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Why Vulnerability Takes Courage


Brené Brown has spent the past decade transforming how we think about vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. Her internationally acclaimed books include The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), I Thought It Was Just Me (2007), and Connections (2009), a shame-resilience curriculum being facilitated by helping professionals around the world. 

The title of her latest book, Daring Greatly, was inspired by a speech given a century ago by US President Teddy Roosevelt, in which he said: 

“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.”

Roosevelt transforms the notion that greatness can only be a consequence of success. Brown’s book explores and expands this idea in great depth, creating a new manifesto for how we can live with greater wisdom and contentment. She has subtitled her new book, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. 

In these five quotations from her book, Brown explains why expressing our vulnerability – rather than being a weakness – may be among the most courageous, daring acts we can make:

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow — that’s vulnerability.”

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”

“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.”

To see Brené Brown’s Manifestos for Parenting and Leadership,click here.

The School of Life is hosting the UK launch of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Gotham 2012) on Wednesday 3 October, when Brené Brown will be in conversation with Roman Krznaric at Conway Hall.

 Is Vulnerability a Virue? with Brene Brown is now sold out however we will be recording the event, which will shortly be available via our Vimeo channel here. You can also download the Daring Greatly Reading Guide here.

Posted by Brene Brown on 27 September 2012

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