Book Review: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

by | Sep 18, 2018

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is one of those few books that I want to keep multiple copies of, so I can press it into people’s hands and say, “Just read it, trust me.”

Brown, if you’ve never heard of her, is a research professor who studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame using grounded theory methodology. She’s deeply interested in wholehearted living, which she describes as:

Engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Daring Greatly has nothing and everything to do with money. Nothing, because the research isn’t obviously tied to money; in fact, you won’t find words like “money, financial, debt, or spending” in the index at all. Everything, because the choices we make out of shame and scarcity instead of vulnerability and wholeheartedness are often ones we make with our wallets.

We’re ashamed and afraid: ashamed that we don’t have our sh*t together so we can afford the nice cars, clothes, houses, and kids’ birthday parties like everyone else in our circle can; afraid to be vulnerable with the people who matter about what’s really going on. Afraid to be judged.

Frankly, so many of the people we talk to at Spring have been so marked by shame that they’ve lost hope in their ability to recover. Their responses to questions with strictly numerical answers, like “how much does your life cost?” and “do you have any liabilities?” are almost always prefaced with words that indicate they feel shame and guilt about the answer. “I should track my spending” or “I did something stupid” for example. These are the people who have overcome their shame enough to talk to us! I suspect that for every one person willing to be vulnerable and ask for help, there are a thousand who have been made to feel such shame over their finances – from the personal finance world most of all – that they’d rather chew glass than get financially naked with anyone ever again.

Who should read it?

Every single human should read this book. If you’ve ever let shame make decisions on your behalf (and, spoilers – that’s everyone) this is the book to teach you how to start overcoming it.

If you only have time to read one chapter:

Chapter 3: Understanding and Combating Shame

Everything that follows this chapter builds on the foundation that shame is universal, debilitating, pushes us to make poor decisions, and must be overcome before any of us can lead wholehearted lives and enjoy healthy relationships (including with money).

If you only have time to read one paragraph:

“We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying. Researchers do not find that shame correlates with positive outcomes at all – there are no data to support that shame is a helpful compass for good behavior. In fact, shame is much more likely to be the cause of destructive and hurtful behaviors than it is to be the solution.”

(Chapter 3: Understanding and Combating Shame, page 73)

If you only have time to read one sentence:

“If we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us – that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough – and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs.”

(Chapter 3: Understanding and Combating Shame, page 61.)

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