Daring Greatly by Brené Brown: Summary

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown: Summary

I recently read this amazing self-help book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown.

Daring Greatly is about vulnerability and shame. The book is based on the data collected by Brené Brown while interviewing 1280 people, 750 female and 530 male, and coding thousands of case studies, case notes, journal pages, letters, etc. The author researched shame and vulnerability for 12 years, which helped collect useful data and draw valuable conclusions.

This book should be read by everyone- bachelors, lovers, parents, leaders- as it debunks some strong myths about vulnerability. This book will help you accept your vulnerabilities, be comfortable with shame and criticism, be brave, and live a fulfilling life.

I really had some severe problems with shame; I used to get badly hurt by shame, which made me feel weak. I wouldn’t talk to new people, wouldn’t go to parties, wouldn’t try anything new, and live a highly limited life. This book helped me understand what the problem was with me, and now I know what I have to do to solve my problem. I am solving my problems, and it makes me feel more and more alive every day. So, I have put special effort into sharing what I have learned from the book.

In the following sections, I have shared the 5 lessons from the book Daring Greatly that I found extremely valuable.

Daring Greatly Summary: 5 Key Lessons


1. Vulnerability is not a weakness

We have this common myth; vulnerability is a weakness. When we ask for help, we are vulnerable, it feels uncomfortable, and we think it’s our weakness. When we propose our crush, we are vulnerable, and it seems like our weakness. When we have to deliver a speech in front of thousands, we feel vulnerable because anyone can laugh at us, and we think it’s our weakness.

Brené Brown defines vulnerability as facing uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Different people feel vulnerable in different situations.  For example, vulnerability can be getting fired from your job, vulnerability can be proposing a girl/boy, and she/he rejects, vulnerability can be starting a business, vulnerability can be uploading videos on YouTube, vulnerability can be showing your art to the world, vulnerability can be giving a speech in front of thousands, vulnerability can be going out of home when you don’t look attractive, vulnerability can be losing your loved ones, vulnerability can be asking for help, and so on.

But do these situations make you look like you are weak? If you start a business, you are vulnerable because you take risks even when your success is uncertain. Anything can happen anytime, and you may have to close your business. But does it look like your weakness? Of course not; in fact, it looks like you are courageous.

When you upload your videos on YouTube, you are vulnerable because you expose yourself to the world; you are taking risks. Anyone can comment anything, like abuses about your looks or opinions. Anyone can laugh at you and make memes. You are vulnerable. But does it look like your weakness? Not again; it looks like you are courageous.

Similarly, when you are showing your art to the world, or you are asking for help, or your crush rejects your proposal, you are vulnerable, and it’s painful, but it’s not your weakness. Because you are brave enough to do what you wanted to do and face reality. Hence the first lesson is facing vulnerability is not weakness; it’s courage.


2. Embrace vulnerability

Since we believe vulnerability is a bad thing, a sign of weakness, we tend to avoid it by all means. Avoiding vulnerability is like carrying a shield, which helps us protect ourselves from shame, fear, guilt, etc. And we do all these unintentionally.

Wherever anything makes us vulnerable, we would avoid it. If we feel vulnerable speaking in front of thousands, we would use the shield and avoid public speaking. Here the shield protects us from criticism, getting laughed at, and shame.

This shield becomes our constant companion. But with time, it gets heavier and heavier and becomes uncomfortable to carry. The shield gives us safety, but we rarely feel alive. Brené Brown lists many vulnerability shields in the book that we use to avoid vulnerability. Out of them, the three most common are-

  1. Avoiding joy- When we feel tremendous joy- getting a high-paying job, falling in love, or having any celebration- we tend to avoid the joy because we believe, if we become too happy, we would attract disasters. Whenever everything goes right in our lives, we become afraid of something terrible which may happen- car accidents, losing a job, or even plane crashes. So, we stop being very happy because it makes us vulnerable.

  2. Perfection- Yes, perfectionism is a vulnerability shield that we use to protect ourselves from shame and criticism. Trying to be perfect is not self-improvement, but it’s a way to earn praise and appreciation from others. In addition, trying to be perfect can take all the fun and adventure of life.

  3. Numbing- This is the third most common vulnerability shield, which most people do by smoking, using drugs, and drinking alcohol. When people feel vulnerable and shame, they numb their feelings. Well, this may look attractive in the short run, but numbing also kills happiness and welcomes depression.

So, these three common shields may protect us from vulnerability, but they rarely let us live because vulnerability and happiness are like two sides of the same coin. When you avoid vulnerability, you avoid happiness and good things like love, peace, growth, fulfillment.

And you can’t completely avoid vulnerability because life is full of vulnerabilities, and every good thing will make you vulnerable. Just like more rewards come from more risks, more happiness and growth come from more vulnerability. Being vulnerable helps us being fully alive. Hence the second lesson is, embrace vulnerability.


3. We all feel shame

Brené Brown defines shame as an intensely painful feeling that we experience when we believe that we are flawed. And shame is one of the most powerful emotions that control our life. All of us feel shame which may vary from person to person. Some feel shame because of their body weight, some because of less bank balance, some because of their past mistakes, some feel shame when they score fewer marks, some feel shame when they are weak. The author says that we all experience shame, but we don’t want to talk about it. And the lesser we talk about shame, the greater the shame becomes.

Men and women feel shame for different things. For women, the most common form of shame is when their bodies or looks are not attractive. Whereas for men, the most common form of shame is showing fear, having no money, or being weak.

Shame has been driving our lives since our childhood. When a teacher asks a question in a class of 40, rarely would anybody answer. Students know the answer; even then, they would choose to be silent. How do I know it? Because I have been that kind of student, who doesn’t answer in the class. Because I feared shame, I feared that people would judge me because of my answer (what if I say something stupid). And this happens with most of the students because shame is universal.

Many studies suggest that shame is the greatest killer of creativity and innovation. It would not allow you to do something different and take any risk. This is a highly dangerous thing. So, what do we do about it? This brings us to the fourth lesson. Which is-


4. Be shame resilient

We saw that vulnerability allows us to live a more fulfilled life. But one of the greatest enemies of embracing vulnerability is shame. Shame becomes a fear. And, how can you embrace vulnerability when you get affected by shame, judgment, and fear?

So, the solution is you need to be shame resilient. How can you be shame resilient? Brené Brown says that sharing your shameful stories with your loved ones or those close to you would help you be shame resilient. When your share shameful moments, it gets diminished, and you gain victory over it. In addition to this, you also need to treat yourself with respect and prevent cursing yourself. Understanding that we all make mistakes and it’s okay to be criticized and judged also helps you overcome shame.

I understood this very well because I have already experienced this. Once, an incident happened to me in my coaching institute, in which I was forced to go out of the class with my bag. I am not going to tell you why I was forced out, but it was my mistake, actually. And I was feeling extreme shame. It was like physical pain. I was worried about what other students will think, how faculty members would treat me. But I somehow believed that it’s okay; sometimes it happens.

When I returned to my hostel, I talked about it with my roommate. We together laughed at it, and surprisingly it took all the shame away. Whenever I felt shame about that incident, I shared the story with a friend and joked about it. And this really works. I didn’t know at that time that I was becoming shame resilient.

And once you are shame resilient, you won’t have much problem with embracing vulnerability. You would be pro at dealing with criticism and fear. And you would see possibilities that you hadn’t seen before. So, the fourth lesson is to be shame resilient.


5. Dare greatly

Brené Brown quotes the Man in the Arena speech of Theodore Roosevelt at the very beginning of the book, which tells that-

A person who is in the arena, and whose face is covered with dust, blood, and sweat, who is trying to do something, bravely making mistakes, and trying, again and again, is greater than those who are just watching, judging, criticizing, and finding faults. Because those who are in the arena understand that there is no achievement without mistakes and failure, they are putting efforts for a worthy cause, they know that in the end, if they win, they will achieve what they wanted and if they fail, at least they will fail while daring greatly.

So, daring greatly means going into the arena, again and again, feeling vulnerable and embracing uncertainty. The arena can be the stage for public speaking, showing your art to the world, launching your business, or opening up with your loved ones.

However, walking into the arena doesn’t guarantee your success. You would feel uncomfortable and pain, you would be judged, criticized, and blamed, you would get hurt, you would even feel like running out of the arena.

But being in the arena is the best you can do. Because not doing it now, when it’s the time, will attract regret at later times, which is more hurtful than all of the above combined. And when you walk into the arena, you would realize that all these times, you were living a limited life, afraid of the fear itself. This will make you stronger. You would give your best and try to win the game. And even if you fail, as Theodore Roosevelt said, at least you will fail while daring greatly.


So, these were the five lessons from the book. I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to fight shame, embrace imperfections, be more alive and live a fulfilling life. That’s all for Daring Greatly by Brené Brown summary. You can subscribe to Expords on YouTube, where I keep posting about fiction and non-fiction books. And thanks for reading.

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