting a boundary, asking for help, or offering support to someone who is struggling. If we want to change our lives, our families, or our community, we need a critical mass of ordinary courage. We need to dare to show up and be seen.