Monday, March 4, 2013

Daring Greatly

This isn't meant to be a book review so much as a recommendation. Brene Brown, Ph.D is a researcher who specializes in shame, vulnerability, courage, and worthiness. I know what you're probably thinking, because I thought it too: "People actually study shame?" Apparently they do. And it's a good thing, because I just finished reading her book, Daring Greatly. Twice.

The book's title comes from a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
"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 . . .
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."
Of course, the arena Roosevelt talks about is different for everyone. For a writer, it can be showing your work to a group of strangers, or even a group of friends, for the first time.  Sometimes we come out of a critique session with our faces marred by dust, sweat, and blood. But what matters is that we show up.

Since I got the book as an audio download from the library, I don't have a copy to refer to. So I'll share some of my personal takeaways. Someone else's impressions might be totally different.

What stood out for me the most is Dr. Brown's definition of guilt versus shame. Guilt says, "I did something bad." Shame says "I am bad." Therefore, Guilt = productive, motivating, something we can learn from. Shame = counterproductive, paralyzing, takes away our will to try again. The trick is being able to separate the two. Feeling guilty is okay. Allowing the guilt to turn into overwhelming shame is dangerous. Until now, it had never occurred to me that guilt and shame were two different things!

She also specifically referred to the trouble some artists (writers!) have with tying their self-worth to their work. I know I've done this. I can't pinpoint when or why it started, but I've grown up with a notion that as long as I did everything perfectly, I would never have to deal with the pain of criticism. Psh. You can guess how that worked out for me. Now I think that some of the discouragement I've felt when people have (constructively) criticized my writing was actually needless shame. "My work isn't that great, so I must not be that great, either."

Crazytown, no?

Right now, my arena is my very first screenwriting class. Most of my classmates have more experience at this than I do. Some of them are very talented. Yeah, I'm intimidated. But that's okay. I don't have to be perfect anymore. What matters is that I show up and let myself be seen. I've decided that 2013 is going to be my year of Daring Greatly. After all, isn't that just another way to say Challenging the Gnome? Bring on the dust and sweat and blood!

What's your arena? I'd love to hear about it so I can cheer you on!

You can read more about Daring Greatly at Dr. Brown's website HERE

I also recommend her two TED talks, The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.


Janiel Miller said...

Excellent post. What a great distinction! I also think healthy feelings of guilt propel us to action for change. Whereas feelings of shame paralyze and curl us into a ball. Getting free of that is the trick. Thanks for the great recommendation, Maegs!

William Kendall said...

I wouldn't have thought of that distinction between guilt and shame!

Good post, Maegan!

Maegan Langer said...

You're welcome! I really think everyone should read this book.

M. J. Joachim said...

Very interesting post - shame/guilt...food for thought on this one. Thanks!

Cassidy Wadsworth said...

I think I'll take on the Dare Greatly challenge with you! Great post :)

Russo said...

It looks like I have new book on my reading list. You have great taste in movies and books, go you!

I love the idea of daring greatly.I read somewhere that shame is dangerous. It can actually kill you if not dealt with properly.

I love how you also said, "Bring on the dust and sweat and blood!" I need to adapt that positive attitude more.