This is My Moment to “Dare Greatly.”
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
I recently read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly book on what it means to cultivate and lead a life of vulnerability, courage and endless potential.
In her book, she draws upon her extensive decades’ worth of research on the topic of vulnerability, courage, and shame, and makes the conclusion that all of us, without any exception, are capable of deconstructing shame whilst fostering a life of vulnerability, creativity, love, belonging, and courage; all the values that most of us deeply long for.
She makes the argument that we live in a culture of scarcity; of “never enough”, and of endless consumerism in the hope of gaining the approval of society and the people we wish to belong to. And if we fail short of living up to societal expectations that includes anyone from parents, classmates, friends, our social media followers, or the cool people’s club, we’re quick to embrace shame that begins to define who we are and what we’re able of accomplishing.
Brené explains that the difference between shame and guilt is intense. While the former dictates that something is wrong with us, the latter indicates that we did something wrong that requires us to reflect in order to rectify with the right action.
All of us, regardless of our backgrounds, have been scarred by shame, either intentionally or non-intentionally.
Shame can take the shape of anything from being pressured and judged based on our skin color, ethnic background and pre-defined gender roles, to our socioeconomic status, our school performance, the type of jobs we choose when we grow up, and even our method of parenting.
As humans, we are hardwired for love, connection and belonging, and we’re born as part of a collective community, regardless of where in the world we live. By biological construction, we are shaped, to an extent, to care about what people think and believe about us.
But if we’re using our hardwired connection to inflict unnecessary shame and judgment upon each other, instead of using our empathy, compassion and shared humanity to help each other grow and connect, then what is the message we are trying to deliver?
We are born with an innate curiosity, creativity and the ability to ask the big questions about what makes our brains and hearts tick. We have the potential to be generous, loving, compassionate, courageous and, at the same time, vulnerable; the core values that deconstruct shame.
Contrary to the common belief held by most of us, vulnerability does not mean we wear our hearts on our sleeves and burst into tears every time life tests us with a hard challenge. Instead, it means we cultivate enough courage to silence our own internal shame alarm, and the voice that tells us that we are not good enough.
As Brené Brown explains, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”
Vulnerability is in knowing that we will not always hold the answers to all our questions, and neither will anyone else. But then, we defy uncertainty and risk emotional exposure by showing up despite knowing that we might be wrong, or worse even, fail.
It means we’re able to accept that as humans, we are inclined to be scared, uncertain, and imperfect at any given moment.
It is our ability to make friends with our internal demons of scarcity in a “never enough” culture, and to know that every time we show up, we can subject ourselves to criticism and undesired feedback.
Vulnerability is to foster the courage to believe we can do the work we believe we’re destined to do, however difficult it might seem sometimes. It is the ability to take risks not despite of our insecurities, but because of them.
When I reflect on Brené’s definition of “daring greatly”, I understand how I spent half of my life being defined by external societal expectations of what and who I should be, from acceptable gender roles, cultural identity, to living in shame because of my inability to belong and connect in a mono-cultural society.
My moment of “daring greatly” came this year, when I packed my 31 years worth of memories of living in the same place, and decided to relocate to another continent, amidst a global pandemic and an uncertain economy and job market.
Over the past 5 years, I was extremely miserable at my job, my surrounding, relationships, lifestyle and the kind of limited choices I had of exploring and enjoying life.
At best, it felt like I was living someone else’s life, while observing things from the outside. At worst, it felt like I was suffocating in a tight box that could no longer host me, with a limited supply of oxygen.
On most days, I felt like I had two choices only: I either tear down the fucking box, or allow it to shrink me into the confined prison it had sentenced me to exist in.
That’s when I decided that I wanted to “dare greatly” by believing I deserve to have more choices, despite the challenges, and the right to think, express and create the life I desired for my self in an environment that allowed more freedom and less conformity.
Life is defined by the values we hold and the choices we eventually make.
Some choices require us to leave our comfort zone and take great risks, while not knowing fully what the outcome might be. Others ask us to make big decisions in parenting, despite not knowing if we’re making the right choice.
But regardless of the choices we make, if we are able to “dare greatly” by cultivating a mindset of vulnerability and courage, we can defy shame and invite more creativity, agility and freedom in the ways we deliberately approach and live life.
We can problems solve, not from a place of scarcity and insecurity, but from a space of openness, “shame resilience”, as Brené Brown suggests, and acceptance of our shortcomings, which we learn to embrace and see as natural parts of being humans.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? To live life with more meaning, courage, and intention and less shame, judgment and fear?
Don’t we all long to “Dare Greatly?”